How to identify a Top Plastic Surgeon?


Undergoing cosmetic plastic surgery is a very exciting and life changing experience. However, it may become also an overwhelming experience. Everything starts by identifying if your cosmetic surgeon is truly the BEST  in the field or at least a TOP plastic surgeon for the procedure that you are interested in doing.

In this article we are giving some tips and secrets to narrow down your search and hopefully finding the perfect match for your cosmetic surgery procedure.

Where do I start?

In the age of information online searches are the first step.  Usually a google search is a good starting point. Keywords that you may search are:  procedure name + the location where you live + location of a nearby big city + board certified plastic surgeon. The phrase: “board certified plastic surgeon” is very important. We elaborate on this topic in our article “Board Certification

Google will display nearby options by tracking the computer’s location.

The first few searches may have an “ad” label before the address of the website. These are paid advertisements that practitioners use to capture your attention. These are not necessarily the highest ranked practitioners.

Following the paid advertisements are the highest ranked doctors in your area, you will see the highly ranked doctors in your area. 

Other useful portals to search for surgeons.

In the last 10 years there has been an explosion of website portals that list physicians by specialty. The specialty selected should be "plastic surgeons". A list of top plastic surgeons in your area will be provided that may include:  contact information, pictures and reviews.

Some of the most relevant sites are:

-RealSelf:  This site is one of the more specialized portals related to cosmetic surgery. 

-Health grades



The relevant point is to find consistency among the various sites.

Main requirements to consider.

-Board certification

-Before and afters

-Online reviews

Let’s expand on this check list.

Board Certification in plastic surgery:

The first and most important requirement when considering a plastic surgeon.  You need to make sure that your surgeon is a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. Be aware that not all cosmetic surgeons are Board Certified Plastic Surgeons.  Please follow this link for further information (board certification).

Before and Afters photographs:

The before and after section is a testimony of the quality of work that your surgeon performs. In this section you will find the best work the surgeon has done. This could be deceiving. However, if you see results that don’t seem good, then you can start the elimination process.

Top plastic surgeon Pittsburgh PA - Best cosmetic surgery Wexford PA - procedure - realself - area - near - facs - asps - board certification plastic surgery

TIP: Pay attention to the consistency and quality of the photography that is presented in this section. Random and non-consistent photos may showthe surgeon’s standards and their attention to details.

Now you know if: 1. Your surgeon was well trained (board certification); 2. The quality of your surgeon’s work is adequate (before and afters). Let’s focus on the way how patients are treated by the practice that you are considering for your procedure.

Online reviews:

Now you need to explore the quality of the process that your surgeon offers to her/his patients. Online reviews have given a reality check to physicians. Now patients can voice their experience publicly when interacting with their physicians. Good and bad experiences can be found on the above mention online portals.

TIP: Make a balance of the following considerations.

-Bad reviews are important to determine how the practice manages complications or unfortunate outcomes.

-Pay attention to the magnitude of the bad review.

-Are there any patterns of patient unhappiness?

-Is your surgeon arrogant?

-Is the staff dismissive, disrespectful or abrasive?

With regards to the positive reviews:

-Look at the detail of the description. It is very different to see a detail positive outlook of a patient’s experience, vs a simple: “they are the best” or “they are awesome”.

Remember, that negative reviews are more likely to be voiced. This makes eloquent positive reviews a good reflection of the experience that the patient undergoes.

By now you should be able to narrow down your list to 3 or 4 surgeons. It is time to set up your consultation.

Consultation process

Call and make the appointment

Your first interaction with the practices should be the front desk staff. Evaluate their level of knowledge about your procedure and friendliness.

Congratulations, now you have your appointment.

Be Aware

Some offices will charge a consultation fee. In many cases, they will honor the money that you paid towards the surgery fee, if you book the surgery with that practice. Some other practices will not have a fee.

TIPExpensive is not always better. and cheap is not always worseDo NOT make any conclusions just yet. Meet the doctor and the staff, and then have a more educated opinion.

Prepare for your appointment

Do some online research but do NOT go crazy.

Realself should be a good resource to get information.

Watching videos of the procedure may help, but not all sources are reliable. TIP: Many videos are commercially oriented more than informative oriented (Find some informative videos by clicking here). Be judicious with your selection and do NOT cancel your surgery because of it.

Write down your questions. If you don’t do that, I promise you will forget.

Day of your appointment

Be on time. In many cases the practice will send you paperwork to fill prior to your consultation. Have it ready so the consultation can run in a timely fashion. If you can not print or access the documents online, they should recommend coming 15 minutes earlier.

How late is your appointment?

Cosmetic surgery can be a tricky topic to be discussed. The more focus your complains are, the more efficient the consultation will run.

How long does the consultation last?

There are 3 possible scenarios:

1.The doctor will be in and out.

2.You will spend most of time with a nurse or a physician’s assistant, followed by the doctor.

3.The doctor will conduct the whole consultation

TIP: The ideal is when the doctor spends quality time with you.

How much did you learn?

Remember that you are conducting a job interview. This time, you are in charge. Your doctor should provide you with relevant details related to your procedure. Don’t be persuade by the magic of before and after photos. Surgery is a complex process and you need to know the benefits, the risks, and the complications. If you answer most of your questions during your consultation, then you can tell how through your surgeon is?.

Does your doctor make sense?

It is important that your doctor speaks with simple words. The easier he explains the topic, the more knowledgeable he is. Following a coherent conversation, will give you a good idea of the clarity of your physician’s thoughts.

Does your doctor listen to your concerns?

It is unfortunate, but many surgeons are well known to love hearing themselves. Don’t let their knowledge overpower your concerns. Common sense is always a good way about approaching problems. However, be open to the professional opinion of your doctor. If the same recommendation comes from all your doctors, then you may consider adopting the consensus.

Is your plastic surgeon a good car salesman?

Some surgeons will try to convince you about upgrading your surgery. Please run away if they may suggest doing something completely different. (ie. You came for breast surgery and you come out with a facelift quote).

How to differentiate a good intended comment from the car sales one?

Everything is based on how things are said. Your surgeon should comment on the benefits and potential complications of the procedure that you came to discuss about. If there are pitfalls to your planned procedure, then she/he might elaborate on alternative procedures that may address the issues mentioned above.

At the end, this is a conversation where you and your potential surgeon will compromise on goals and expectations. This is the key to a happy outcome.

TIP: A car sales surgeon will have a unilateral conversation without elaborating on the rational of the proposed procedure.  

Product quality control

Evaluate some of the before and after photographs. Usually you can have access to them through the website. If not provided, ask for them. However, facial surgeries are less likely to be found online, since people don’t want to be public about their facial surgery.

Get your quote and keep it to compare.

Keep your quotes to compare prices. Not always more expensive is better. On the same token, cheapest should alert your radar.

TIP: DO NOT pay attention only to the numbers when comparing your prices. Keep in mind that a cheap price from someone who has raised many red flags, may not be such a great deal. On the same token, paying a little bit more for outstanding care may be worth the peace of mind.

Here you have it. Put all the pieces together and choose your surgeon.

Please send us comments to this email address ( The purpose of this article is to help giving a guideline. The more feedback that we obtain, the better the guideline will become. If useful, please share.

Dr. Julio A. Clavijo-Alvarez MD. is a Board certified plastic surgeon in Pittsburgh, PA. He is also a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgery (ASPS).

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