Supplements and Cosmetic Surgery

Herbal supplements and vitamins are known to have a significant and measurable effect on promoting wound healing, reducing bruising,  enhancing immunity, and reducing oxidation caused by both surgery and anesthetic drugs. However, these supplements are still drugs that could cause dangerous side effects during cosmetic surgery. About 50% of cosmetic surgery patients take supplements (usually more than one), but often do not tell their surgeons because they assume they are safe.  Some  of  the  most  popular  herbal  supplements  taken  are  chondroitin,  echinacea, and  glucosamine:

  • Chondroitin is often used to treat osteoarthritis.  People using chondroitin may suffer from bleeding complications during surgery, particularly when used in combination with doctor-prescribed blood-thinning medications (like warfarin).
  • Echinacea is often used for the prevention and treatment of viral, bacterial and fungal infections, as well as chronic wounds, ulcers, and arthritis.  However, it can trigger immunosuppression, causing poor wound healing and infection.
  • Glucosamine, often offered in conjunction with chondroitin, contains chemical elements that mimic human insulin, and may artificially cause low blood sugars during surgery.

Other common supplements taken by patients that may cause thinning of the blood are the “4  Gs”  (gingko biloba, garlicginseng, and ginger), fish oils and Vitamin E.

Cosmetic surgery should be viewed with the same care and concern as heart or brain surgery. Everything we do is important for our patients, so every precaution and safety should be taken to minimize complications from surgery and anesthesia. Remember, we need your help and cooperation at all times.  Advise us of every drug you take, prescribed and non-prescribed and cease taking any blood thinning agents 2 weeks prior to surgery unless otherwise directed by your doctor.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Tim  –  Sydney  Cosmetic  Plastic  Surgeon

www.cosmeticculture.com.au
www.drtim.com.au

Laser Hair Removal Mythconceptions

There is no such thing as a single “best” laser for hair removal on all patients.  The best laser for laser hair removal for each person really depends on his or her skin colour. Thus, multiple lasers exist for hair removal. Different laser types, which emit distinct wavelengths of light, are better for treating different skin types. There are a number of manufacturers that make these laser types:

  • Alexandrite lasers. These emit laser light at 755 nm. These lasers work best on lighter skin. In my opinion,  it has been the most impressive laser for hair removal for light to olive skin types.
  • Diode Lasers.  These emit light at a wavelength of 810  nm.  Lighter skin types do well with this type of laser, as do some darker skin types.
  • Nd: YAG lasers.  These emit a 1064 nm wavelength.  This laser is best for darker skin types, as the higher wavelength reaches deeper into the skin.  This helps to avoid superficial skin melanin,  which pigments our skin.
  • IPL or  Intense  Pulsed  Light. It has been used for hair removal.  Lasers emit light at one wavelength (like laser pointers in PowerPoint presentations).  IPL machines produce a range of wavelengths  (like the cone of light from a torch one sees in cartoons) and are not lasers.  So,  there  is  no  such  thing  as  an  “IPL  laser”  or  “IPL laser  hair  removal”-  it’s  a  marketing  ploy  for  businesses  that  have  IPL  machines  and  not  hair  removal  lasers (the  only  exception  to  the  rule  are  the  few  machines  out  there  that  have  both  lasers  and  IPL  machines  in them).  Several studies have shown that  IPL is not as effective as dedicated hair removal lasers, and carry a higher risk of burns, blisters, and changes in pigment.

In my experience,  the Alexandrite laser is the most effective laser for removing hair on the lighter skin, whereas the Nd: YAG is the safest and best laser for more darkly pigmented skin.  Remember,  every laser  has  a  “target.”  For hair removal lasers, the goal is to selectively target the pigment (in other words colour) which in this case is called melanin found in hair follicles.  Melanin is the reason why we have black or brown hair or shades in between.  The hair follicles are living cells which make hair below the surface of the skin.  When the melanin is selectively heated, this destroys the hair follicle cells.  The lighter the hair, the less melanin the hair follicles will have in them.  As a result, hair that is blonde, white or grey does not improve with laser hair removal.  In my practice,  I have actually seen some patients notice a decrease in lighter hairs,  but it ’s the exception and not the rule.

