MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) In a WMBF News Special Report, we're learning that not asking the right questions when you go to a cosmetic surgeon, can lead to not only dissatisfaction, but maybe even disfigurement. Some are now calling the cosmetic surgery field the wild west -- with few laws and no sheriff.
In the Grand Strand, where the sun is shining, the beaches go farther than the eye can see, being bikini ready is pretty much every day. That's why men and women flock to plastic surgeons like Dr. Ralph Cozart.
"The most common surgery I do is breast implant surgery and breast lift. I do a lot of liposuctions and body contouring procedures like tummy tucks and this time of the year is a time a lot of patients are doing it because they want to get ready for the summer and look good in that bikini," says Dr. Ralph Cozart, a board certified surgeon with the American Board of Plastic Surgeons.
But what you may not realize is there's actually very few regulations in the industry. There are no laws in the United States that require doctors to practice only within their specialized fields. Which means, you could find an ear doctor performing face lifts; Gynecologists offering breast augmentations and even family practice physicians giving Botox.
When you consider plastic and cosmetic surgeons, you may think it's the same thing, but it's not. A plastic surgeon requires five to seven years of hospital residency while a cosmetic surgeon can receive accreditation within as little as a weekend course.
Dr. Cozart says, "Doctors who aren't plastic surgeons are doing liposuction procedures or breast augmentations in their office on the local level. I don't know the total number but there are some in this area. State wide there are probably dozens; nationwide there are probably thousands."
In just the past three years, Dr. Cozart says he's completed 50 revision surgeries.
"I've seen skin burns from the laser, irregular contour, a lot of scarring from smart lipo that I've had to correct," admits Cozart.
And he's faced with fixing the mistakes of others. Including Candace Holladay who was disappointed with her procedure done by a non board certified surgeon years ago.
"I showed him what areas I had a problem with and he told me he could fix them no problem," says Holladay.
When you're considering any type of body altering procedure, there are questions you need to ask.
1) Is the person responsible for your procedure a board certified plastic surgeon?
2) Does he / she have hospital privileges?
3) Is their operating room certified? Hospitals act as a second set of eyes that overlook your potential surgeon's education before giving them access to the hospital facilities.
4) Ask how long they've been certified to do the cosmetic surgery you're looking for. Just like finding the best heart surgeon, you want someone with real experience to ensure a positive outcome.
Questions Candace Holladay wishes she would have known to ask years ago.
"My message would be for people to do their research. That's one thing I didn't know seven years ago. I didn't know the difference between a board certified plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon and that's a huge deal," warns Holladay.
Only Texas, California, Louisiana and Florida mandate that doctors be specific in their advertising about which board certifications they have. WMBF News found seven certified plastic surgeons recognized by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons within the Myrtle Beach area and three in Florence. Bottom line, take the time to do you're homework before going under the knife.
Dr. Cozart says consider it a red flag if the first time you meet your surgeon is the day you're going under the knife. He says you should meet with him or her to discuss all your options before you decide to move forward with your surgery.
Use the links above to find a surgeon near your area or you can search by name to find out if the doctor you're dealing with is in fact certified.