Chicago doctor says cosmetic surgery patients must do research

A University of Chicago doctor is warning patients who are thinking about cosmetic surgery to do their research before opting to have their surgery performed by their regular physician instead of a board-certified plastic surgeon. Because of changes in the healthcare industry, more physicians in Illinois are choosing to perform plastic surgeries on the side in order to make some extra money. Although these doctors can legally perform the surgeries, they don’t always have the proper training to do so.

The University of Chicago doctor, who is also the chief of the plastic surgery section at the university’s Pritzker School of Medicine, said that it takes six years for a plastic surgeon to be board-certified. However, dentists, gynecologists and ER doctors are performing cosmetic surgeries on patients after only attending weekend trainings on Botox injections or breast implants. As a result, non-certified doctors performing these surgeries don’t always know what to do when complications arise and could cause patients to suffer serious injuries from surgical errors.

One woman acknowledged that she learned the hard way that she should have checked her doctor’s credentials before undergoing surgery for breast implants and a tummy tuck. She said that the doctor was highly recommended by others, but she later learned that he was not a board-certified plastic surgeon.

Her surgery was performed at an outpatient clinic in Chicago several years ago. After returning home from the surgery, the woman passed out in her shower and was rushed to a hospital. She was later flown to the intensive care unit at the University of Chicago Medical Center after ER doctors diagnosed her with septic shock. Her breast implants and skin from the tummy tuck had to be removed.

Many doctors who perform cosmetic surgeries without being board-certified may be fully capable of performing the surgeries safely, but others question the ethics behind doing so. Some think that primary care physicians might be misleading patients about the necessity of such surgeries. Others suggest that patients might feel obligated to opt for cosmetic surgeries in order to maintain a good relationship with their doctors.

Although it is legal for doctors to perform cosmetic surgeries in Illinois without being certified, patients should do their research so that they are aware of their surgeon’s credentials and experiences before undergoing surgery. Making sure that one’s doctor is experienced and properly trained may be able to eliminate the risk of any serious or fatal complications resulting from a surgical error.

In Illinois, patients can learn more about a physician’s training and education at, a consumer website recently launched by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Patients’ plastic surgery research shouldn’t be skin-deep, experts warn,” Elizabeth Owens-Schiele, Dec. 28, 2011

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