Melanin is also present in skin and is the cause for dark skin and suntans.  It is the same target that the hair removal laser is trying to reach in hair follicles.  Hair removal lasers may target the melanin in the skin as well as in the hair follicles which sometimes results in burns,  blisters, and change in skin pigmentation.  As a result,  lower settings and longer laser pulse times must be used for darker skin to avoid damage.  As a consequence, more overall treatment sessions will usually be necessary.

Remember, laser hair removal is a medical procedure and you should always consult with a doctor who has extensive experience in lasers and laser hair removal.  This will maximize your chances of a great result.

Thanks for reading!

Dr.  Tim  –  Sydney  Cosmetic  Plastic  Surgeon

www.cosmeticculture.com.au
www.drtim.com.au

Avoiding Difficult Patients

As a cosmetic plastic surgeon,  I try and avoid the potential wrath of a disgruntled cosmetic surgery patient.  I do this by trying to predict who will not be a “good”  post-operative patient.  The key is the initial interview which is used as an effective screening process to pick out the patient with inappropriate motivation,  unrealistic expectations or those obsessed with imagined physical defects.  I then simply do not operate on these patients who  “fail” the screening.  Certain  patient  types  to  interview  carefully  before making  the  final  decision  on  whether  to  operate  or  not  include:

  • Patients whom my staff or I don’t ”gel with”for some reason. Initial “gut instincts” may be correct.
  • Perfectionists: Those seeking a flawless result, cannot accept minor asymmetries or slight imperfections after surgery.  They have the potential to be unrealistic patients.
  • Dissatisfied patients: Some of these were dissatisfied with previous cosmetic surgery by another surgeon. She or he wants me to  “fix it”.  They often put you on a lofty pedestal ready for when they fall when things don’t work out so well.
  • VIPs: Someone highly visible to the public, such as actors,  TV personalities, and politicians, have bigger stakes.

Research shows that a small percentage of cosmetic surgery patients are at risk of experiencing psychological problems, such as depression, after undergoing elective surgery.  Some of these patients sue, harass and even threaten the doctor who performed their surgery.  It ’s important then for every patient to get it straight with their surgeon as to whether they have a policy about who pays for revisions when necessary and to make sure the policy ’s provisions are clear before surgery.

Thanks for reading!

Dr.  Tim  –  Sydney  Cosmetic  Plastic  Surgeon

www.cosmeticculture.com.au
www.drtim.com.au

Cosmetic Surgery Tourism: Is It Worth It?

Cosmetic surgery tourism is a price-driven phenomenon that has experienced increased growth over the past decade. Numerous companies offering all-inclusive vacation packages that include cosmetic surgery are popping up all over the world and can be easily located via the Internet. The offers generally include private hospital services and tout ”highly trained” and ”credentialed” medical staff. Since elective cosmetic surgery procedures are not covered by insurance, the price is the major selling point of cosmetic surgery tourism, with entire vacation/surgical packages costing less than individual procedures in Australia.

Although there are many skilled and qualified plastic surgeons practicing all over the world, cautions is warranted as it may be difficult to assess the training and credentials of surgeons outside of  Australia.  Patients may take unnecessary risks, when choosing cosmetic surgery vacations, by unknowingly selecting unqualified surgeons and having procedures performed in non-accredited surgical facilities.  Patients should consider the potential complications, unsatisfactory results, and risks to general health that may occur.

I very occasionally see patients who have had cosmetic surgery tourism done abroad that have gone horribly wrong.

