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Special Offers at Medical Spas?

Medical spa franchises seem to offer great prices on treatments like Botox or Fraxel. Are these cosmetic treatment deals too good to be true?

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A scary story about medical spas


I went to an informal lecture regarding a laser liposcution platform this evening. Not that I am in the market to buy laser liposuction until there is evidence that it actually works, just informational.

The speaker was a buisness owner of a fairly large medical spa in my area. He and his wife, an OB doctor tired of Obstetrics after a couple of years, opened a medical spa under her medical license. He is the buisness manager and has no medical training (this is important).

In their practice they do a lot of injectables, laser treatment, and laser assisted liposuction. I drive past two large billboards showing for one a 100 lb bikini model wearing a fat man's pair of pants (implying this degree of fat loss). He discussed his business model, which I felt was unethical, dangerous and bordering on illegal.

  • He does all of the consultations (not his wife, the OB physician).
  • He talked of his "patients" in terms like upsell, revenue, and conversion, rather than safety or satisfaction.
  • I was told that he goes by "doctor" and there is no intention to disclose otherwise to his "patients."
  • When discussing procedures he used "I" quite frequently discussing how "he" did the procedure, although when questioned, he stated that his wife does all of the procedures - I am not convinced and believe that he is practicing medicine without a license.
  • He referred to liposuction as a very safe procedure in properly trained hands. When asked about he and his wife's training, he admitted it was a weekend course by the laser manufacturer. I must have wasted six good years of my life learning what I did in residency or I must just be really slow if he could learn this in a weekend.
  • He gave a story of a gentlman who drove 4 hours today for his procedure but did not have anyone with him so the buisness manager dropped him off at his hotel. When asked about liability of dropping him off he said, "we are no longer liable once he leaves our office, unless I get in a car accident or something."
  • This "patient" has a history of hepatitis and had a seven hour laser liposuction procedure with oral sedation. He was trying to make the point that this is such an easy and safe procedure, you can do a seven hour liposuction with oral sedation alone. The point he made to me is that he had better call that hotel and have someone check his patient to be sure he is still alive.
  • He had no idea how dangerous this was and the thin ice he was on. He said that because this was not "traditional liposuction," it was safe. In actuality, he was using tumescent anesthesia, burning the fat with a laser and then removing it. Every bit as risky as "traditional liposuction" in skilled hands, and much more dangerous in the hands of someone untrained in the dangers of liposuction.
  • When asked how much fat was removed in seven hours, he said the amount was, I believe, about 500 ccs of fat! What were they doing for seven hours? Well, they did take a lunch break, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PROCEDURE!

This entire discussion was in front of three board certified plastic surgeons, including myself, and a host of prospective laser lipo clients. I can assure you that I roasted this individual and hopefully did my part in educating the non-surgeons in the room that liposuction is not something you dabble in and is certainly not an ATM.

Salt Lake City Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 37 reviews

Medical Spas can be great or not


I own and operate a medical spa that is fully intergrated into my Raleigh, North Carolina plastic surgery practice.

For any given aesthetic concern, there are both medical and surgical enhancements which are possible. Additionally, skin care treatment options are also available which are less invasive than surgery, but more invasive than typical medical spa treatments. I have an exceptional staff of highly trained medical professionals, many of whom have been with me for many years. I rely on them and they rely on me as a physician. By offering a full spectrum of plastic surgery in addition to non-surgical procedures I have the best to offer my patients.

I would be very sceptical about any medical spa not owned and operated by a physician. Medical directors without ownership can come and go. Medical spa treatments can provide great results, often with little to no downtime. But, they are medical procedures and should be researched as such.

Web reference:

Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 31 reviews

The Corporate Practice of Medicine



Have you every wondered why doctors go to medical school? So they can make educated decisions on medical treatments without subjecting patients to excessive risk. So they can be trained on the ethics of medicine - it is bad to treat someone with an unproven potion, ineffective treatment or treatment that is not required just so you can "cash-in".

Many medical spas today are making decisions on when to treat patients based on the patient's ability to pay and not their medical condition. The are owned and operated by corporations and most decisions are not made by physicians consulting with the patient, but by lower level practioners - nurses and physician-assistants who are taking direction from the business owners. This is the "Corporate Practice of Medicine" and it is illegal in California.

I would always seek out a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon for any cosmetic procedure - be it Botox, Juvederm, Restylane, IPL, Fraxel, Laser, or surgical treatment. Remember most patients requiring cosmetic treatments are on a continuum - needing only minimally invasive treatments early in their lives and more invasive treatments and surgery later on. So it is important that your doctor understand where you are on this continuum and can offer you the right treatment that you need. Remember the saying "if your a hammer then everything looks like a nail" - well the same is true for physicians in cosmetic medicine. Seek out a surgeon who knows what treatment you need and can actually perform the necessary treatment. If you are going to a Medi-Spa ask to meet the doctor, look at his/her credentials and make sure he owns at least 51% of the facility as required by Law (in California).

Newport Beach Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

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Do the research before you have any procedure done


The truth of the matter is that medi-spas are businesses, and as such, they are in the business of making money. As a way of making money, they may own good lasers, hire good experienced practitioners, and perform adequate treatments. Most of the time, but not always you will have a safe procedure, but sometimes you may have some unnecessary treatments. Unnecessary does not mean unsafe.

If the spa doesn't have a physician who is well versed with all the options for your treatment, you will be offered what they have. Once again, it might not be the best, but it is usually safe. I've had to correct some unfortunate results from the injections and laser procedures done at the medi-spas. I've also has to correct the results from some other doctors, so as noted previously, do your research, and do the due diligence where you have the procedures done. Considering the prices are usually about the same in medi-spas and doctor's offices, I would probably prefer to go to an experienced physician.

Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 15 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.

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