What to Do When a Plastic Surgeon Tells You “No”

Posted June 20, 2017 by Paul M. Parker, M.D., FACS

plastic surgeon assessing a patient

For the vast majority of patients who want to improve their appearance, plastic surgery can be a great option to help them make desired changes and feel more confident in their own skin.

However, plastic surgery isn’t right for everyone, and on occasion, we have to tell a patient “no.” If you’ve been turned down for plastic surgery, you may wonder why. Alternatively, if you are in the early stages of research, you may wonder if you are a good candidate for cosmetic surgery.

In either case, understanding how a plastic surgeon evaluates potential patients—and what options you have if you’re told a procedure isn’t right for you—can help you move forward in a healthy way.

Reputable plastic surgeons aim to deliver on a patient’s goals while ensuring your safety and that results look natural. If we cannot achieve what you want safely or effectively, we won’t operate.

Why you may be turned down for plastic surgery:

Plastic surgeons determine a patient’s suitability for cosmetic surgery on a case-by-case basis. Below are some common reasons we may decide a procedure is not in your best interest.

You have unrealistic expectations

Reputable plastic surgeons want to deliver on a patient’s goals while ensuring your safety and that results look natural. If we cannot achieve what you want safely or effectively, we won’t operate.

Examples of unrealistic expectations may be a 60-year old hoping that a facelift will help her look 30 again, a patient with the figure of Kate Moss wishing for a derriere like Kim Kardashian, or a prospective body lift patient who can only take 1 week off of work. An experienced plastic surgeon will explain what a procedure can and cannot achieve and help you understand what results may look like on your body.

Underlying health issues could compromise your safety

A reputable plastic surgeon will carefully consider a patient’s medical history before agreeing to operate. Conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity, as well as lifestyle habits such as smoking or recreational drug use, increase risk of complications from surgery and anesthesia. If you exhibit these or certain other conditions, elective surgery is probably not worth the risk.

The good news is that many contraindicative issues can be improved through lifestyle changes or with a doctor’s care, allowing you to have your desired procedure in due time. In fact, improving your overall health can be a confidence boost on its own, helping you enjoy your results even more once your plastic surgeon agrees that surgery is safe for you.

Someone else is pushing you toward cosmetic surgery

Your motivation for pursuing plastic surgery is as important as your expectations. You should only have a cosmetic procedure for yourself, not to please anyone else. If we suspect that a patient’s significant other is pressuring her into breast augmentation, or if a patient thinks that getting a nose job will help them get a promotion at work, our answer will—and should be—no.

Your plastic surgeon suspects Body Dysmorphic Disorder

While the majority of patients turned down for cosmetic surgery are declined for one of the above reasons, a small percentage of men and women present with a condition called Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), which is characterized by an extreme preoccupation with a perceived physical flaw, often to the point where it interferes with their ability to lead a normal life.

Patients with BDD may seek cosmetic surgery, even multiple times, to perfect or “correct” their appearance, but the root of BDD is psychological and cosmetic surgery cannot address the issue. An experienced, reputable plastic surgeon will recognize signs of BDD and may suggest or refer a patient for psychological counseling.

If you suspect that you or a loved one might have BDD, seek the help of a qualified mental health professional, not a plastic surgeon. There are also good resources online for better understanding body dysmorphic disorder from the International OCD Foundation and the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation.

I’ve been turned down by a plastic surgeon, now what?

It’s important to remember that there is a good reason the plastic surgeon told you no. If you truly disagree with a particular surgeon, it is reasonable to get a second opinion. However, while you may be able to find a different surgeon who is willing to perform the procedure, we highly discourage you from “doctor shopping” in attempt to find someone who will tell you what you want to hear.

Instead, take time to reevaluate your motivations and expectations and consider other ways to improve your look—perhaps taking up a new type of exercise to tone your abs, recommitting to a  healthy skin care routine to achieve a more youthful face, or consulting with a stylist to find clothing and hairstyles that better flatter your natural beauty.

Also, remember that “no” doesn’t necessarily mean “never.” If you’ve been turned down for medical reasons, ask your doctor what you can do to improve your health and eventually get the green light to have cosmetic surgery. You might also look into non-surgical cosmetic treatments, which may provide less dramatic results but also avoid anesthesia risks and usually require less recovery time—just be sure to choose a qualified medical provider for your treatment.

Learn more at a with Dr. Parker

The best way to find out whether you are a good candidate for plastic surgery is to meet with a trusted plastic surgeon. Here at The Parker Center in New Jersey, board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Paul M. Parker has more than 30 years of experience in plastic surgery for men and women and offers consultations for cosmetic procedures. Click here to learn more about our informative consultation process, or contact us now to schedule an appointment.

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