Plastic Surgery FAQs

San Diego & La Jolla Plastic Surgery FAQs

How long does the consultation last and what can I expect?


Most consultations typically last between 45 minutes to an hour, just depending on how many questions you have. Consultations are free of charge and you will always meet with Dr. Kearney to have your questions answered directly by him. He is wonderful about spending time with potential patients, making sure that all of your questions are answered and going over all options with you, as well as listening to your concerns in order to customize procedures to best fit your needs. He is an extremely down-to-earth and honest surgeon and will let you know if you are not a candidate for surgery or if there are other options that can help you achieve your goals.

If you come in for a breast augmentation consultation you will be able to “test drive” breast implants to get an idea of what size you like best. We have t-shirts and tank tops here to allow you to see your new look and we can take a photo for you if you’d like to share them with someone unable to make it to the consultation. If you have a specific top that you’d like to use in order to try on the implants feel free to bring that in with you. If you come in for a rhinoplasty consultation Dr. Kearney can do computer imaging of your nose to give you an idea of what it could potentially look like after surgery.

After meeting with Dr. Kearney you will meet with a patient coordinator who will go over the surgical quote and financing options with you as well as help you schedule surgery once you are ready. We invite you to bring a family member or friend with you during your consultation as sometimes it’s nice to have a second set of ears and eyes since there is a lot of information that Dr. Kearney goes over.

How do I choose between silicone and saline?

There are many factors that go into determining the answer to this question and Dr. Kearney will go over all of the pros and cons with you during your consultation and again during your preoperative appointment if necessary. If you hold a saline implant in one hand a silicone implant in the other, you will notice that the silicone implant feels a lot softer and more natural. However, if you go under the muscle and have a decent amount of breast tissue to start with then saline implants will feel very similar to silicone. The biggest difference, which is minor, will be felt toward the side and under your breast.

If you are having breast reconstruction, or are super thin with very little breast tissue, or choose to go over the muscle, then Dr. Kearney will almost always recommend silicone. Many women love the idea of having their implants placed through the armpit (trans axillary approach) and the great news is that both silicone and saline implants can now be used with this incision thanks to a funnel device (for silicone) which allows for a much shorter incision than was possible before. Silicone implants come pre-filled and saline implants are filled once they are in the breast pocket.

There is also a monetary difference between the two implants with silicone being more expensive than saline. The two implant companies (Allergan and Mentor) recommend an MRI three years following silicone augmentation and then every 2 years after that in order to help detect possible rupture. Not every patient does this but it is what the FDA suggests. Having said all of this, Dr. Kearney has patients who are extremely happy with saline implants and patients who are also extremely satisfied with their choice of silicone implants. We’d be more than happy to have you speak to patients who have had either of them after your consultation.

How many different doctors should I see before scheduling surgery?

There is no magic number to answer this question with. Some of our patients meet with Dr. Kearney and immediately feel comfortable and schedule surgery without seeing any other doctors. Others will meet with 10 different surgeons only to call back a year after their original consultation to let us know they have chosen Dr. Kearney and are ready to move forward with surgery. It’s good to get a few different opinions, especially if you feel confused or anxious in any way. You may find that you visit three different doctors only to receive three completely different opinions. We always give patients the following advice prior to scheduling surgery:

  • Make sure you go to a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon (click here for more information on this).
  • Make sure that the surgery takes place in an accredited surgery suite where there will be a team of people taking care of you including the surgeon, an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist, an RN and a scrub tech. (click here for more information on this)
  • Make sure you view quality before and after photos – if you see good work then you know the surgeon is capable of doing a good job.
  • Lastly, you just have to go with your “gut.” You are going to be working very closely with that surgeon and team for a period of time and you want to feel comfortable and know that if you need anything, day or night, you’ll never have any problem getting an answer.

Remember that cosmetic surgery is elective – you need to do it when you are mentally and financially prepared and you should never let anyone push you into moving forward before you’re ready.

