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AAD Offers Tips on Seeking Out Safe Cosmetic Procedures

Posted: September 28, 2009

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“To help them learn about the expected outcomes and downtime involved with a procedure, patients should ask their physician if they can speak with a patient who has undergone the procedure,” said Dr. Hanke. “This might help them feel more comfortable about asking questions and to determine if a procedure is right for them.”

The American Academy of Dermatology also recommends consumers ask physicians how many procedures they have performed, what results can be expected, how long the recuperation period is and what are the risks.

  • Consider the highly trained skills of a dermatologist for minimally invasive cosmetic procedures. Dr. Hanke explained that most of the minimally invasive cosmetic procedures available today were either developed or refined by dermatologists, such as tumescent liposuction (liposuction using tumescent local anesthesia on awake patients), soft tissue (skin) fillers, and cutaneous laser surgery which includes the removal of tattoos, unwanted hair, and vascular birthmarks, and the treatment of sun-damaged skin.

    “Dermatologists specialize in minimally invasive procedures that do not require general anesthesia. This greatly reduces the potential for complications since the patient is awake during the procedure and recovery times are decreased,” said Dr. Hanke. “These procedures offer patients an enhanced version of themselves, and most patients would rather have subtle results than a drastic change, which is indicative of a major procedure.”

  • Ask who will be performing the procedure. Dr. Hanke acknowledged that there is inconsistency among physicians as to which cosmetic procedures can be safely and effectively performed by non-physicians. In its official position statement on the use of non-physician clinical personnel that offers guidelines to its members on this practice, the Academy recommends that under appropriate circumstances, a physician may delegate certain procedures and services to appropriately trained non-physicians, such as physician assistants or nurse practitioners. Specifically, the physician must directly supervise the non-physician clinicians to protect the best interests and welfare of each patient.

    “Each physician must determine what procedures can safely be performed by nurses or other staff members in his or her own individual practices. This distinction should be made to patients up front to ensure they are comfortable with the expertise and training of the person who will be performing the procedure,” said Dr. Hanke. “However, it is imperative that a physician be on-site to evaluate patients prior to a procedure and to respond promptly to any questions or concerns during or after the procedure.”

  • Evaluate a physician’s credentials before considering a procedure. Although it may be difficult for consumers to ask physicians about their credentials and professional background, Dr. Hanke believes this information is crucial for a safe result or outcome. According to Dr. Hanke, one of the most telling questions that consumers can ask physicians is whether they are board certified by one of the 24 boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), such as the American Board of Dermatology. He explained that board certification is important, as it could indicate a physician’s knowledge and experience with certain procedures.

    In addition, consumers can research physicians on the Internet. State medical board Web sites typically offer information on physicians at no charge. “If a person isn’t comfortable broaching the subject of credentials with a physician, there are ways to research this information online,” said Dr. Hanke. “What’s important is that consumers do their homework before selecting a physician.”