Boo(bs)! The Scary Side of “Cosmetic” Surgery

There have been some legitimately frightening cosmetic surgery stories surfacing lately. Actually, they have been around since the beginning of cosmetic surgery, but well before the age of the internet.

For example, I was just watching one of my favorite series,  ESPN’s 30 for 30, about the rise and fall of Tommy Morrison, the infamous 90’s heavyweight boxing champ. After an HIV diagnosis, Tommy underwent surgery for pectoral implants to hide any muscle wasting that may have been occurring. This surgery was performed by an ENT – an ear, nose and throat specialist – NOT a Plastic Surgeon. He contracted a subsequent infection and had to have the implants removed. Whether he contracted an infection due to a compromised immune system or an intra-operative issue we do not know. I never knew this until watching a documentary almost 20 years later. It got me wondering, how soon would we have known about these pec implants or the subsequent complications if there had been Instagram in the 90’s?

A common theme of this blog is patient safety and education. While I believe social media, whether it be Facebook Instagram, blogging, etc can be a valuable tool in helping patients make informed decisions, I also believe we have Influencers on social media who confuse a paycheck-based recommendation with a quality-based recommendation and doctors that skirt the line of ethics.

Just this week a state oversight board charged a New York Doctor in his treatment of eight patients amid accusations of 29 instances of negligence, incompetence, fraud and other wrongdoing. These were for patients that had procedures ranging from breast augmentation revision to liposuction. The doctor? An OB/GYN – with zero formal plastic surgery training. If you are wondering why these women decided on a doctor with no plastic surgery training to perform their procedures, look no further than Instagram. Tameka “Tiny” Harris and Nya Lee of VH1’s “ Love & Hip Hop: New York” are both admittedly patients of his. “Mob Wives” star Renee Graziano also publicly received treatment from this doc for a Brazilian Butt Lift which was documented on social media.

Another high profile family has been known to post Snapchats and Instagram stories from their “Cosmetic Dermatologist” who is not a Dermatologist at all but a General Practitioner who somehow gets away with using that title and rationalizes charging sometimes 10x’s the industry standard for common services rebranded as exclusive to his clinic and with the stamp of approval from these celebrity sisters.

An uninformed consumer see the famous and familiar face and thinks “Oh, these people have access to any doctor on earth, have the financial means necessary to see only the best and must have done their research. I trust them”. What they are not seeing are the behind the scenes free procedures, paychecks to these ” celebrity brand ambassadors” and ironclad legal agreements made in order to protect the doctors should something go wrong.

Put simply: Doctor performs free procedure on celeb. Doctor pays celeb to post to social media. Doctor gets exposure to celeb’s millions of followers. Doctor gets millions of followers. Doctor gets Insta-credibility. Crazy, right?

On the flip side, all of this confusion has brought to the surface many safe-surgery advocates who share the same social media platform. Just a simple search shows more commonly trending hashtags such as #SafeSurgery, #ExcellenceInPlasticSurgery #PlasticSurgeryGoneWrong, #BoardCertified and more. And the legitimate medical societies and academies are taking note. The ASAPS, ASPS and AAFPRS are now quite active on social media educating on the dos and don’ts, rights and wrongs and offering safe, medically-factual information to the masses. Follow them! And if you would like more tips, tricks, info and dirt, follow me on Instagram at @BeautySavantBlog or Facebook at BeautySavant.com.

As always, consult a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon or Dermatologist for your cosmetic questions and concerns. And please…do your research!

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