What is an Oculoplastic Surgeon?
(and what is ASOPRS)
Understanding what it means when your oculoplastic surgeon in Denver is a member of the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic Surgeons
Many patients undergoing eyelift or eyelid surgery in Denver want to go to a specialist. Over time the techniques and surgeries for eyelid surgery have been refined and advanced to such a level that there no longer exists the plastic surgeon or surgeon for that matter who is the “master of all surgeries” (contrary to some surgeons' egos). In 2015 we have many plastic surgery specialists including specialists in breast implants, breast reconstruction after breast cancer surgery, hand plastic surgery and eyelid surgery.
Eyelid surgery specialists are called oculoplastic surgeons. Though they perform all varieties of facial plastic procedures such as facelifts, neck liposuction, eyelid procedures, and brow lifting their main focus or expertise is eyelid, tear duct and eye socket surgery. Blepharoplasty or eyelift surgery is their cosmetic area of specialty. There are several oculoplastic surgeons or eyelid specialists in Denver including myself.
To become an oculoplastic surgeon, one must perform a residency in ophthalmology focusing on eye and eyelid diseases and surgery and then further specialize in oculoplastic surgery through a fellowship.
The interesting thing is that any doctor or surgeon can self proclaim themselves as “oculoplastic surgeons”. There is nothing that prevents really any physician from saying they are an eyelid specialist. Strange as that may be in the 21st century, there is nothing preventing an ophthalmologist from completing a weekend course on eyelid surgery and self proclaiming that they are an “oculoplastic surgeon”.
That being said, there is however a regulatory body called the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic Surgeons that certifies the competence of oculoplastic surgeons or eyelift specialists. This society or “ASOPRS” as the mnemonic is called have fellowships or advanced training programs that are certified by the society to train ophthalmologists in oculoplastic surgery. These fellowships have specific requirements in order to be certified by ASOPRS which include surgical cases on the face and eyelid, medical and surgical knowledge. Key to the fellowship is knowledge in eyelid, eye socket, tear duct and face anatomy but also understanding the management of complications from eyelid, eye socket, face and tear duct surgery. The basic surgical requirements are 300 cases but for example, in my fellowship I completed, I had over 1200 cases in my surgical log. In order to become a member of the ASOPRS society, once someone has completed the fellowship, they must also complete a rigorous written and oral examination to show competence at a high level worthy of society membership. In non- ASOPRS approved fellowships there is no time requirement and no surgical requirement. In fact, there are certain non-ASOPRS fellowships where junior surgeons assist and watch cases of the senior surgeon without performing any themselves.
If one has not completed an ASOPRS approved fellowship it is possible to enter the society by submitting surgical log showing that one has completed an appropriate number of eyelid, eye socket and tear duct surgeries and has completed the written and oral examination.
Why does it matter for patients if their eyelift surgeon is a member of the American Society of Ophthalmic Surgeons? In short, membership in the society guarantees a level of competence. It does not guarantee that the surgeon is a “master”. In eyelid specialists who are not members of ASOPRS there can be a great deal of variability in surgical and medical competence.
The best analogy may be seen with restaurants. A Michelin star rating guarantees a certain level of performance by restaurants. There may be a restaurant without a Michelin rating or even street vendor that makes much better food than a Michelin 3 star rated restaurant but going to a Michelin 3 star rated restaurant, you know the food will be at a certain high level. On average, Michelin 3 star rated restaurants are better than non Michelin rated restaurants but there can be some exceptions. The same goes with ASOPRS membership by your surgeon for eyelift surgery.
If myself or one of my family members was getting eyelid, tear duct or eye socket surgery, I would want them or myself to have surgery with an ASOPRS surgeon not because it guarantees perfection but does guarantee a high level of competence of the surgeon.