I heard implants have to be replaced every 10 years. Is this true?

No, this is not true. We get asked this question all the time and we think this rumor began because of the warranties that both Allergan and Mentor offer on their implants. Both companies guarantee their implants for life (saline AND silicone) which means that if you have a deflation or rupture, the company will cover the cost to replace your implant(s). In addition to the implant lifetime guarantee, there is an upgraded warranty option for purchase by both companies which will also help you with the cost of a second surgery (anywhere from $1200-$3500 reimbursement) should you have a rupture or deflation within the first 10 years. But if you’ve passed the 10 year mark and don’t have any problems with your implants and are still happy with the size then you don’t need to do a thing other than keep enjoying them!

I’m ready to schedule surgery. Now what?

Congratulations! All you need to do now is call or email our office and speak with your patient coordinator. Once you select a date we’ll take your deposit ($250 for quotes below $8,000 and $500 for quotes above $8,000, which comes out of your total) and set up your pre-operative appointment. The pre-operative appointment usually takes place 1-2 weeks prior to your surgery and it’s where Dr. Kearney will go over your health history, paperwork and consents and answer any additional questions you have. We’ll also take your before photos and collect the balance due, or have you sign the financial paperwork. You should plan on being here for about 45 minutes to an hour for that appointment. Again, we invite you to bring a family member or friend to this appointment as Dr. Kearney goes over a lot of information with you and sometimes it’s nice to have another person with you.

What should I expect in terms of follow-up care after my procedure?

It’s different for every procedure and Dr. Kearney will talk to you about the follow-up care that is specific to your surgery when you come in to meet with him. Generally speaking though, Dr. Kearney will see you the day after your surgery and then about a week or so later and again about a month or two after that. We may send you a letter to come in for a follow-up appointment 6 months or a year after your surgery to document your progress with photos.

Having said this, there is no set schedule for follow up care. We realize that you are busy and it’s not always convenient to come in for a check-up. Often times Dr. Kearney will communicate with patients via email or over the phone and assuming everything is progressing as it should, then an office visit can be avoided. We also have many patients that come in from out of town or out of state and much of their follow up care is done via phone or email after the initial post surgical check-up. We do have some patients who want to see Dr. Kearney more often following their surgical procedures and that’s ok too – you are welcome to come in or call as often as you like. Dr. Kearney and his staff always welcome your questions and concerns.

What’s included in my quote?

The quote we give you in the office includes Dr. Kearney’s fees, the OR and anesthesia fees, implant and garment fees (if applicable) and all of your pre and post operative care. It doesn’t include the cost of prescription medication (which is covered by insurance and usually comes to less than $20). There are a few procedures where tissue samples may need to be sent out and lab fees for that would be the responsibility of the patient. Also, Dr. Kearney may require clearance from your primary care physician for certain procedures as well as an EKG or additional blood work which would be up to you to pay for. However, the majority of our patients do not require any additional lab work for their procedures.

I live in a different state. How can I schedule a consultation and surgery?

We often have patients come to Dr. Kearney for surgery from out of town, state and even country! It’s easy – just email photos of your areas of concern (close up photos of the front, side and ¾ view are helpful) to [email protected]. We don’t need a shot of your face unless you would like a quote for a facial procedure. It’s best to wear low-rise underwear or a bikini bottom for photos taken of the abdomen area. Include information on your age, overall health and what you are hoping to achieve as well as the best number to reach you at.

Dr. Kearney will review your photos and call you for an initial phone consultation and we’ll be able to email you a quote of the estimated surgical fees as well. Should you wish to move forward with surgery we require a $250 deposit for procedures under $8,000 and a $500 deposit for procedures over $8,000. This can be done over the phone with a credit card and comes out of your total. We then schedule a pre-operative appointment for you (over the phone approximately 10 days prior to surgery) and then in-person a day or two prior to your surgery, depending on what procedure(s) you’re having done.

