Plastic surgeon Arthur W. Perry, M.D., has seen the carnage — including deaths — resulting from misleading and downright false claims made by surgeons and others in the cosmetic surgery industry. During his 10 years reviewing complaints on New Jersey's State Board of Medical Examiners, Dr. Perry has seen sensationalism at its height.
"I saw advertisements by board-certified plastic surgeons that were, frankly, fraudulent. One was an ad for laser skin rejuvenation. It showed wonderful pre- and post-operative photographs which turned out to be of a chemical peel patient from Dr. Thomas J. Baker's book," Dr. Perry recounts. "The doctor was fined $18,000 and received a public reprimand." Another example: the promoting of procedures, such as mesotherapy, which, he says, do not pan out in practice.
"I looked into those procedures for the Board to determine whether there was scientific basis for them," he says. "It shaped the way I look at each one of them and raised my antennae to start looking at other procedures much more critically."Dr. Perry, a columnist for the Medical Tribune while in medical school, took to the media to tell what he says is the truth about cosmetic procedures. While on the N.J. Board, he wrote a paper on liposuction because he saw deaths from what should be a safe procedure. "If you really trace the development of liposuction...we got so good at it [in the 80s] that...[by the 90s] there had been hundreds of deaths. [We were] taking too much fat, suctioning too many areas, or using too much lidocaine."
STRAIGHT TALK His recent book, Straight Talk about Cosmetic Surgery, does more than answer questions. In it, Dr. Perry tackles controversial issues, including what procedures don't work, such as mesotherapy, Endermologie, cool lasers and microdermabrasion.
"I think microdermabrasion is a wonderful procedure, and we offer it in my office as a skin-cleaning procedure. But when I see board-certified plastic surgeons advertising it as a wrinkle reducer, that's wrong. It can't possibly get rid of wrinkles or scars or stretch marks," says Dr. Perry, clinical associate professor of plastic surgery, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine, and clinical associate, Division of Plastic Surgery, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
He writes about skin care claims, citing specific substances, such as hexapeptides, which are common ingredients in skin care products.
"[These] cannot get into the skin because of the size of the molecule," he says. The book is the consumers' advocate, says Dr. Perry who practices in Bridgewater and New Brunswick, N.J. "It is certainly pro plastic surgery, but it gives patients the tools they need to make decisions, to critically look at cosmetic surgery and...help themselves make decisions," he explains.
ON AIR ADVOCACY Dr. Perry also advocates for patients weekly from the studios of WOR in Manhattan. On "You: The Owner's Manual Radio Show," he and co-host Michael F. Roizen, M.D., discuss general health and wellness, as well as cosmetic surgery and skin care. "Each week we feature the 'flap of the week,' my take on something in the news...that I'm not thrilled about," Dr. Perry says. "We recently talked about the skin care product ingredient DMAE, touted to be a wrinkle reducer, but [which]...is toxic to cells."
PUSHING PAYORS In addition to his book, Dr. Perry recently completed a study that could impact practice. The not-yet-published research documents important functional changes that occur following tummy tucks. "The tummy tuck is considered by insurance companies to be a strictly cosmetic procedure; yet, there are important changes that occur after [them] that really should be covered by insurance because it is reconstructive. This paper should improve the chances of patients getting insurance coverage after tummy tucks."