No one would take a child to a veterinarian for immunization or ask a dentist to perform a rhinoplasty “while he’s in there removing a tooth.” Yet, that’s precisely what is happening all across the country, unbeknownst to patients, right now.
USA Today reports that “a soaring number of doctors who trained in other medical specialties, such as vision or obstetrics… have branched into the more lucrative field of cosmetic surgery.”
The newspaper adds, “Some dentists trained in oral surgery now do breast implants; OB/GYNs perform tummy tucks, and radiologists are doing liposuction.” In many cases, the results are not just dangerous: they’re deadly.
The stories are heartbreaking and pervasive:
State regulation of cosmetic procedures is surprisingly lax. Doctors with a license to perform medicine are allowed to do any cosmetic procedure a patient wants done. In more than sixteen states, dentists are allowed to do Botox injections and face-lifts. States like California and Florida prohibit doctors from claiming to be “board-certified,” without indicating the particular board – but they are the minority.
“It’s out of control. It’s all about people doing a job they’re not qualified to do,” said State Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-FL). “I don’t think these general practitioners are skilled in anesthesia, which could be deadly,” she explained.
There are two types of surgeons performing cosmetic procedures, but most consumers are not aware of the difference. Ideally, a person will have a procedure done by a residency-trained plastic surgeon. This surgeon will be certified by one of the oldest industry medical groups – the American Society of Plastic Surgeons – and will have completed a minimum three-year-long residency under the guidance of senior plastic surgeons. Extensive oral and written exams in the specialty are completed as well.
Many of the “new” cosmetic surgeons are board-certified – but not in plastic surgery. Board certification is granted when a doctor meets all the qualifications listed by one of 24 specialties. While the American Board of Medical Specialties requires higher standards for education, ongoing training and expertise testing, there is no guarantee a doctor trained in one specialty will be able to perform another specialty adequately.
Some of the new converts to cosmetic surgery are not even ABMS-certified: they’re certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. Less than 8% of the group’s members are board-certified plastic surgeons – meaning that there are 50,000 to 100,000 doctors doing cosmetic surgery who weren’t trained explicitly to do so. Most members did not complete residencies, but can document some type of former education, experience and training in medicine.
Often, insurance companies and hospitals will provide oversight by mandating that doctors only perform the procedures they are board-certified to do. However, patients are increasingly looking for low-cost alternatives to board-certified plastic surgeons by having procedures done in private practice “outpatient clinics” or “medical spas.” Furthermore, most cosmetic surgeries are paid out-of-pocket, so there is no insurer oversight either. “When there’s no insurance involved, it’s really the Wild West and there’s no sheriff in town,” explains Dr. John Santa, director for the Consumer Reports’ Health Ratings Center.
According to USA Today, analyzing problems caused by non-certified cosmetic surgery doctors is difficult to do because doctors do not have to report that they are doing cosmetic surgeries outside their specialties and they are not required to report complications to medical authorities. Also, states do not break down deaths by type of doctor. Though review sites like Healthgrades.com have been created, there is no true central consumer database where a person can go to obtain accurate outcome statistics before choosing a surgeon.
Low prices tend to be the biggest draw for consumers. A $10,000 to $12,000 procedure is often marketed for $5,000. Groupons and other ads use price and promises of a “quick, easy recovery” to lure people in. All too often, the result is cosmetic surgery gone wrong. According to USA Today, the costs are reduced by the use of local anesthesia, rather than general anesthesia or IV sedation. The patients are sedated outside of an accredited surgical facility or hospital by a person who is not a qualified anesthesiologist. These facilities are not properly equipped to handle an emergency, should one arise.
The lesson is that you shouldn’t cut corners when selecting a plastic surgeon. For the sake of your health and getting the best possible results, you must choose a qualified plastic surgeon who is board-certified by the ASPS and has a longstanding track record, as well as years of experience in producing the best results and highest patient satisfaction. You owe it to yourself to contact Dr. Thomas Loeb, who is widely considered one of the very best plastic surgeons in NYC, by calling 212-327-3700.
USA Today, Lack of training can be deadly in cosmetic surgery http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/perfi/basics/story/2011-09-13/cosmetic-surgery-investigation/50395494/1