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Cosmetic Surgery: Substandard Care Causing Premature Deaths
By: Dr. Gary Breslow, MD, FACS
emergency room
Jul 16, 2012

Many doctors have been expanding their practices into a specialty of surgical medicine, cosmetic surgery in particular, in which they are not trained or board certified. It is this trend that we want to emphasize the importance of checking your doctor’s credentials before any procedure is performed. Typically, “practice drift,” a term used for this, is prohibited by insurance companies and hospitals; however, office surgery is unregulated in over half the states, and this is where the surgeries are being performed.

A Growing Trend

Cosmetic surgery is growing and developing a following from urban to rural areas. Insurance reimbursements to doctors have regressed and the temptation to expand one’s medical practice with cosmetic surgery, a lucrative addition to their practice, is becoming a trend. The danger, however, is that a general practitioner, dentist, dermatologist, or any doctor not certified in cosmetic surgery is putting the patient’s life at risk.

Practice Drift Doctors

When a practice drift doctor does not have hospital privileges to do cosmetic surgery and complications arise in the office, the doctor cannot accompany his/her patient to the hospital. In addition to appropriate schooling in cosmetic surgery and medical residencies, both of which are required for board certification, outpatient procedures need to be safeguarded with equipment and medication necessary for emergency care, should a problem occur.

Poor Quality Care

Moreover, substandard conditions are often typical in many of the out-patient facilities offering cosmetic surgery. Doctors and non-doctors, such as physician assistants who perform the surgery, often take short cuts in the essentials for quality health care. For example, state of the art equipment, quality products approved by the FDA, and a licensed anesthesiologist are missing.

Cheap Plastic Surgery

Another issue is with many of the clinics that do employ board certified cosmetic surgeons. Several clinics have been accused of making light of the risks and promoting low-priced alternatives to cosmetic surgery. General anesthesia is expensive, so many outpatient facilities offer local anesthesia, which brings down the price of a procedure such as a liposuction.

Lidocaine: Cause of Premature Death

The problem is that the patient is given Lidocaine, and too many errors are being made with the dosage and its mixture with other medication. The consequences, so far, have been death for too many patients.

In September 2011, USA Today published a 2-part series, reporting several deaths from inexpensive cosmetic surgery promoted by certified doctors. Liposuction, in particular, caused premature deaths among several patients who took a chance with an inexpensive procedure using Lidocaine.

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