Dr. Kearney may require that you wear compression socks if you travel here by plane. He will see you post operatively the day following the surgery and then many patients are able to return home two days after the procedure. Multiple procedures may require a longer stay but typically a patient who has a breast augmentation done can fly in to San Diego on a Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning (depending on where you’re coming from), have the pre-op and sizing appointment on a Wednesday, surgery on Thursday, follow-up on Friday and fly back home again on Saturday. Follow up for out of town patients is done over the phone and via email unless the patient returns to San Diego again at which point we’ll be happy to schedule a post operative appointment.

When can I wear underwire bras after breast augmentation?

Dr. Kearney wants patients to wait 8 weeks following a breast augmentation surgery before wearing underwire bras. You will go home after the procedure with a surgical bra that we give you. Some patients find this bra to be extremely comfortable and others switch to a sports bra or cotton tank top with a built-in bra for the first few days. As long it doesn’t have underwire Dr. Kearney doesn’t put restrictions on what you can wear. We don’t suggest spending a lot of money on new bras right away because your breasts will change shape as they settle but you can wear anything that is comfortable for you – each person is different.

Can I shower following surgery?

Yes. Following most surgeries it’s fine to take a quick shower as long as you are not soaking in a tub full of water. Most patients prefer to shower the morning of surgery and then not again until the next day as they tend to be tired and sore following surgery and opt to rest comfortably in bed.

When can I exercise following surgery?

The answer to this question varies greatly according to procedure but most patients following straight forward surgical procedures are able to get back to some sort of exercise routine with a couple of days. This will be a bit lighter than a regular workout but usually a walk outside, on a treadmill, or even some light activity on a stationary bike is permitted. Dr. Kearney will tell you that if it hurts you should stop and of course you need to take it easy following any surgical procedure but this doesn’t mean that you have to be stuck in bed or on the couch. You really need to listen to your own body as the recovery period is different for each patient. We have many patients who are athletes and have no problem returning to their workout schedules within a reasonable amount of time.

I have terrible credit. Are there any financing options for me?

Yes. Several of the companies we use for financing accept co-signers. So if you have a family member or friend with better credit than you, then you can apply as the primary but list them as a co-applicant. Sometimes when a patient is denied by the financing companies we use, they have luck going through either their own bank or through San Diego County Credit Union and securing a personal loan. If you choose this option then you can take advantage of our 2% cash discount because the financial institution will write the check to us and you’ll pay them directly. For more information please visit our Finance Information page.

Can I drive myself home following surgery?

No. Most procedures are performed under general anesthesia and you will not be able to drive yourself home. Even procedures that are performed under a lighter sedation often include medication which makes driving a car out of the question. We ask that you have a family member or friend drive you home and stay with you the evening following your procedure. If you don’t have anyone to drive you home or stay with you, there are a few different services where you’ll be picked up following the surgery, taken back to your home or hotel room and then cared for by a medical professional. Should you desire this service please contact our office and we’ll be able to give you details on pricing. There are also various chauffer services if you simply need a ride to or from surgery.

What prescriptions will I need for my surgery?

For most procedures Dr. Kearney will prescribe a painkiller such as Vicodin in order to help control any post-operative discomfort. Antibiotics are given during surgery and generally not needed following the procedure. Your insurance will help cover the cost of the medications Dr. Kearney prescribes. If you have had an adverse reaction in the past to any medication Dr. Kearney may prescribe for you simply let him know and we can generally find a suitable replacement.

Is there anything I can take prior to surgery that will help me heal?

For certain procedures (mostly facial) Dr. Kearney will give you Arnica Montana and Bromelain which are two herbal supplements you’ll take starting the day before surgery to help reduce bruising and swelling. You can continue to take most vitamins prior to surgery but we do want you to stop taking all aspirin products at least 2 weeks prior to your procedure as aspirin can cause excess bleeding. There are a few other medications to avoid as well and Dr. Kearney will give you a list of these before your surgery.

What are Dr. Kearney’s qualifications?

