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Are You an Undesirable Cosmetic Surgery Patient?

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Did you know that as you go through the process of selecting your cosmetic surgeon, he or she is also evaluating whether they want to work with you?

If at first this notion seems surprising, or even disturbing, consider the unique position of plastic surgeons as they evaluate patients. Unlike most other doctor-patient relationships, you initiate the contact in this one. And you’re not undergoing surgery for reasons related to physical health, you’re electing a procedure to improve your appearance. This puts key decisions about readiness in the hands of the plastic surgeon (Sclafani 1).

An article published in Plastic Surgery News a few years ago provides an interesting look at the challenge of patient selection from the plastic surgeon’s perspective. As you consider whether to choose cosmetic surgery for yourself, this information can help you understand the kind of patient your doctor looks for — and the kind he or she avoids. It can also help you explore your own motivations for surgery.

The article, entitled Surgeon’s peace of mind may rest largely on patient selection, is part of a series of pieces published “by and for young plastic surgeons” (Bajaj 1). In it, Paramjit Bajaj summarizes a few red flags professionals should watch for.

According to Bajaj, doctors should rule out patients who are obsessed with a minor or nonexistent defect. He notes that people “with great concern about minimal deformities are highly likely to be dissatisfied with the outcome” of surgery (Bajaj 1). A few other very obvious patients for plastic surgeons to avoid include people who have overinflated egos and try to impress the surgeon with how important they are, as well as those who act rude and pushy, even lying about previous procedures (Bajaj 1). It’s safe to say that most patients do not act like this.

Other advice for young plastic surgeons in Bajaj’s article may give you reason to pause and think about your own motivations. The piece suggests doctors consider turning away patients who:

— Have the expectation that surgery will solve their problems. There’s a subtle but important difference between wanting to look your best for yourself and feel extra good in your relationships, and electing surgery to save a failing marriage.

— Bring photos of models as examples of the results they’re seeking. If you bring images to show the kind of nose you’d like, that can be helpful. If you bring a photo of someone you want to look like and are demanding and very specific about the outcome you expect, you may be shown the door.

— Are extremely secretive about surgery. The article maintains that it’s ok to prefer that no one knows you’ve had surgery, but it’s not so ok to want to go to “great lengths” to conceal a procedure (Bajaj 1).

As cosmetic surgery becomes more routine — even popular — for average citizens, plastic surgeons are, by necessity, becoming much more savvy about making smart decisions about their patients. One of the veteran plastic surgeons quoted in Bajaj’s article advised young doctors by noting that few (if any) plastic surgeons have ever regretted the decision not to work with a patient.


Sclafani, Anthony P., Meyers, Arlen D. Psychological Aspects of Plastic Surgery. MedScape Reference. Updated March 10, 2010. Web. August 14, 2011.

Bajaj, Paramjit. Surgeon’s peace of mind may rest largely on careful patient selection. Plastic Surgery News. January, 2008. Web. August 14, 2011.

Reviewed August 16, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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