American Society of Plastic Surgeons Urges: Do Your Homework

The recent spate of issues and even deaths that have recently been reported has prompted to American Society of Plastic Surgeon to launch a patient safety campaign to inform the public of the dangers of having cosmetic procedures performed by unqualified or under-qualified doctors.

What is a Plastic Surgeon?

Of particular concern to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is a problem they have dubbed “white coat deception.” Just because a doctor has a medical license does not mean he or she is trained and qualified to perform plastic surgery. Only four states (California, Florida, Louisiana and Texas) have laws requiring that physicians disclose the specifics of their medical training and background. In all other states any doctor, for instance a pediatrician or OB/GYN, can claim to be qualified in plastic surgery. In fact, these doctors may not have ever performed any type of surgery and, because they are performing procedures in an outpatient facility, there is no hospital oversight.

Unfortunately, doctors can undergo a few hours or days of training in a procedure, then begin offering cosmetic surgery services. However, this lack of training and experience leaves them unprepared to deal with complications that an experienced plastic surgeon is well aware of and watching for. There have been a number of stories recently in the press about deaths associated with liposuction—a common and safe procedure when performed correctly—when the doctor performing the procedure was not qualified to handle complications. Other stories abound of disfigurement due to botched operations. And, in many cases the ability to repair the damage is compromised by mistakes made during surgery by doctors not experience in sound surgical techniques.

The Dangers of “Pumping”

Another major concern to the ASPS is the issue of “pumping,” which is the illegal injection of silicone to enhance areas of the body, typically the breast, buttocks or lips. These injections are administered by individuals who pose as medical but are not licensed physicians. They often promise that they are using medical grade silicon when in fact they are using industrial grade silicon mixed with baby oil or Crisco. Often times a group of people will pool their money and have a “pumping party,” typically in a hotel room or at a private residence.

Not only is the practice illegal, but it is highly unsafe. There have been recent reports of deaths associated with the practice. And, several “patients” are reporting serious health complications, diseases and disfigurements emerging years later. One patient is unable to sit for long periods of time or to sleep due to her inability to remain still for any length of time.

When considering any cosmetic surgery procedure make sure to consult a board-certified plastic surgeon. Many recipients of these silicone injections may not even be aware that it is illegal and that the individual administering the injections is not even a licensed medical professional.

What is ASPS Certification

In order to become a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), a doctor must have a minimum of six years of surgical training in plastic surgery. They also must complete oral and written examinations, and continue to pursue 50 hours a year of continuing education with an important emphasis on patient safety. Additionally, ASPS members do not operate in a facility unless it is accredited, insuring the optimum in patient safety for the rare occasion when there is a problem. And, finally ASPS members adhere to a strict code of ethics.

To help you understand what to look for in a plastic surgeon, see our plastic surgery questions.

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