Introduction to Plastic Surgery


Plastic surgery permeates Western culture. The mass media love it. It is a favorite topic for talk shows, news segments, and magazine articles. Hollywood loves it. Our favorite actors often show telltale signs of plastic surgery. Advertisers promote it. Local radio stations are infiltrated with ads for cosmetic procedures and the surgeons who allegedly perform them the best. Even you may discuss your aesthetic flaws with your friends or colleagues. Plastic surgery is everywhere. Yet, how much do you really know?

You may have heard that there has been no better time to consider cosmetic surgery. Recent technological developments allow more favorable results than ever before. New techniques such as laser surgery, endoscopic surgery, and Botox injections may provide less invasive alternatives to traditional surgery. The latest implant materials may afford superior results with fewer problems. Pharmaceutical research may provide more effective medications to reduce swelling, bruising, and discomfort. The media gleefully report each new advance. Yet, how much is hype, and how much is real?

Cosmetic surgery has seen an unprecedented explosion in popularity. Between 1996 and 2000 the number of cosmetic procedures more than doubled, growing from one to three million per year in this country alone. This tremendous growth is expected to continue as people of all ages, occupations, and social classes seek cosmetic surgery. But, despite its popularity, such surgery is not for everyone.

Mary, a 22-year-old college student majoring in engineering, was insecure and withdrawn. Even though she had excellent qualifications, her interviews failed to yield job offers. Following surgery to reduce her large nose, her job interviews were more positive, and she soon secured a competitive offer—not because of her appearance, but because of her newfound confidence.

Whether or not cosmetic surgery is for you, only you can decide. This decision will be a complex one. One of your first steps will be to consult with a plastic surgeon, but as you will see, finding a qualified surgeon can be difficult.

The cosmetic surgery boom has made it difficult for prospective patients to identify qualified plastic surgeons. Whereas cosmetic surgery was once performed primarily by plastic surgeons, many other physicians now offer cosmetic procedures. Many physicians, faced with declining insurance reimbursements, have entered the arena of cosmetic surgery, intent to profit from the popularity of this cash-up-front, fee-for-service specialty.

In most states, no law prevents these physicians from advertising as plastic surgeons, even though they may have no formal training in plastic surgery. Even the most sophisticated patients can be fooled. As U.S. Rep. Ron Wyden concluded at a 1989 Congressional hearing, "too many cosmetic surgeons have no formal surgical training. ... In every state, any medical school graduate with a state license can perform cosmetic surgery. There are no barriers to entry, public or professional."

The search for a qualified plastic surgeon is just one of the obstacles you will face. A carefully planned and organized approach is essential as you pursue a safe and aesthetic result.

Article by
Fresno Plastic Surgeon