Cosmetic Surgery

What is cosmetic surgery?

Cosmetic surgery is a form of plastic surgery that alters one's appearance to achieve an esthetic or desired enhancement to one's face or other parts of the body. It involves general or local anesthesia, as well as surgical techniques such as incisions or significant alteration of the skin or underlying tissues.

Types of surgical cosmetic procedures:

  • Abdominoplasty (body contouring / "tummy tuck")
  • Blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery)
  • Breast augmentation, lift or reduction
  • Brow lift
  • Calf implants
  • Cheek or chin lift or implants
  • Otoplasty (ear pinning)
  • Face lift or mid-face lift
  • Hair replacement
  • Refractive laser eye surgery
  • Liposuction
  • Rhinoplasty (nose surgery)
  • Skin grafts

Types of non-surgical cosmetic procedures

  • Botox® injections
  • Chemical peels
  • Collagen injections
  • Dermabrasions
  • Dermal fillers
  • Laser hair and tattoo removal
  • Sclerotherapy
  • Skin resurfacing

What are some of the more common cosmetic surgical procedures?

Common facial cosmetic procedures include face lift, brow lift, eyelid surgery, ear surgery, and rhinoplasty (nose) surgery. Less invasive cosmetic facial surgeries include facial liposuction, facial implants, micro fat grafting, and some laser resurfacing procedures. Other common cosmetic surgical procedures done on the body include liposuction, abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), breast lift, breast enhancement (augmentation). There are many other procedures targeted to nearly every part of the body.


What are the risks associated with cosmetic surgery?

All surgery comes with a degree of risk and has the potential for complications. Complications can arise from anesthesia, infection, aggravation of pre-existing conditions, immobilization, reaction to agents, allergies, human error, or any other problem caused by an intervention or interference with the body's usual function or structure. Complications from surgery can be minor or major and, in rare circumstances, even death can occur. Cosmetic surgery is no exception and the decision to proceed should be a thoughtful, educated one. Before making any decisions, members of the public should seek counsel from their family physician or surgeon to learn more about the intended procedure, and to discuss the benefits and the risks. It is prudent to obtain a recommendation about a qualified surgeon.


What kind of physician or surgeon is qualified to perform cosmetic surgery?

While many physicians can perform non-surgical or minor surgical cosmetic procedures such as Botox® injections, some laser treatments, or the removal of minor lesions, in British Columbia only a qualified specialist such as a plastic surgeon, a dermatologist with surgical training, or an ear nose and throat surgeon can perform more major, invasive cosmetic procedures.

Qualified surgical specialists have completed a minimum of five years of study and training in surgery after receiving a medical degree, and successfully passed comprehensive exams to demonstrate their knowledge. Through certification with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, they specifically qualify to perform surgeries. Physicians who hold certification with the Royal College in a surgical field use the initials FRCSC (Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada) after their name and can therefore refer to themselves as surgeons. Dermatologists use the initials FRCPC (Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada) after their name as they are deemed by the Royal College to be physicians not surgeons, and therefore may not refer to themselves as "surgeon."


How can a member of the public find out if a physician or surgeon is a qualified surgical specialist?

It is crucial that members of the public check a physician or surgeon's qualifications prior to cosmetic surgery to ensure that s/he has the appropriate training and expertise to perform a surgical procedure. To verify that a physician is a qualified surgical specialist, contact the College at 604-733-7758 or visit the online registrant directory section of this website. While some physicians may have obtained and promote membership in a related society or association, these organizations may not be recognized by this College, and members of the public are further cautioned to validate a physician or surgeon's credentials prior to consenting.


How does the College ensure that only specialists are performing cosmetic surgery?

In BC, major invasive cosmetic surgical procedures can only be performed in a hospital or an accredited non-hospital medical and surgical facility. Even surgical specialists must first apply to the College and be granted approval before being eligible to perform surgical cosmetic procedures outside of a hospital environment. The specialist must present all of the applicable documentation to demonstrate their required qualifications and training (qualifications that match and/or are related to the procedure), experience, hospital privileges, and references.

The physician or surgeon must also indicate at which facility they intend to perform the procedure. These private non-hospital medical and surgical facilities must be accredited by the College to ensure that they meet the highest operating standards: anesthesia, equipment, sterilization, infection control protocols, patient care and emergency procedures, and qualified staff.


Can a physician or surgeon advertise their services?

Physicians and surgeons can advertise their professional services either in a directory listing, on a website or through a professional advertisement, providing the content assists patients in making informed choices about their health and wellbeing. Advertising should not contain false or misleading pictures, photographs or statements, including statements about professional superiority.


Can Botox® injections be given without a physician first seeing the patient?

A physician or surgeon must physically meet with a patient prior to the treatment to discuss possible risk factors and assess contraindications.


Does a physician or surgeon have to give the Botox® injection?

A physician or surgeon doesn't have to give the Botox® injection; however, the treatment decision must be made by a physician or surgeon, and that physician or surgeon remains responsible for the procedure. The actual injections of Botox® can be delegated to a registered nurse, assuming the treatment is performed under the supervision of the physician or surgeon. Botox® is a prescription drug and unregulated individuals such as estheticians are not qualified or authorized to inject it.


Can Botox® injections be given in a location other than a physician's office, clinic or a hospital?

Botox® injections can be done in any setting, even a spa, provided it meets the approved clinical standards, and a physician or surgeon registered with the College is accountable for the procedure.