When Plastic Surgery Becomes a Business Model

The other day I saw a news report that talked about a large, national facial cosmetic surgery practice that unexpectedly shut down, without any warning to patients and even their doctors.   They were most notably known for their “minimally-invasive face lift” that they touted could be done under local anesthesia, take less time and money, and would produce results that were just as good as traditional facelifts.  While it may be true to some degree that we live in a society that enjoys instant gratification, there are just some things that deserve to be done the right way, even if it means it will take a little longer or cost a bit more.

Heavy marketing through infomercials and nationwide campaigns generated a lot of buzz about this company and the procedure they purported to perform for many patients looking for a low-cost facial rejuvenation treatment.  So how does a company that became so known go out of business so quickly?  The suggested downfall of this corporate structured practice is that there were numerous malpractice claims, dissatisfied patients and reports of safety concerns that led to several lawsuits filed against the company.  Reports from previous patients who had negative experiences described a type of structure that tried to sell a product and didn’t actually have the patient’s goals and health at the forefront of their practice.

I find this all to be quite alarming.  As a double board certified plastic surgeon I have devoted my entire practice to my patients because their safety and ultimately satisfaction with their plastic surgery procedures is what motivates me to keep learning, implementing and perfecting techniques that will only work to benefit the patient.  It’s already emotionally taxing for patients to navigate the world of plastic surgery in general; they’ve met with numerous doctors, decided on “the one”, scheduled the procedure and mentally start prepping for the next chapter in their journey.  To hear that a company would suddenly shut down leaving past, present and future patients high and dry is disheartening to hear for everyone involved because it’s not what anyone deserves.  It’s my belief that you build a trust between patient and doctor.  As a patient you entrust your life and as a doctor we have your best interest at heart, at least which is what healthcare providers should always strive to do.  When your practice and main focus becomes more about how much revenue you’re generating, this can only benefit you and that’s not why we practice medicine.

The best advice I can give to patients considering any plastic surgery procedure is to do your research.  Yes, online reviews can often be skewed but use your best judgement.  Reach out to actual patients, take in-depth looks at a surgeon’s plastic surgery results, meet as many doctors as you have to (meet with the same one more than once if you need that) until you feel completely comfortable and confident in your decisions.  If a gimmick seems too good to be true, there’s a good chance it is – so why take the risk when it comes to your health?

You Are Your Biggest Advocate: How to Avoid Botched Botox®

Let me share a story I recently read: a 37-year old woman goes to a plastic surgeon who recommends she try a wrinkle-reduction treatment, Botox®.  She receives treatment below her eyes and in her lips.  Within hours the woman is rushed to the hospital for facial swelling and paralysis.  What was supposed to be a purified form of botulinum toxin A turned out to be none other than snake venom that was meant to be utilized in topical creams.  But as the picture below shows, snake venom is incredibly dangerous when injected into the face and ended up leaving this poor woman’s face paralyzed for an entire year.

Can you imagine not being able to cry, smile or laugh because of a single cosmetic injectable treatment, or any facial plastic surgery procedure for that matter.  This type of scenario unfortunately is not new.  The FDA has been cracking down on Botox® scamming since 2004 when they were called to investigate four separate hospitalizations in Florida after patients were injected with unapproved Botox®.  Physicians are trying to cut corners and are purchasing off-market brands that purport to be Botox® (often coming from foreign countries with labels that aren’t even in English).  It’s not until something tragic happens that it is later revealed that either the doctor never confirmed the product’s legality or simply chose to ignore and warnings of harmful effects clearly written on product labels.

Either way it’s wrong.  As a double board certified plastic surgeon it is my belief that we are meant to practice medicine for the greater cause of our patients; putting safety and well-being first and foremost.    While there are inherent risks associated with every surgical procedure, I want each and every one of you to know that you can help reduce these risks – it just takes being your biggest advocate and taking just a few steps can make all the difference in your safety:

