Send to

Choose Destination
Handchir Mikrochir Plast Chir. 2011 Dec;43(6):368-75. doi: 10.1055/s-0031-1286252. Epub 2012 Jan 12.

[Patients' decision for aesthetic surgery].

[Article in German]

Author information

Klinikum Bielefeld Mitte, Klinik für Plastische, Wiederherstellungs und Ästhetische Chirurgie, Handchirurgie, Bielefeld.



Aesthetic surgery is a service which entails a high degree of trust. Service evaluation prior to provision is difficult for the patient. This leads to the question of how to manage the service successfully while still focusing on the medical needs. The decision to undergo an operation is not influenced by the operation itself, but by preoperative events which induce the patient to have the operation done. According to "buying decisions" for products or in service management, the decision for an aesthetic operation is extensive; the patient is highly involved and actively searching for information using different directed sources of information. The real "buying decision" consists of 5 phases: problem recognition, gathering of information, alternative education, purchase decision, and post purchase behaviour.


A retrospective survey of 40 female patients who have already undergone an aesthetic operation assessed for problem recognition, which types of information were collected prior to the appointment with the surgeon, and why the patients have had the operation at our hospital. They were also asked how many alternative surgeons they had been seen before.


Most of the patients had been thinking about undergoing an operation for several years. They mainly used the web for their research and were informed by other (non-aesthetic) physicians/general practitioners. Requested information was about the aesthetic results and possible problems and complications. Patients came based on web information and because of recommendations from other physicians. 60% of all interviewees did not see another surgeon and decided to have the operation because of positive patient-doctor communication and the surgeon's good reputation. Competence was considered to be the most important quality of the surgeon. However, the attribute was judged on subjective parameters. Environment, office rooms and staff were assessed as important but not very important. Costs of surgery were ranked second.


Influence on patients' decision is only possible by high quality operation results, which in turn lead to good reputation with (non-aesthetic) physicians and patients. In contrast to print advertisements, the provision of information via the internet is of tremendous importance and must be both information and comprehensible. Not only the aesthetic result should be depicted, but also questions such as "when will I be fit after surgery", and possible problems and complications should be described honestly. Besides the described word-of-mouth recommendations web fora resemble a virtual extension of recommendation. Whether such web based fora will prevail as a significant source of information remains unclear. Board certification in plastic and aesthetic surgery ("Facharzt" qualification) was assessed as very important. Thus, this is relevant information which should be emphasized. Most important for the patients' decision, however, was patient-doctor communication. To develop a basis of trust, communication should be open and reliable. An adequate time span has to be planned for the first appointment with the patient. In addition to aesthetic results, risks and possible complications have to be discussed. An open and comprehensible conversation which does not sugar-coat the operation is assessed as very positive. Finally, based on this consultation the surgeon is suggestive of his surgical competence. This underlines that core competence in aesthetic surgery is a medical one.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Georg Thieme Verlag Stuttgart, New York
Loading ...
Support Center