Caveat Emptor isn’t just a high-sounding cautionary term used by lawyers or Latin students. It literally means “Let the Buyer Beware.” Is it any different when shopping for a qualified plastic surgeon?

Because of the many risks associated with certain types of complicated plastic surgery procedures, signing on with the wrong physician could spell serious trouble. Case in point: in November 2011, Florida police arrested a phony plastic surgeon who injected a patient’s buttocks with a homemade concoction whose ingredients included cement, Fix-A-Flat tire sealant, and glue. The woman developed a serious staph infection and pneumonia.

One has to ask if this ill-informed patient had done any research into the person who performed the bogus butt-enhancement procedure. How many others are at risk of making the same mistake? The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that in 2008 more than 75 percent of qualified doctors knew of at least one practice which was absent a medical director to oversee surgical procedures. Those are serious numbers with potentially serious results. Botched cosmetic surgeries have reportedly caused blood clots and heart attacks.

How many of the doctors are even qualified to perform cosmetic surgery? Just because a plastic surgeon is offering a service at bargain basement prices, doesn’t mean the physician is fully qualified or even has the credentials to perform ANY type of cosmetic procedure. Not only does the patient risk a poor outcome there is also the very real risk of getting sick or dying on the operating table. Many board-certified plastic surgeons feel it doesn’t pay to bargain hunt. You get what you pay for, and a cheap procedure may have cheap results at best.

The truth is, shopping for a cosmetic practitioner is not a simple matter and the choice of a doctor should not be made lightly. The most qualified doctors are highly trained, skilled plastic surgeons with years of experience and the latest technology. Many are truly artists in their profession and they have the results to prove it. Consider the following when making your choice:

  • The American Board of Facial Plastic Surgery believes it is important to make sure the facial plastic surgeon is the real deal. Which means the doctor should have a minimum of five years of surgical training.
  • Is the practitioner board certified? If so, the doctor will have met all the requirements of the board to practice cosmetic surgery, including educational requirements and ethical standards, and they will have a proven track record of excellent and consistent surgical outcomes.
  • Are they licensed? If so, then the physician will have met the minimum necessary to practice medicine.

The search for the right facial plastic surgeon is not an easy one. The vetting process should at least include a visit to the Federation of State Medical Boards at This website will provide you with information on the license status of a prospective facial plastic surgeon and other information helpful in your decision.

Dr. Kyle S. Choe is a board certified facial plastic surgeon located in Virginia Beach. For information about plastic surgery or to schedule a personal consultation, contact The Choe Center for Facial Plastic Surgery at 757.389.5850.