  • Be cautious.  Have you ever heard the saying, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is?  Of course this doesn’t apply to everything, but if when it comes to invasive and non-invasive plastic surgery you get what you pay for.  Do your research on pricing; talk to friends, family or coworkers who may have tried Botox® to get an idea of what treatments generally cost.  Don’t jump at the first option just because you like the price tag.
  • Be proactive. What I mean by this is do your research and ask yourself a lot of questions.  Being a physician doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best at what they do.  When looking for a surgeon make sure you verify their credentials.  Are they board certified in their field of medicine; have they proven to the medical board that they have completed rigorous qualifications in order to attain board certification?  How many patients have they treated with Botox®?   Does the surgeon have excellent before and after photos from previous Botox® patients?  Have those previous patients spoken highly of the surgeon in their reviews?  Lots of things should be considered before you even meet with the surgeon.  Which leads me to recommend that you:
  • Be picky.  Meet with as many surgeons as you feel comfortable meeting.  Consultations are where you can get hard answers with your own ears and eyes.  When you go to the surgeon’s office make sure that the environment itself is clean and in a reputable location (meaning if you end up in a basement with no windows or a dilapidated shopping center, you may want to think twice about choosing that practice).  You have a right to decide who you allow to treat your skin care concerns and this is one instance where being picky is 100% encouraged!

Creating a long-standing relationship with your plastic surgeon, one who you trust and would entrust friends and family to visit as well, is important when helping ensure the best possible cosmetic results.  Sorting through lists of qualified surgeons can seem daunting, but trust me when I say all of the work is worth it.  If you have any questions or concerns regarding Botox®, patient safety or would like to discuss future goals you have for yourself, please don’t hesitate to contact Southern Plastic Surgery.  You can also follow me, Dr. David Whiteman, on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ for more updates and plastic surgery news in the future.

Eyelid Surgery vs. Cosmetic Injectables

To address signs of aging, many of my patients seek eyelid surgery, also known as blepharoplasty, or cosmetic injectables such as BOTOX® Cosmetic, Xeomin®, and Dysport® achieve a more youthful look. I perform eyelid surgery to eliminate the excess skin and puffy fat pads on the upper and/or lower eyelid that contributes to an aged, tired appearance. Cosmetic injectables are designed to rejuvenate the appearance of the skin around the eyes, but there are a few differences to be considered with each of these treatments.

eyelid surgery and facial fillers atlanta gaBOTOX® Cosmetic, Xeomin®, and Dysport® contain a purified form of Botulinum that temporarily relaxes the muscles that cause wrinkles between and around the eyes as well as the forehead that form with age and repeated facial expressions. Because the products are injected into the muscle, they are eventually absorbed and eliminated by the body, and must be re-injected every 4-6 months to maintain facial rejuvenation results. For patients looking to address other areas of the face such as the cheeks, chin, lips, or nasolabial folds, I offer a variety of facial fillers including Restylane®, Juvéderm®, Voluma™, and Radiesse®.  While all of these types of injections target the signs of aging, they do not permanently stop the aging process. Additional treatments are necessary to maintain results.

In addition to the wrinkles that injectables treat, the inelastic skin of mature eyes can begin to droop and cause a “hooded” appearance. Upper blepharoplasty permanently removes the excess skin and fat pads (if necessary) of the upper eyelid with an incision hidden neatly within the eye’s natural crease.  Many patients assume that they need an upper blepharoplasty when their eyebrows begin to droop and sag. However, as you age, the skin on your forehead begins to stretch, causing wrinkles and even droopy eyebrows. In this instance, a brow lift (forehead lift) can better rejuvenate a more youthful appearance. Sometimes, this procedure is even combined with blepharoplasty for total eye rejuvenation.

As the skin ages, it also becomes thinner and easier to see the fat pads and dark vessels that appear under the eyes. Lower eyelid (conjunctional) blepharoplasty utilizes a discrete incision along the inside of the eyelid to remove fat from underneath. In addition to fat pad removal, some patients may also benefit from laser skin resurfacing or removal of excess skin in the area to treat the surface symptoms of aging.  If necessary, both blepharoplasty and skin resurfacing/ skin excision can be performed simultaneously.  While the eyes do continue to age after any facial cosmetic surgery procedure, be it surgical or non-surgical, the signs become much less pronounced by addressing the folded, excess tissue.

If you are interested in eyelid surgery, or any of the cosmetic or reconstructive procedures I perform, please contact Southern Plastic Surgery, P.C. today. Also, connect with me, Dr. David Whiteman, on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for the latest plastic surgery news.