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.