This is commonly due to either bad surgical technique, sloppy post-operative care or misinformation that leads to a  less than satisfactory outcome for both patient and surgeon involved.  I  can understand that the lure of cheap cosmetic surgery and a holiday in some exotic destination thrown in for less than the price of comparable surgery at home is often too much of a temptation to resist.  Sadly, most people spend more time anguishing over the purchase of the latest and greatest gizmo than their plastic surgeon.  You next consider cosmetic surgery abroad, always remember to check:

  1. The plastic surgeon is well trained and reputable and that you feel comfortable with them.
  2. Make sure that you can communicate fluently in their native language or vice versa.  Also, don’t forget that you need a good anesthetist to keep you safely asleep during the procedure.
  3. Make sure that the operation you are having is the right one for you.  Often with cosmetic surgery tourism, planning and decision making is necessarily rushed.  You cannot ‘have second thoughts’ and when surgery is planned to often without seeing the operating surgeon or seeing them just before the surgery for the first time, there is no time to contemplate on the decision made or any informed consent.
  4. Determine that the operation is being performed in a safe environment and any prostheses used (eg. breast implants) are of the highest quality. Cosmetic surgery trips are often marketed as vacations  – but vacation activities should be avoided after cosmetic surgery eg; sunbathing, drinking alcohol,  swimming, jet skiing, taking extensive tours by bus or foot.  These can all compromise wound healing and increase infection rates and other problems.
  1. Lastly, you need to establish that there is appropriate after-care in place.  Whilst most things that go wrong usually happen within 48  hours, there are many things that can occur weeks to months down the track.  Revisional surgery may be required when you ’re back home and in these instances can be more difficult because of the uncertainties in surgical techniques used.  Remember,  “forewarned  is  to  be  forearmed.”

Question: What are some of the reasons you would entertain in having cosmetic surgery tourism?  You can leave a comment below.

Anti-Wrinkle Injections: The Facts

Anti-wrinkle injections are currently the most common medical cosmetic treatment.  There have been  17 million injections that have been safely administered for cosmetic purposes alone since 2002.  It is currently approved for treatment of glabella wrinkles, which are the frown lines between the eyebrows.  Any other treatments are considered “off-label” (a common and legal practice in which a drug is used for a purpose other than the officially approved one).

Here  are  some  other  interesting  facts  you  should  be  aware  of:

  • Clostridium Botulinum (the bacteria that causes food poisoning) was first identified at the University of Gent, Belgium, in  1895.
  • Anti-wrinkle injections consist of Botulinum toxin type A, which was isolated in the purified form by Dr. Herman Sommer at the University of California in the  1920s.
  • Botulinum toxin type A stops the release of certain chemicals at the junction between a nerve and a  muscle, so the message for the muscle to  ”work” is blocked and therefore relaxes.  Its anti-wrinkle properties were discovered in the 1980s  by  Dr.  Jean  Carruthers  (an ophthalmologist) and her husband  Arthur  (a  dermatologist) when patients being treated for crossed eyes and facial spasms told their doctors that their lines and wrinkles had vanished since starting the injections.
  • Anti-wrinkle injections are approved in more than 75 countries for 20 different neurological indications and approved for cosmetic use in more than 40  countries.
  • In the  20-year history of using the drug for cosmetic treatments, there is no anecdotal evidence of any long-term problems because any muscle weakness from the injections is reversible because Botulinum toxin type A ’s action is temporary.
  • Botulinum toxin type A has been used in other conditions such as migraines, excessive sweating,  incontinence, hemorrhoids and has even been used on patients with gallstones.
  • The cosmetic formula on uses a much lower dose of the toxin than the one used to treat major muscle spasms.
  • Anti-wrinkle injections are not a panacea for every facial wrinkle.  Those caused by other mechanisms such as hereditary,  smoking, sun exposure, and the effects of gravity,  do not respond adequately.  Nor are anti-wrinkle injections particularly effective for wrinkles around the mouth.  Other treatments (such as Retin-A, chemical peels, collagen or fat injections, laser therapy, or facelifts) may help for people who wish to minimize these types of wrinkles.

A  U.S. consumer advocacy group called Public Citizen has recently asked the Food and Drug  Administration  (FDA) to reconsider the safety of anti-wrinkle treatments.  However, my main issue with them is that they have grouped together adverse events from both the medical and cosmetic uses of the drug.  They pointed to  180 cases of serious complications like pneumonia and difficulty breathing or swallowing, which included 16  deaths  (collected from  9 full years of data).  Earlier in 2005,  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed  1,437  adverse reports:  406 after medical use of the toxin  (217 of them were serious effects)  and  1,031 after cosmetic use  (36 of them serious).  The proportion of serious reports was  33-fold higher for patients treated for medical problems than for those receiving cosmetic treatments and the worst disasters have occurred when unqualified practitioners administered the drug.  The FDA has also confirmed that there has never been a reported death where a causal link to the cosmetic use of anti-wrinkle injection was established.