Dr. Kearney is Board Certified in Plastic Surgery by the American Board of Plastic Surgery as well as in General Surgery by the American Board of Surgery. He maintains active membership in the American Society of Plastic Surgeons as well as the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Dr. Kearney graduated from Providence College cum laude and received his Medical Degree from Thomas Jefferson School in Philadelphia. He completed his General Surgery residency at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He then went on to complete his Plastic Surgery residency at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and finally a Craniofacial Fellowship in Miami under S.A. Wolfe MD, an internationally renowned craniofacial surgeon.

Upon completion of his training, Dr. Kearney returned to the full-time faculty at the University of South Florida in Tampa where he trained future plastic surgeons. During his tenure at the University, he focused on complex craniofacial reconstructive surgery, breast reconstruction surgery and cosmetic surgery of the face, breasts and body. Dr. Kearney initiated micro-vascular breast reconstruction at the H. Lee Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa while serving as the Director of the Micro Vascular Division.

Though he is double Board Certified, Dr. Kearney limits his practice to plastic and reconstructive surgery. He has a special interest in endoscopic surgery of the breasts and face and was the first to introduce the Trans Umbilical breast augmentation to the West Coast of Florida. Dr. Kearney prefers to use the endoscopic method for breast augmentation when appropriate as it decreases recovery time. He strives to stay on the cutting edge of new techniques in cosmetic surgery and skin rejuvenation.

There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding the qualifications of Board Certified Plastic Surgeons versus “Cosmetic Surgeons”. Dr. Kearney is Board Certified in Plastic Surgery by the American Board of Plastic Surgery as well as in General Surgery by the American Board of Surgery. He maintains active membership in the American Society of Plastic Surgeons as well as the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. But what does this mean exactly?

The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) is the only board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) to certify surgeons in plastic surgery of the face and all areas of the body. There are several specialties that a surgeon can be certified in but the American Board of Plastic Surgery certification means that Dr. Kearney had to complete undergraduate college, medical school, an approved general surgery residency of at least three years, and an approved plastic surgery residency of an additional two to three years. Board certification was then obtained only after he had been in plastic surgery practice for at least two years and had passed rigorous written and oral examinations administered by experienced plastic surgeons.

There is no American Board of Cosmetic Surgery so if a physician tells you he or she is a Board Certified “Cosmetic Surgeon” it simply means they have not gone through the same training and credentialing as a Board Certified plastic surgeon. Unfortunately it is legal in most states for any physician who holds a medical license, with or without surgical training, to advertise as a plastic surgeon. There are no laws that require a physician to only practice the type of medicine or surgery for which he or she was specifically trained. Therefore, doctors who have little or no training in plastic surgery can legally do the procedures but that does not necessarily mean they are competent in those procedures. It also does not mean they are not capable of quality results. We just want our patients to be aware of the differences in board certification and be able to make an informed decision in who they choose to perform their surgery. If you have any questions regarding a surgeon’s board certification, contact ABMS at 1-800-776-2378 or visit their web site at: http://www.abms.org.

Another easy way to make sure a surgeon is a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon is to look for either of the following two logos of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) or the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS):

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If you see either of these symbols on a physicians’ web site, in their office on their advertisements you can be sure that they are indeed a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon as both societies only accept ABPS doctors. Apart from certification, membership in ASPS requires Dr. Kearney to regularly attend continuing medical education courses and to adhere to a strict code of ethics. All ASPS members are also required to perform surgery in accredited surgical facilities. For more information on either of these two plastic surgery societies please visit: American Society of Plastic Surgeons: www.plasticsurgery.org and the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery: www.surgery.org

Can I shower following surgery?

Dr. Kearney normally performs surgeries in an office-based operating room which he shares with another Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. The surgery suite itself is AAAASF certified and in addition to Dr. Kearney there is always an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist, an RN and a scrub tech – an entire team of people taking care of you. The American Association for the Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAAASF) is an organization that ensures the safety of independent surgery facilities, checking on things such as emergency readiness, equipment, and cleanliness that are critical to your safety. Dr. Kearney also has privileges to several area hospitals including Scripps and will often perform surgeries there as well, especially if the procedure happens to be covered by insurance.

