Cosmetic Surgery 101: Due Diligence

Always do your homework

The field of cosmetic surgery has been recording a steady increase of patients over the past couple of years. Nations like South Korea are not only known for their K-Pop Stars, but they also have the highest ratio of procedures per capita. This makes cosmetic and plastic surgery a huge part of the country’s economy, with many claiming it to be a ‘vanity capital economy’. This trend however is not only exclusive to South Korea. It’s a rising trend across the globe with many seeking cosmetic procedures such as rhinoplasty, double eye-lid surgery, breast augmentation, and more.

Even though cosmetic surgery has been gaining popularity over the past couple of years, it does also come with its own set of risks and limitations. It’s important for individuals to avoid jumping on the bandwagon just so they can get into the latest trend. Making an informed decision is a big part of cosmetic surgery and to highlight the importance of this, we’ve gotten in touch with Dr. Heng Kien Seng, an experienced plastic surgeon who also specialises in cosmetic surgery from Nicanor Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery to share his insights.

Dr. Heng Kien Seng, Nicanor Plastic & Cosmetic

1Twenty80: Are there any classifications for cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons?
Dr. Heng Kien Seng:
Essentially, cosmetic surgery is a branch of plastic surgery that includes surgical and non-surgical procedures.

Nearly every cosmetic or plastic surgeon in the world has a specific area of expertise in which they have obtained training and spent years honing their abilities. It’s important that you seek consultation or treatment from a surgeon that’s well-versed in their niche. For example, if you’re considering double eyelid surgery, it’s best for you to consider a plastic surgeon who’s experienced and do it on a regular basis.

Your own diligence is also crucial in this situation. It’s critical that you research potential surgeons’ specialties, successes, and reviews before choosing one. The directories discussed in this article would be the platforms you may utilise to research the surgeon of your choice.

1Twenty80: What are the important elements one should consider before pursuing cosmetic surgery?
Dr. Heng:
First and foremost, it’s important for one to do their homework and this includes asking yourself the question, “Do I really need it?”. Ask yourself the reason behind your decision to pursue cosmetic surgery and consider all available safe options during your consultation before choosing surgery. This involves conversations about non-surgical methods as well. It’s best to consult a surgeon who’s experienced in both surgical and non-surgical procedures.

Furthermore, it’s critical to be conscious of your surgical expectations. The best course of action may be surgery if you’re hoping for longer-lasting effects. On the other hand, if you’re considering alternatives to cosmetic surgery, it’s crucial for you to address this with your cosmetic surgeon during the consultation session.

Thirdly, always do your research and this helps you to make an informed decision. One good place to start would be web searching for the type of treatment or surgery you’re looking for. For example, rhinoplasty is very different from breast augmentation. It’s crucial for the interested person to know these differences in surgery. Try to learn about the differences between surgical and non-surgical methods as well.

Last but not the least, always consult a qualified and credible surgeon. A qualified surgeon who is experienced, will be honest in their advice and give you the right kind of guidance. You can also check the reviews on the surgeon and their clinic or premise when deciding.

You can further read up on the surgeons and verify them on legitimate websites such as:

It’s important that you’re aware of what the risks are before deciding. Don’t be afraid or feel shy to ask any relevant questions to your surgeon.

1Twenty80: How important is risk evaluation when considering cosmetic surgery?
Dr. Heng:
It’s important that you’re aware of what the risks are before deciding. Don’t be afraid or feel shy to ask any relevant questions to your surgeon. This helps you to weigh out the pros and cons whilst ensuring you’re making an informed decision. It should also be highlighted that some non-surgical procedures are riskier as compared to the established surgical methods. Hence, it’s an important topic to address during your consultation with the surgeon.

Furthermore, when you’re evaluating the risks, it’s vital for you to take into consideration existing conditions or illnesses that you’re struggling with prior to the surgery. For example, if you’re dealing with any kinds of comorbidities like diabetes or high blood pressure, you should be honest and transparent with your surgeon during the consultation period. Failure to disclose your comorbidities could put your life in danger.

Finally, the credibility of a surgeon is important. Take your time to do some research about the cosmetic surgeon you’re considering. Ask your friends if they’ve consulted with the said surgeon before and get to know how their overall experience was. Moreover, check the reviews, profile of the surgeon, and their practice place to form an informed decision. Don’t be afraid to book a consultation with the surgeon and ask questions about your treatments.

Consultations play a crucial function as it helps both you and the surgeon to get to know each other. Consultations serve as an opportunity to carry out in-depth conversations about the treatment or procedure you’re interested in, along with possible contraindications or alternatives. Your interaction with the surgeon during the consultation session will also give you an idea of how the surgeon is.

Before any surgery, it’s important to identify any preexisting conditions that the patient is already dealing with or managing.