Don’t forget that many cancer medications are derived from substances that in other contexts would be considered dangerous.  And many other drugs that are licensed for a  particular condition are used  “off label” to treat other problems.  Remember, all drugs have unwanted side-effects, so that with more people using anti-wrinkle injections, the list of unwanted effects may be growing.

Earlier this year,  the Food and Drug  Administration  (FDA) which reviews the continuing safety of anti-wrinkle injections, notified the public about reports of their serious side-effects.  Most of these,  however, resulted from medical, not cosmetic uses of the toxin.  Medical treatments typically require much larger doses, and many of the patients have other health problems that increase their risk.  For e.g. to treat the furrows between the brows,  a typical dose consists of 20-35  i.u.’s  (intramuscular units) compared to over  200 for neuromuscular disorders.  The reactions included respiratory failure (which sometimes was fatal) in a range of doses and use, many of them “off-label” e.g. limb spasticity associated with cerebral palsy in children.

So,  my  advice  to  patients  and  clients  seeking  anti-wrinkle  injections  would  be:

  • Choose your doctor or nurse injector carefully.  They should be both experienced and competent and make you feel safe and at ease.
  • Injectables should be performed in an approved medical office or medical spa.
  • Ques on the authenticity of the injectable.  Ask to be shown the brand packaging.
  • Pay close attention to the potential complications which should be thoroughly discussed during the informed consent process.

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Tim  –  Sydney  Cosmetic  Plastic  Surgeon

www.cosmeticculture.com.au
www.drtim.com.au

Cosmetic Surgery Tip #13: You can try on different boob sizes before deciding on one

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Using “sizers” in the form of  breast implants or a rice-filled stockings, you can stuff your bra to give you an idea of the size you might like.

Photo Credit: Saul Steinberg “Masquerade”

The Pressures of Teenage Cosmetic Surgery

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There has been a storm brewing for some me now regarding teenage cosmetic surgery. A concoction made up of quick fixes, a society obsessed with beauty, and the commercialisation and overexposure of cosmetic surgery, have all lent themselves to the growth of cosmetic surgery for Generation X and younger. This has been further compounded by the increasing number of medical specialties entering the cosmetic arena. My worry is that this Generation X and their successors wanting teenage cosmetic surgery may become an abused marketplace. It would appear that they have it a little easier, in the sense that, they have parents or relatives who have had cosmetic surgery and are approving of it, in an economy that has been both buoyant and robust for some me now. This takes away from the fact, that teenage cosmetic surgery needs much more scrutiny because it can play on people’s insecurities and promises of an instantly better life.

Most plastic surgeons I believe are responsible individuals with a conscience who try and counsel teenagers, usually in front of their parents, of the risks and benefits and outcomes of procedures and whether they are appropriate or not. They try very hard to show that TV programs like Extreme Makeover, Dr. 90210 and The Swan trivialise and glamourise cosmetic surgery and that glossy magazines like Teen Vogue or Teen Cosmo display airbrushed photos of models and celebrities that are in reality unachievable.

Now teenagers who want to have cosmetic surgery usually have different motivations and goals than adults. They often have cosmetic surgery to improve physical characteristics they feel are awkward or flawed, that if left uncorrected, may affect them well into adulthood. Teens tend to have cosmetic surgery to fit in with peers, to look similar. Adults tend to have cosmetic surgery to standout from others. Teenagers frequently gain self-esteem and confidence when their physical problems are corrected. In fact, successful teenage cosmetic surgery may reverse the social withdrawal that so often accompanies teenagers who feel different. Not every teenager seeking cosmetic surgery is well suited for an operation. Teenagers must demonstrate emotional maturity and an understanding of the limitations of cosmetic surgery.

