Today’s boom in cosmetic procedures makes understanding practitioners’ credentials more important than ever. Prospective patients must choose carefully for a safe and successful experience.

A national trend

America’s obsession with looking good is driving a growing number of people to undergo a variety of plastic surgery procedures to enhance their appearance. In 2015, 14.2 million minimally invasive treatments were performed on those hoping to achieve a new look or hold on to their youth a little longer.

One reason for this surge in procedures is that more medical practitioners outside of the plastic surgery specialty — from OB-GYNs and dermatologists to oral surgeons and general practitioners — are expanding their services to include them.

The resulting problem

But while adding noninvasive surgeries may be good business for doctors, it can be bad news for patients, as many physicians perform these procedures without proper training, leaving patient safety at risk. Experts caution anyone considering plastic surgery to check the qualifications of their doctor to help ensure safe and successful results.

“Board-certified plastic surgeons also acquire a depth of surgical knowledge that allows them to handle emergencies if something does go wrong.”

Per U.S. laws, any doctor with a medical license can perform plastic surgery ranging from breast augmentation and liposuction to laser treatments, Botox and eyelid lifts – even if it’s not the specialty in which he or she was trained. But some physicians perform these procedures with as little training as a one-day seminar — or simply watching another doctor do it.

To avoid the complications that can arise when aesthetic procedures are performed by poorly trained practitioners, prospective patients can enlist the services of a plastic surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

What to check for

A board-certified plastic surgeon has extensive training that results in skills and judgement that can’t be matched by those outside of the surgical specialty. To earn this certification, doctors must have at least five years of surgical training, including a residency in plastic surgery, and pass comprehensive testing. In addition, they must operate in accredited facilities.

Unlike underqualified practitioners, board-certified plastic surgeons also acquire a depth of surgical knowledge that allows them to handle emergencies if something does go wrong. When choosing a plastic surgeon, checking credentials for the board-certified designation is one of the first steps prospective patients can take to reduce risk and increase the likelihood of a professional experience and positive outcome.