Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Thinking about having cosmetic surgery?

Thinking about having cosmetic surgery?

No matter how simple it may seem, every cosmetic procedure or surgery carries risk. Even if you’ve had it done before, it’s important that you think carefully about your decision every time. Here are some questions you might want to ask to make sure you are fully informed.

Is a medical practitioner carrying out the surgery?

When considering cosmetic surgery, such as breast augmentation, choose someone who is registered to practise in Australia. You can check this on our national online register of practitioners. The register shows whether they have general registration as a doctor (medical practitioner) or specialist registration (eg plastic surgeon). If you can’t find your doctor on the register, you can ask for their registration number.

Searching the register may not be enough to tell you whether they are qualified and experienced in the specific procedure that they will perform. The person might be registered but may have very little experience or knowledge of the specific procedure or surgery you want. Choose someone who is knowledgeable, skilled and experienced in performing the procedure or surgery. Ask about their qualifications, experience and rates of complication or revision surgery. 

Who can call themselves a ‘Cosmetic surgeon’?

Currently, any registered medical practitioner can call themselves a cosmetic surgeon. All registered medical practitioners have completed a medical degree and internship program. They are also required to meet annual requirements for professional development and recency of practice.

Some medical practitioners have undertaken additional training in cosmetic surgery. However, Ahpra and the Medical Board of Australia do not currently accredit any cosmetic surgery courses, qualifications, colleges or associations. 

We are working on developing minimum standards for practitioners in cosmetic surgery. Health Ministers are also working towards protecting the use of the title ‘Surgeon.’

Who can call themselves a ‘Specialist’?

Only doctors who hold specialist registration can call themselves a specialist. 

Specialist registration involves significant additional training and practitioners must be assessed as eligible for fellowship of a specialist medical college that is accredited by the Australian Medical Council.

Specialities that include substantial surgical training include:

  • Cardio-thoracic surgery 
  • General surgery
  • Neurosurgery
  • Orthopaedic surgery
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgery
  • Otolaryngology – head and neck surgery
  • Paediatric surgery
  • Plastic surgery
  • Urology
  • Vascular surgery
  • Ophthalmology
  • Obstetrics and gynaecology

This specialist registration is listed on a practitioner’s registration on the register of practitioners.

Where is the procedure or surgery taking place? Is it clean? Is it safe? Does it meet state or territory licensing requirements?

Where the procedure occurs is very important. Some surgical procedures can only occur in a state or territory licensed facility like a day-procedure facility or hospital.

If something doesn’t feel right about the place you are having your surgery then you always have the right to say no.

What medicines, medical devices or other health products are being used?

The procedure or surgery you are considering will likely involve a medicine and/or medical device. You can check any medicine and/or medical device that will be used in the procedure or surgery is approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). You can check whether a medicine or medical device is approved for supply by looking for it in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).

Have I been provided with enough information to provide informed consent?

The registered practitioner who will perform the surgery should provide you with enough information to make an informed decision about whether to have the procedure. In addition to the information described above, you should also be given information about:

  • what the procedure involves
  • the risks and possible complications
  • the recovery period and any restrictions or additional treatment you will require
  • total cost including details of deposits required and payment dates, refund of deposits, payments for follow-up care and possible further costs for revision surgery or additional treatment, and
  • the complaints process and how to make a complaint. 

You should be given the opportunity before the surgery to ask any questions or seek extra information from your practitioner.

For major cosmetic surgery, there should be a cooling off period (of at least seven days) after you give consent, before you have the procedure.

Do you know where to go if something goes wrong?

In an emergency, you can always seek treatment at a hospital emergency department.

If you have concerns about your cosmetic surgery experience or if something serious happens, it’s generally best to start with the person who provided the service. They will often be well placed to address your concerns.

Even if your individual concerns are addressed by the practitioner who provided the service, you can also report any ongoing concerns about public safety to our hotline Cosmetic Surgery Hotline – 1300 361 041. If we know about your concerns, we can investigate them. Patients can make confidential complaints and we won’t tell the practitioner the name of the person who complained.

Sometimes there are other agencies who are better placed to help you, our hotline staff will help connect you to them.

 
 
Page reviewed 8/11/2022