Oculoplastic surgery (also known as ophthalmic plastic surgery or oculofacial surgery) is a specialized field of medicine that combines the highly-detailed microsurgery of ophthalmology with the cosmetic principles and art of plastic surgery to achieve the best results for patients looking to or needing surgery around the eyes.
Oculoplastic surgeons, such as Dr. Christine Annunziata with Metrolina Eye Associates, typically undertake 6-7 years of surgical training after medical school to become specialists in eyelid surgery. Those, like Dr. Annunziata, who go on to the 7th year, generally have additional advanced training in cosmetic procedures of the face, including upper and lower face-lifting, fat transfer, and non-surgical procedures such as skin care, laser treatments, and injectables. An oculoplastic surgeon typically completes thousands of eyelid surgeries just in their training years alone, and since their practice typically concentrates only on the eyelids and face, they perform thousands more each year that they are in practice.
General plastic surgeons also undergo specialized training, and many of them perform eyelid surgery. However, most general plastic surgeons concentrate all over the body and perform other procedures such as breast augmentation or body lifts. Facial or eyelid procedures may not be a particular concentration of a general plastic surgeon, and they may not perform as many of these procedures in a year as a consequence.
So, how do you choose your surgeon?
There are several factors to consider when choosing the best surgeon for your eyelid surgery:
1. TRUST- Most importantly, you should choose a surgeon that you trust, who listens to your concerns, and you feel comfortable will be there for you if you experience difficulty before, during, and after the procedure. The doctor-patient relationship is extremely important and can significantly affect the outcome or your surgery. Word of mouth is often the best source to help you gain confidence. Ask to speak with patients who have been through the process with your surgeon – this is usually more valuable than seeing a case of before and after photos that are specifically chosen. You are better off hearing it from an impartial third party.
2. CERTIFICATION- Choose a surgeon who is board certified. Board certification is a rigorous process that ensures that your surgeon is skilled and experienced in the latest advances in the field. The training to become an oculoplastic surgeon is demanding and extensive. The path to becoming a certified oculoplastic surgeon is actually one of the longest and most challenging of any specialty in medicine, as it requires both certification by the Board of Ophthalmology and a separate certification by the American Society of Oculoplastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Nationwide, there are only 15 surgeons per year selected to train as an oculoplastic surgeon, so as you can imagine, only the best physicians are even permitted to enter the field.
3. EXPERIENCE- Choose a surgeon who has experience in both cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. While many patients present solely for cosmetic reasons, it is important to make sure that your surgeon also has extensive experience in reconstructive surgery. It is true that most aesthetic procedures go as planned and patients experience an excellent result as they heal, but sometimes revisions are necessary and this is where a reconstructive background is key. In fact, the best oculoplastic surgeons serve as resources in the community for reconstruction following unexpected surgical results.
4. SAFETY- Choose a surgeon who can examine the eyes before and after surgery – Eyelid surgery is more than just trimming extra skin and fatty tissue to rejuvenate the area. Complications can and do occur and are more likely to occur if you have a pre-existing condition. Some patients are simply not good candidates for eyelid surgery, or have co-existing conditions that make them higher risk patients. Although rare, severe and vision threatening complications can occur with eyelid surgery and only an oculoplastic surgeon with a background in general ophthalmology can diagnose the problem and either prevent or treat the problem as you recover.
5. FULL PACKAGE- Choose a surgeon who has more to offer than just surgery. You may be a better candidate for non-surgical procedures or you may want to return for further treatments with Botox and dermal fillers like Juvederm, Radiesse, etc. to continue the maintenance treatments necessary to achieve the results you desire. Your surgeon should be looking at your eyes and face with a broad set of skills from which to draw in order to help you achieve your goals. Each patient is an individual, so there should not be a one-size-fits-all approach.
Dr. Christine Annunziata specializes in facial reconstructive and cosmetic surgery as well as non-surgical procedures including laser skin treatments and injectables for wrinkle and fat reduction. She is board certified by the AAO and ASOPRS and has been practicing medicine for 20 years. She has focused exclusively on oculoplastic surgery for 16 years and has performed thousands of cosmetic and reconstructive eyelid and facial surgeries. To learn more about your options and all of the services Dr. Annunziata provides, call our office at (704-234-1930) to schedule a consultation.