Deadly Outbreaks Highlight Importance of Board Certification, Accredited Facilities for Plastic Surgery

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It is essential to educate patients on the importance of working with board-certified plastic surgeons and ensuring their cosmetic procedures performed at accredited locations.

Once again, a cosmetic surgery horror story is in the news. This time, an analysis published May 26, 2014, in JAMA Internal Medicine discovered the deadly outbreaks of group A streptococcal infections that occurred among liposuction patients at US weight-loss clinics in 2012 were most likely caused by poor infection control practices.

Although more 300,000 liposuction procedures had been performed by board-certified specialists that same year, non-specialists can also perform liposuction in so-called medical spas that continue to pop up across the country despite the bad press. While these outpatient facilities generally have licensed doctors and nurses, they are not usually subject to state government regulation.

This not only raises a serious concern for healthcare professionals, but also highlights the importance of educating patients to ensure their cosmetic procedure is performed at an accredited facility by a board-certified plastic surgeon.

I personally perform cosmetic procedures out of 3 locations in New York City — 2 of which are hospitals, though the third is an ambulatory surgical center. But unlike many medical spas, the ambulatory center is licensed by the New York State Department of Health and only works with highly trained and skilled board-certified physicians. Additionally, the center requires all surgeons to remain on staff at one or more area hospitals or medical centers and have outstanding credentials, which are subject to a biennial review process in order to maintain affiliation.

The point I would like to stress in calling attention to yet another alarming cosmetic surgery story is that it is essential to educate patients on the importance of working with board-certified plastic surgeons and ensuring their cosmetic procedures performed at accredited locations. After all, every surgery carries potential risks, no matter how big or small the procedure. As a result, we need to minimize the possibility of these risks for our patients, and the first step in doing so is education.

Robert T. Grant, MD, MSc, FACS, is Chief of the combined Divisions of Plastic Surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center. He is also Associate Clinical Professor of Surgery in the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University and Adjunct Associate Professor of Clinical Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College. For more information about Dr. Grant or to contact him, visit his website at www.robertgrantmd.com.

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