USA Today Cracks Down on Untrained Plastic Surgeons
Articles released this week from USA Today have brought attention to the number of physicians performing cosmetic procedures without formal training. One article highlights a self-taught non board-certified surgeon who regularly teaches a weekend course in breast augmentation. Interestingly, this surgeon never completed any plastic surgery training nor did he qualify for board certification in any recognized specialty. For $7,000, this “surgeon” taught as many as 6 untrained doctors every weekend in how to perform his augmentation operation, sometimes with disastrous consequences. This doctor came to light in lawsuits alleging malpractice by some of his “graduates.” Unfortunately for patients, this is likely the only way non plastic surgeons can learn cosmetic techniques.
Another feature is low-cost, high volume cosmetic surgery centers; following Elsie Soto (among others) through her unhappy experience with this type of center. These medi-spas contain countless doctors, large medical staffs and are lacking in the doctor-patient relationship. The articles are not meant to frighten patients or discourage them from plastic surgery, but instead to remind them that faster and cheaper may not mean better.
“…making cosmetic surgery affordable for the masses.”
Soto visited several plastic surgeons before choosing Strax Rejuvenation and Aesthetics Institution. She chose Strax because the cost they quoted her was less than 50% of what other doctors had told her. At these large clinics, to keep prices down, doctors are overfilling their schedules instead of giving themselves adequate time with each patient to be sure the procedure is down correctly.
Soto felt she was “just another patient … in what seemed like an assembly line of patients.”
Large cosmetic surgery centers are juggling high volumes of patients every day. In many cases, the doctor you meet with for a consultation isn’t the doctor who performs your surgery. Soto compared these large practices to a Denny’s restaurant, with patients funneling in and out all day.
“…claims about the low risk, dramatic results and short recuperations time are misstated.”
A highly publicized quick-fix procedure, The Lifestyle Lift, is under investigation by the Florida attorney general for this very reason. There is no such thing as a “quick fix surgery.” These procedures have risks, demand recovery time. They can have dramatic results, but that won’t happen overnight.
“Doing procedures in office surgery centers saves money, something that many consumers…found attractive…”
Don’t be fooled by “in office” procedures. Surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery must perform in accredited ambulatory surgery centers to maintain certification. Many in-office operating rooms are not accredited and do not have to abide by any regulations or meet certain standards to keep patients safe.
These high volume centers are frequently where you can find untrained physicians. They are using a loop-hole in state laws to get around basic training requirements for their doctors. Since the procedures are performed under local anesthesia, they do not raise a red flag in the regulatory system which prevents untrained doctors from performing medical procedures outside of their scope of training. Comparing the training of residency in plastic surgery (80 hour work weeks for a minimum of 6 straight years following medical school) to a weekend “course” taught by another untrained doctor is no comparison at all. Be smart when choosing your plastic surgeon and don’t be afraid to ask questions.