Where will the procedure be performed?

Dr. Kearney normally performs surgeries in an office-based operating room which he shares with another Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. The surgery suite itself is AAAASF certified and in addition to Dr. Kearney there is always an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist, an RN and a scrub tech – an entire team of people taking care of you. The American Association for the Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAAASF) is an organization that ensures the safety of independent surgery facilities, checking on things such as emergency readiness, equipment, and cleanliness that are critical to your safety. Dr. Kearney also has privileges to several area hospitals including Scripps and will often perform surgeries there as well, especially if the procedure happens to be covered by insurance.

What exactly is a “Mommy Makeover”?

This term most often refers to a breast augmentation and/or breast lift performed in conjunction with a tummy tuck and liposuction on a patient who has had one or more pregnancies. Although pregnancy and breast feeding are wonderful things, they can really take their toll on your body. Many women spend months of diet and exercise following childbirth only to realize they are unable to reclaim their pre-pregnancy body. Your breasts may be smaller or saggy or have just lost their overall shape. Your once flat stomach may now have excess skin and fat that you are unable to get rid of. Your hips may have widened and you may have new localized fat deposits in places you never had it before. Are our beautiful children worth it? Absolutely! But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a little help in order to once again look and feel your best.

Although most Mommy Makeovers focus on procedures of the breasts and abdomen, each one is truly unique and Dr. Kearney will meet with you to discuss your specific needs and goals. Some patients find that in addition to changes with their breasts and stomach, their facial skin is not as taut as it was pre-pregnancy due to weight gain and loss. So a “Mommy Makeover” does not necessarily have to involve surgery – sometimes a simple treatment of injectables and fillers can leave new Moms feeling refreshed and younger looking.

Can I speak with a current patient of Dr. Kearney’s?

Absolutely. Once you come in for a consultation to meet with Dr. Kearney we can put in you in contact with some of his patients who’ve had the same plastic surgery procedures done that you’re considering. Although some of us who work in the office have had procedures done by Dr. Kearney and are happy to share our experiences with you as well, sometimes it’s nice to get feedback from a few of his other patients. Just ask when you come in for your consultation and we’ll be happy to arrange that for you.

Am I too old/young for breast implants?

We don’t know of any “perfect” age to get breast implants. Some of our patients are as young as 18 years old and others have gotten their breast augmentation done in their 60s and even early 70s. Both Allergan and Mentor require that patients be at least 22 years old for silicone implants and 18 years old for saline but apart from that there are no age restrictions. As long as the patient is healthy and understands the risks involved with surgery then Dr. Kearney can usually perform breast augmentation. Each person has a timeframe that’s unique to them as far as when the “right” time is for implants. Some women will come in the day they turn 18 because they feel their breasts are too small. Other women choose to wait to have implants put in until after they are done having a family (although it is possible to breast feed with implants already in). Still other women want implants much later in life as they may notice they’ve lost a lot of the fullness they once had when they were young.

Will my insurance cover the procedure I’m considering?

It depends on the procedure. Dr. Kearney accepts PPO insurance plans with most of the major companies as well as Medicare. However, the majority of cosmetic and aesthetic procedures are NOT covered by insurance plans. Reconstructive procedures (such as breast reconstruction or breast reduction) are usually covered as are certain nasal procedures when breathing is impaired. We do not do any billing in the office but do have an outside insurance biller that can help answer any questions that may arise if your procedure happens to be covered by insurance. We suggest that you call your insurance company before you come in to see us to find out what is and is not covered. If the procedure you’re having done is not typically covered but you want to try to submit it for possible reimbursement we will help provide you with whatever paperwork you may need but do require that you submit everything yourself and deal directly with your insurance company.