1Twenty80: Are there any safety guidelines in place for patients during the cosmetic surgery process?
Dr. Heng:
Before any surgery, it’s important to identify any pre-existing conditions that the patient is already dealing with or managing. For example, if a person is diabetic and is looking to get cosmetic surgery done, they would need to get a clearance letter from their doctor. This clearance letter basically states that they are fit for cosmetic surgery. Furthermore, if a patient is already dealing with comorbidity, the cosmetic surgeon may have to work together with a physician to jointly manage the patient in a hospital setting.

On top of that, there are also associations such as the Malaysian Association of Plastic, Aesthetic and Craniomaxillofacial Surgeons (MAPACS) and the Malaysian Society of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery (MSPRS) that vet the surgeons before adding them to the member directory board. This vetting process includes extensive background checks on the surgeon and their practice. Being added to the member directory of these recognised associations helps add a layer of credibility to the plastic surgeon and the practice. If you’re looking to do your homework on a plastic surgeon, these associations’ websites will be a good place to start as well. You can also use these directories to identify the specialty area of the surgeon to ensure that the surgeon is indeed well-versed and trained in that said area.

During your consultations, a responsible surgeon will always weigh out the options, risks and alternatives for you, to help you make an informed decision. That being said, there are also surgeons out there who may focus too much on overselling, where their priority is profit over your well-being. Usually, you’ll be able to sense this during the first few rounds of consultation sessions. Do not feel pressured by this. Always remember, an ethical surgeon will never push for hard sales or more procedures. They will instead help you make an informed decision.

1Twenty80: What do you think about people opting for cosmetic surgery for a better outward appearance?
Dr. Heng:
From my experience, some women opt for cosmetic surgery around the breast area, after breastfeeding, or after multiple pregnancies. There are also instances where people were interested in getting procedures done around their eyes due to the droopiness of the upper eyelid. Our eyelids may droop as we age, and this in turn can disrupt our vision. To overcome this issue, some people opt for cosmetic surgery around the upper eyelid.

Everyone’s situation and reasoning for pursuing cosmetic surgery are different and may differ according to circumstances. However, the decision to pursue cosmetic surgery carries a lot of weight and it cannot be taken on a whim. A lot of thought processes must be put into this before a final decision is made. If these decisions were taken in an informed manner by the patients, then it’s okay. From another perspective, we all need a boost of confidence and more often than not, our looks play an important role when it comes to first impressions. People tend to assess you at face value first before getting to know you. In this context, I can see how our appearance matters.

If you’re considering cosmetic surgery in the near future, we hope this in-depth interview with Dr. Heng has highlighted the importance of due diligence and the vitality of making an informed decision.

All you need to know about Dr. Heng Kien Seng

I studied medicine at the National University of Malaysia from 1988 to 1993. I had my first experience in surgery upon reaching the shores of Sabah. I was transferred to the General Hospital Kuala Lumpur (GHKL) in 1996. After completing my training in surgery at GHKL, I obtained my Master of Medicine (Surgery) from the National University of Singapore-M.Med. (Surg) and my Fellowship from the Royal College of Edinburgh, FRCS (Edin).

My plastic surgical training began in 1999 at the Department of Plastic Surgery of GHKL. After completing two years of training, I was then accepted to the Department of Plastic Surgery at Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

During my training, I have travelled extensively and visited various plastic surgical centres to further my knowledge and skills in Plastic Surgery. Amongst the few were – Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Taiwan, with Professor Dr. Yu Ray Chen, Plastic Surgery Institute of Southern California, with Dr. Edward Owen Terino, Isse Institute of Cosmetic Surgery, Burbank, California, with Dr. Nicanor G. Isse.

Upon my return to Malaysia in 2004, I took up the position as a lecturer and consultant plastic surgeon at University Malaya Medical Centre. I also advanced my cosmetic practice at the private wing of University Malaya Specialist Centre from 2004 to 2005. I was accepted to the Malaysian Association of Plastic, Aesthetic and Craniomaxillofacial Surgeons (MAPACS) in 2004.

In 2006, I left university practice and joined a group of dermatologists in Klang. This is when I furthered my grip on various cosmetic surgical procedures which included liposuction, sculpturing of the body, breast surgery, and creation of double eyelids, rhinoplasty, and facelift.

I am also the first Plastic Surgeon in Malaysia to be trained by the ‘Vaser Institute’, a Colorado-based establishment, dedicated to surgical training in body sculpting. Upon completion of more than 100 cases of body sculpting, I went on to be the first few plastic surgeons in the world to undergo the ‘High Definition Liposculpture’ training, an advanced body contouring technique developed by Colombian plastic surgeon, Dr. Alfredo Hoyos. It is a 3-dimensional procedure that will reveal a sculpted, well-toned, muscular detail of the body.

Currently, I practice full-time at my day surgery centre at Nicanor Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery. I am also a visiting consultant Plastic Surgeon at Ara Damansara Medical Center and Thomson Hospital, Kota Damansara.