Cosmetic Surgery FAQs

Many prospective cosmetic surgery patients of our Richmond practice have the same questions regarding their procedures. Here are a few of the most common.

What is the difference between a plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon?

There is still ongoing confusion about this. A plastic surgeon is a doctor who has undergone eight years of post-graduate training in surgery the last four of these specifically in plastic surgery and who has passed an exam to complete his/her qualification. A cosmetic surgeon has only done a basic medical degree and has not done any post-graduate surgical training or sat any exam to assess surgical competence and is not recognized by the government regulatory bodies as a specialist in surgery.

What qualifications should a person look for if they are contemplating surgery?

The surgeon you consult should have a set of initials after their name MBBS means they have a basic medical degree. ALL qualified surgeons have the letters FRACS after their name, and this means they have completed the post-graduate training and exam to be recognized as a surgeon. Plastic surgeons should also be a member of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), and those who have a special interest in cosmetic surgery will also be a member of the Australian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons ASAPS. Sue Thistlethwaite is a member of all of these organizations.

Will I need a referral from my G.P. for the consultation?

It is preferable to have a referral, as your G.P. will provide your previous medical history and assessment of your current health. A referral is also required to claim a Medicare rebate for the consultation and for some of the procedures such as breast reduction, abdominoplasty, and some rhinoplasties which still attract government rebates.

Why should the consultation be with a surgeon, not a non-medically trained assistant?

Only the surgeon has the training to fully assess the problem and discuss all the options for treatment of it. An assistant will only discuss what you have requested off a pre-prepared list, and this may not be the correct procedure to address the problem. For example, a lot of patients request breast augmentation to correct loss of breast volume post-pregnancy. If they have significant drooping of the breast, they may actually require breast lift, or mastopexy, to lift the breast either with or without an augmentation the surgeon will pick this up and discuss all the options, whereas a non-trained assistant will only discuss augmentation because that is what the patient requested.

The surgeon will also give the patient a much better perspective of the likelihood of any specific complications in their case as determined by an assessment of their age, skin type, weight, body build, medical health, and smoking history. The assistant will just go through a pre-prepared list and give equal weight to every complication.

Finally, unfortunately, most assistants are paid on a commission basis and are paid only if they sign up patients for cosmetic surgery an incentive to downplay risks.

What about costs?

Some of the procedures are still on the Medicare schedule and are therefore partially covered by Medicare and also by the private health fund if the patient is privately insured these include breast reduction, reconstruction, some mastopexies, abdominoplasty, some rhinoplasties, and all procedures done post-significant weight loss. However, those procedures deemed fully cosmetic by the government are not covered by Medicare at all, and only the hospital stay will be covered by the health fund these include breast augmentation, liposuction, facelift and blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery).

At the end of the consultation with Dr Thistlethwaite, the patient will be given a full costing for the procedure, which will indicate exactly how much, if any, Medicare and their health fund will cover.

Where will the surgery be performed?

Each surgery will be performed in a fully accredited hospital, usually as either day surgery or an overnight stay.

Are there significant risks associated with plastic surgery?

All surgery is associated with some risks. However, a thorough pre-operative assessment of the patient by both the surgeon and anesthetist should identify the most likely ones in any given patient and these will be discussed with them and appropriate precautions taken to minimize the risk.

Will there be scarring left after the surgery?

Yes. Any cut in the skin will leave a scar, so all cosmetic surgery is associated with some scarring. However, all the operations are designed to place the scars in the most inconspicuous places possible. Dr Thistlethwaite will also assess your skin type, look at scars you already have to assess your genetic predisposition to poor scarring, and advise you accordingly at the preoperative consultation.

How long is the recovery time from surgery?

Recovery time does vary between individuals and is related to general fitness prior to the surgery, age, body build, and the procedure performed. However, in general, wounds are usually healed within one to two weeks and patients can resume work (desk job) at that time and probably one to two weeks later if work is of a more physical nature. Low impact exercise can usually be resumed within one week of surgery and impact exercise within three to four weeks of surgery. Patients are allowed to drive generally within four to seven days after surgery.

What if I am unhappy with the result or a complication leaves poor scarring?

Patients are usually followed in Dr Thistlethwaite’s practice for 12 months after surgery. They are followed until both the patient and Dr Thistlethwaite are happy with the result and the scarring produced. If there is some aspect the patient is unhappy with during this time, Dr Thistlethwaite will correct it without charge to the patient.

Contact Dr Thistlethwaite

To schedule your initial consultation with Dr. Thistlethwaite, please contact our plastic surgery practice serving Melbourne, Essendon West, and surrounding neighbourhoods in Victoria today.