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Under the influence

Article-Under the influence

Key iconKeypoints:

  • The widespread popularity of reality television shows, developed around the drama of cosmetic surgery in particular, has influenced patients in both positive and negative ways
  • Cosmetic surgeons from across the country weigh in on the advantages and disadvantages created by these programs

Dr. Magilke
With the proliferation of reality TV shows in recent years, and their widespread popularity, perhaps the increase in the number of programs developed around the drama of cosmetic surgery is a natural fit. Cosmetic Surgery Times recently spoke with cosmetic surgeons around the country to hear their impressions on the impact such shows have had on their patients, and how they handle both positive and negative influences. Most agree that the primary advantage of programs such as "Extreme Makeover" and "The Swan" is that they bring cosmetic surgery to the masses. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, since the organization started keeping statistics in 1997, cosmetic plastic surgery procedures have increased 444 percent.

FREE ADVERTISING Gene Ireland, D.D.S., M.D., whose practice covers Southern Ohio and Northeastern Kentucky, says, "The prevalence of those shows is almost a gratis marketing campaign, at least from a patient awareness standpoint." Richard Dabb, M.D., in York, Pa., agrees. "The media brought to middle-class America real exposure to cosmetic surgery that previously they hadn't had. It's brought awareness to people of the nature of [types of] cosmetic procedures that can be done."

In Portland, Ore., David Magilke, M.D., thinks the media has a bigger impact than doctors even realize. "It affects which patients come into our office and which don't, and what they expect to achieve. The shows give people permission to have cosmetic surgery —that it isn't just high-profile celebrities having surgery. They've made it okay not to be quite as secretive about plastic surgery [and] it's made the surgery mainstream."

SURGERY CAFETERIA-STYLE In Southern California, T.Y. Steven Ip, M.D., in Newport Beach sees specific requests coming from media coverage. "A while back, Jennifer López was popular and we had a bunch of phone calls on buttocks implants. Patients often want to look like whoever is popular at the moment. They bring in photos of someone's eyebrow or somebody's nose." To Albert Dabbah, M.D., a solo practitioner for 13 years in Boca Raton, Fla., the programs enable potential patients to learn what they might have to go through, in the privacy of their own home.

"Prior to this, patients had to make an appointment at a plastic surgeon's office and say they were interested in a procedure. Now, they can generally find someone having a similar procedure and get more information before putting themselves on the front line in a doctor's office."

Besides contributing to the patients' comfort level in learning about cosmetic surgery, Michael Cedars, M.D., from Oakland, Calif., says the shows give patients a good sense of what's possible, but not always in the most precise manner. "Patients know from the media that there are new procedures, new machines, new technology all the time. Frankly, they get confused, even dazzled by some of the things they hear about, and the information getting to them is not completely accurate."

Dr. Dabbah says that media as a source of information is simply a sign of the times. "That's what 2007 is. We also have the Internet, which is a huge source of information. Whether TV shows are fictional or nonfictional, it's the accuracy of the information the patient gets that is important — and some of the information is not correct."

Inaccurate or misleading information is the biggest problem most of the surgeons see with the information gleaned from the media. That's where the cosmetic surgeon's role takes over, as Dr. Magilke explains.

"The biggest problem with all of the media is that you have to spend more time explaining options to the patients, so when they do make a decision, they get what they're expecting."

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