Newsworthy Plastic Surgery

Plastic surgery, unlike some medical specialties, seems to always find its way into the news. 2010 was no exception in this regard. As a plastic surgeon, most of the items that become newsworthy were an incredible mix of the freaky, incredulous and even fantastic events.

Breasts always seem to make the news and the more freaky seems to be better. Whether it is basketball-size implants of quadruple FFFF proportions, dancers subject to IRS scrutiny trying to write off their surgery, or breast augmentation as part of a marathon makeover (aka Heidi Montag), women who seek their ten minutes of fame marr the perception of an otherwise highly successful body contouring surgery. While the real breast augmentation news this coming year will be the introduction of a new form-stable (gummy bear) implants, this will likely be overshadowed by the media’s never-ending focus on celebrities, their breasts and Hollywood’s version of silicone valley.

There is always the continued incredulous news of patients suffering complications and even death at the hands of so-called cosmetic surgeons. This seems to be most evidenced with liposuction, largely due to its popularity and the larger body surface areas that it treats. There is an obvious difference in the size of the trauma to the body from abdominal and thigh liposuction from that of a nosejob or eyelid surgery for example. Liposuction attracts a large number of inexperienced and often unscrupulous practitioners because of the relative ‘simplicity’ of the procedure and easy access to new liposuction devices. It only takes a medical license and a credit card to buy the newer laser liposuction machines. Equipment manufacturers are more interested in sales than safety as evidenced by their marketing and selling behavior. Patients died last year from one coast to the other at the hands of doctors with dubious credentials. The public would think that better regulations would exist but they would be wrong. Doing your homework is your best protection.

Botox continues to show its fantastic benefits and those are not only in those worried about their frown lines or crow’s feet. Last year Botox was approved by the FDA for the treatment of migraines. For some migraine sufferers, Botox injections can be a miracle even if its effects are only temporary. The benefits of Botox have translated into an actual migraine surgery procedure developed by plastic surgeons. If Botox injections relieve one’s migraines, a relatively simple muscular decompression around the nerve trigger points can provide a more permanent amelioration of one’s migraine pain and frequency of attacks. It’s a rare example of a cosmetic treatment turning into a really useful medical or reconstructive surgery, usually that works in reverse.

One other piece of fantastic plastic surgery news from last year has been the emergence of face transplants. While once thought impossible and something more akin to a movie or science fiction, more and more partial or complete face transplants are being done around the world. While the patients who need them are last resort problems of massive facial deformities and tissue loss, that is the history also of all organ transplants which are commonplace today. From the extreme technical advances of today come spinoffs that will benefit many more facial reconstruction patients in the future.

No telling what this coming year will bring, but if past history is any predictor of future events, plastic surgery will continue to make the headlines…let us hope it is largely in the fantastic category.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana