Finding the right doctor often requires patients to do some homework.

You ask savvy friends and relatives for references. If you’re looking for a specialist, you consult with your general practitioner. Then you check the doctor’s training and credentials.

Finding a doctor for a plastic or cosmetic procedure includes those same steps, but it may require a bit more digging.

 There’s not just one overarching board certifying doctors in the field. Overlap exists among specialties — otolaryngologists — or ear, nose and throat doctors — can get extra training and become board-certified in facial plastic surgery, for example. The names of some certifying organizations and member groups can sound similar to consumers who don’t know the lingo. And there’s no one big checklist spelling out which doctors can do procedures such as tummy tucks and breast augmentation. State health officials, however, have written a memorandum with guidance for licensing boards and practitioners regarding less-invasive procedures such as Botox and dermal fillers.

There are plenty of messages from doctors and others offering such services. Recently, a study by researchers at Northwestern University indicated that most providers marketing plastic surgery on Instagram during their sampling were not board-certified plastic surgeons. Among them were hair salons, dentists and barbers, a finding the authors said could put patients at risk.

Questions about qualifications arose locally last month in a handful of lawsuits filed by women alleging medical malpractice by an Omaha doctor and his cosmetic surgery clinic. The women, according to their attorney, all thought the doctor who performed their breast lifts, tummy tucks and an eyebrow lift was a plastic surgeon. The doctor is board-certified in family medicine by the American Board of Family Medicine.

His attorney said the doctor provided excellent care to patients, and that he was sure his client would be vindicated.

Doctors said the lack of clarity means patients have to do the checking.

“It’s all — all — on patients,” said Dr. Rady Rahban, a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, California. “You’ve got to do your homework.”

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