Ask the Plastic Surgeon

Q : I'm really frustrated. I've been trying to get rough estimates  on several cosmetic procedures but many of the offices that I have called refuse to give me a price over the phone. They require that I be seen by the doctor first. I don't have the time or money to go to a consultation just to find out how much the procedure will cost. Any suggestions?

A: I suggest that you choose several physicians and visit their websites.  You may find that they list fee ranges for most of the procedures that they do. You might also contact the physician via the website with a description of yourself and exactly what you want done.  The doctor should then be able to give you some "ballpark" fee. It helps if you make it clear that you're only after a rough estimate, and understand that you will need to come in for a consultation to receive a final quotation.  Many doctors hesitate to give estimates, without seeing the patient, because, many times, when the individual's goals are explained, the route to achieve those goals is not what the patient "self" diagnosed.  The patient is then upset because the estimate does not match what is actually required.  If you do have a consultation with a plastic surgeon that charges a fee, request that the consultation fee be subtracted from your surgical fee if you proceed with surgery.   

Q: I was shocked to find out that the board-certified cosmetic surgeon I consulted  about a procedure was not a plastic surgeon.  Aren't they the same thing?

A: Not necessarily. Cosmetic surgery can be performed by any licensed   doctor with, or without, surgical training. The American Board of Plastic Surgery is recognized by the American Board of Medical specialties. As a board-certified plastic surgeon, one must complete five years of training in general surgery, followed by two years of plastic surgery training, and then have passed written and oral examinations to demonstrate his/her knowledge and skills before peers. There is no "Board of Cosmetic Surgery" recognized by the American Board of Medical specialties.

Q: It seems that, following the birth of each of my three children, my stomach has retained more and more fat.  Now that my youngest is six months old, I think that I'm ready for a "tummy tuck". How soon after giving birth can I safely have the procedure?

A: The first question that you need to answer for yourself is if your family is complete. Excessive weight gain or another pregnancy will compromise your investment of time and money in a tummy tuck. With that said, a patient can safely have the procedure as soon as six months after giving birth. I do suggest that you first talk with your obstetrician about your specific pregnancy and post-partum health. Also consider that, to achieve the best aesthetic result, it is helpful to allow time for your skin to shrink as much as possible and your abdominal muscles to return to pre-pregnancy strength before having surgery. The amount of time that takes will depend on your skin quality and muscle tone. 
Once you have regained as near to your pre-pregnancy skin and muscle tone as possible, and have received clearance from your OB, you then need to set a realistic amount of time aside for your post-operative recovery. 

Your procedure will probably involve liposuction for the excess fat, removal of excess skin, and tightening of the rectus muscles (the vertical midline muscles) which separate during pregnancy.

Three to four weeks of recovery time, with no strenuous activity or heavy lifting, will be required. With small children, you may need some additional help for about a month.

Dr. Robert A. Laughlin is a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon who has been helping people from all over the world for the past 26 years. His practice, Hilton Head Island Plastic Surgery, is located on the campus of the Hilton Head Regional Medical Center where he is a member of the Board of Directors and the active surgical staff.
(843) 681-4088 or
Questions should be emailed to his address at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Readers should include "Pink" in their subject line.

If your question is selected for publication, your name will remain  confidential and will not be used in the column. This column is for  informational purposes only and not intended to take place of a medical consultation with a qualified physician.

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