Finding the Right Reconstructive Surgeon
Check for Board-Certification
You will want to be sure that your physician is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Board-certification by the ABPS is the best indicator that a plastic surgeon has been thoroughly and properly trained in their specialty. Many physicians advertise themselves as being board-certified without specifying by which board. Patients often mistakenly think that plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons are the same thing, however they are not. The term cosmetic surgeon is a generic term that can be used for any physician, such as a dermatologist or OB-GYN, who desires to perform elective or cosmetic surgery. Unfortunately, unsuspecting patients often assume that because someone is advertising themselves as a board-certified cosmetic surgeon, that they must be qualified to perform highly complex plastic surgery procedures. This is not always the case.
Check Hospital Privileges
Before deciding on a breast plastic reconstructive surgeon, you should check to make sure the doctor has privileges at an accredited hospital. Even if the surgery is taking place in an office-based or freestanding operating facility, your surgeon should still have operating privileges in an accredited hospital to perform the same procedure. In order to obtain hospital operating privileges, a surgeon must be evaluated by hospital review committees to verify their competency to perform specific procedures.
Check Reliable Sources
When asking for recommendations for competent breast plastic surgeons, your primary care doctor is a good place to start. Many patients will also consult with friends and people they know who have already undergone the same procedure. Often, these individuals have had close contact with the doctor you are considering and can provide you with a credible and truthful description of their experience. While friends and doctors can give you helpful advice, it is important that patients verify the board certification, experience and accreditations of the surgeon themselves through the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
Dr. Aldona Spiegel is a Board-Certified plastic reconstructive surgeon in Houston, Texas. She specializes in advanced breast reconstruction procedures and microsurgery with a focus on muscle-preserving flaps such as the DIEP/SIEA, SGAP, and TAP. Dr. Spiegel is the Director of the Center for Breast Restoration at Houston Methodist Hospital’s Institute for Reconstructive Surgery.
Undergoing a mastectomy or lumpectomy to eradicate breast cancer can be a stressful and emotionally draining time in a woman’s life. Breast reconstruction is a plastic surgery procedure designed to rebuild and restore a woman’s breast(s) after breast cancer surgery. Breast reconstruction is about more than just repairing the body though. This surgery aims to restore a woman’s self-image and help patients return to a sense of normalcy after their turbulent journey through breast cancer.
Aside from making the decision to have breast reconstruction surgery, the most important decision you will make after breast cancer treatment is choosing a breast plastic surgeon. Selecting a surgeon to perform your breast reconstruction procedure can be challenging, as the competency and skill of this individual will have a direct effect on your satisfaction with the end result.
Questions to Ask
- Does the surgeon have ample experience performing breast reconstruction surgery?
Past experience is one of the most important elements to consider when choosing a breast plastic surgeon. Since breast reconstruction is such a personal and delicate situation, it is beneficial to select a plastic surgeon that specializes in breast reconstruction for breast cancer patients. Surgeons with specialization in this area not only have more experience performing various breast cancer reconstruction procedures, they will likely be more suited to provide the level of support and care necessary during this time.
- Does he/she perform breast reconstruction at a safe, accredited facility?
An accredited facility is one that meets strict national standards for operating room safety, equipment, personnel and surgeon credentials.
- Can the surgeon provide you with before and after photos of past breast reconstruction patients?
An experienced breast plastic reconstructive surgeon should be more than willing to show you the results of their past work. This will give you the opportunity to decide if their skill level will deliver results you will be happy with.
- Do they offer you the option to speak with past breast reconstruction patients?
A surgeon’s reputation speaks volumes, and speaking to former patients about their experience with the surgeon is a great way to decide if they are the right choice for you.
- Does the surgeon perform the specific breast reconstruction technique that you are interested in?
Most breast plastic surgeons are not trained in microsurgery techniques and therefore cannot offer advanced perforator flap procedures like the DIEP Flap. Autologous breast reconstruction surgeries rebuild the breast using skin and fat transplanted from another area of the patient’s body. The DIEP Flap in particular involves removing fat and skin from the abdomen and relocating it to the breast region, where the surgeon carefully reattaches blood vessels under a microscope. Although it is a more complex and technically challenging procedure, the results look and feel more natural.
Dr. Aldona J. Spiegel is one of only a handful of plastic surgeons in the nation who is extensively trained in the technically demanding microsurgical skills required to perform these surgeries. Please call our office today at (713) 441-6102 to schedule your consultation.