APRASSA Report: Who is Performing your Aesthetic Surgery?


*Sponsored Post by APRASSA: The Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons of Southern Africa *

Modern access to information and social media means that patients understand that they can improve their looks or change that one thing about their appearance that they dislike. This has created a huge market for medical professionals to offer cosmetic surgery enhancements.  So how does a responsible consumer find a surgeon who will ensure a safe operation and a great result? Written by DR ISABEL DO VALE.

The spectrum of cosmetic treatments is vast, from injectable treatments like botulinum toxin and fillers all the way through to extensive body contouring surgeries and facelifts. Injectable cosmetic treatments are often safely performed by general practitioners with a special interest in cosmetic treatments, however going under the knife for cosmetic or aesthetic surgery is another scenario altogether.

The misconception among consumers, is that any doctor marketing these surgeries is appropriately qualified to practice and perform plastic surgery. This, however, is not the case and can result in dire consequences.

This problem is not unique to South Africa. Numerous reports from other countries, document the confusion created by inappropriate medical marketing, the existence of recognized and unrecognized boards/ associations, and ambiguous terms used to describe varying types of doctors performing plastic surgical procedures.

In 2011 the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) launched the Do Your Homework patient safety public education campaign for these very reasons1.A blog post on the

ASPS website, states “The Do Your Homework message is simple: it’s legal for anyone to wear a white lab coat and call themselves a cosmetic surgeon, but that doesn’t mean they’ve had the proper training to perform plastic surgery. When a practitioner is not qualified, the results can be deadly.”2. 

So what is the difference between a ‘plastic surgeon’ vs an ‘aesthetic surgeon’ vs a ‘cosmetic surgeon?

In South Africa a plastic surgeon completes an additional 7-10 years of surgical training after qualifying as a General Practitioner.  4 to 5 years of this, is in a dedicated training program in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery They then pass national examinations run by the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa.

Only plastic surgeons specialised in the principles and techniques of plastic surgery have the ability to manage risks and complications unique to plastic surgery.

A ‘cosmetic surgeon’ is a doctor who performs aesthetic surgeries without necessarily being trained in plastic surgery techniques.

It is important to note that the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) does not recognise any specialty of ‘cosmetic medicine’ or ‘cosmetic surgery’. The only recognised qualification and registration relating to plastic surgery, is that of a plastic and reconstructive surgeon.

Lastly, ‘aesthetic surgeon’ is also not a recognised specialty; and is merely a term used to describe a qualified, registered plastic surgeon who chooses to do less reconstructive work and focuses mostly on aesthetic surgeries.

Appropriately qualified

Yet regardless of whether your surgeon markets themselves as a ‘cosmetic’, ‘aesthetic’ or ‘plastic’ surgeon, you must check that they are qualified as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon with the HPCSA – and that they are registered with the Association of Plastic Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgeons of South Africa (APRASSA), before considering going under the knife for a surgical procedure.

To help you validate your doctor’s qualifications to ensure you have the safest plastic surgery experience possible:

  • Ask if your doctor is a qualified plastic surgeon and registered with APRASSA.
  • If your doctor says “I’m registered with the HPCSA”, ask him or her “in what specialty?” They should be registered in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, not in some other specialty as they may have only taken what amounts to weekend or short-term courses to do plastic surgery procedures.
  • Look for a plaque or certificate in the doctor’s office that indicates that they are an APRASSA member.
  • If you have any doubts about their certification go to www.aprassa.co.za, click on “Find a Surgeon” to check if your doctor appears in the results or call +27 11 784 4537.
  • You can also check that your doctor is actively registered with the HPCSA by going to the following link http://isystems.hpcsa.co.za/iregister/, enter your doctor’s name or select ‘Category’, then Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Take home message

As a patient, you want to look and feel your best after undergoing aesthetic surgery to alter your looks. To ensure that you have a safe, positive experience, remember that surgery is an important and costly decision. You should take time to research your desired procedure and ensure that your surgeon is appropriately qualified.

Written by Dr Isabel Do Vale


1.) Shah, A. et al. Public perception of cosmetic surgeons versus plastic surgeons: Increasing transparency to educate patients. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2016;139(2):544e-557e

2.)   Wong, W. et al. Investigating Board Certification: Do Our Patients Know How to Do Their Homework? Plast Reconstr Surg.2015; 136(4S)Abstract Supplement:77

3.)   https://www.plasticsurgery.org/news/blog/do-your-plastic-surgery-homework-it-could-save-your-life

4.)    https://www.lawyersalliance.com.au/opinion/cosmetic-vs-plastic-surgery

5.)    https://aestheticplasticsurgeons.org.au/

6.)    https://aestheticplasticsurgeons.org.au/your-safety/

7.)    https://aestheticplasticsurgeons.org.au/media/new-laws-nsw-putting-patient-safety-first/

8.)   https://aestheticplasticsurgeons.org.au/media/cosmetic-sweatshops-not-welcome/

9.)   http://isystems.hpcsa.co.za/iregister/

A2 Disclaimer: This article is published for information purposes only, nor should it be regarded as a replacement for sound medical advice. 

CURRENT Issue 29 – March 2019 (Autumn)

This article was written by Dr Isabel Do Vale and edited by the A2 team EXCLUSIVELY for the A2 Aesthetic & Anti-Ageing Magazine March 2019 Edition (Issue 29). 

A2 Magazine prints only four magazines each year – reporting seasonally on everything you need and want to know about aesthetics, anti-ageing, integrative medicine, quality and medical skin care, cosmetic dentistry and cosmetic surgery in South Africa – where to go, who to see, what to expect, something new and so much more! Never miss an edition – click here for more info about where you can buy the print and/or digital copy of A2 Magazine (including back copies).

To make use of any of our content for re-publishing, you must contact info@a2magazine.co.za for approval.



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