I would caution teenagers and parents to keep in mind that cosmetic surgery is real surgery, with great benefits, but also carries some risks. Teenagers should have realistic expectations about cosmetic surgery and what it can do for them. In addition, certain milestones in growth and physical maturity must be achieved before undergoing cosmetic surgery. The most rewarding outcomes are expected when the following exist:

  1. The teenager initiates the request. While parental support is essential, the teenager’s own desire for cosmetic surgery must be clearly expressed and repeated over a period of me.
  2. The teenager has realistic goals. The young person must appreciate both the benefits and limitations of cosmetic surgery, avoiding unrealistic expectations about life changes that will occur as a result of the procedure.
  3. The teenager has sufficient maturity. Teenagers must be able to tolerate the discomfort and temporary disfigurement of a surgical procedure. Cosmetic surgery is not recommended for teens who are prone to mood swings or erratic behaviour, who are abusing drugs and/or alcohol, or who are being treated for clinical depression or other mental illness. Some of the commonest teenage cosmetic surgery procedures include:

1. Rhinoplasty (nose reshaping)

Rhinoplasty may be performed on the nose to straighten the bridge, remove an unsightly hump, reshape the tip or open breathing passages. Ordinarily this is not performed until the nose reaches its adult size – about age 15 or 16 in girls and a year later in boys. The procedure accounted for nearly 50 percent of all cosmetic surgical procedures performed on this age group.

2. Otoplasty (ear surgery)

Surgical correction of protruding ears, in which the ears are pinned back, may be performed any time after the age of five. Otoplasty made up 11 percent of all cosmetic surgical procedures performed on this age group.

3. Correction of Breast Asymmetry or Breast Augmentation

When one breast grows much larger size than the other, an operation may correct the difference by reducing the larger breast, augmenting the smaller, or both. Many teenagers who want breast augmentation have one breast that is larger than the other – sometimes a full cup size or more in difference. This condition is called breast asymmetry. Using a breast implant in the smaller breast allows the patient to have breasts of the same size. Although waiting may prolong the physical awkwardness, it is advisable to delay surgery until breast growth ceases in order to achieve the best result.

4. Breast Reduction

Surgical reduction of very large breasts can overcome both physical and psychological burdens for a teenage girl. In fact, many teenagers suffer ongoing back pain due to overly large breasts. Although waiting may prolong the psychological awkwardness, it is advisable to delay surgery until breast growth ceases in order to achieve the best result.

5. Acne and Acne Scar Treatment

Acne eruptions may be controlled by the proper use of modern prescription drugs. In addition to supervising the use of these medications, plastic surgeons may improve acne scars by smoothing or ”refinishing” the skin with a laser or with a fine sanding technique called microdermabrasion. Other treatments for acne related skin problems include laser skin resurfacing, dermabrasion, and chemical peels.

6. Male Breast Reduction (Gynaecomastia)

Teenage boys with large breasts, known as gynaecomastia, are often eager to undergo plastic surgery. Surgical correction can be accomplished in a variety of ways including liposuction and/or surgical excision of the breast tissue.

As a plastic surgeon, I am an advocate for the right teenage cosmetic surgery, at the right time and for the right reason. Things like correction of prominent ears, breast reduction in adolescent boys or breast reconstruction in young girls with an underdeveloped breast can truly advance the person’s quality of life. It is our responsibility as a plastic surgeons to guide teenagers (and their parents) in the right direction and to educate them that cosmetic surgery is not a panacea for the everyday pressures that teenagers face. Cosmetic surgery can make you more attractive but not necessarily more happy!

Question: What do you think is the commonest reason teenagers want cosmetic surgery? You can leave a comment below.

 

Tummy Tuck for Excess Skin & Muscle Separation. DrTim demonstrates a tummy tuck (aka abdominoplasty) for loose, excess skin on a background of significant muscle separation (rectus diastasis). The procedure involves 4 stages:

  1. Liposuction
  2. Mobilisation tissues
  3. Removal excess skin & fat
  4. Reconstruction of the umbilicus & closure of wound

The B & A photos at 3 months show a trim, taught and well contoured abdomen, as well as, a rejuvenated mons pubis region.

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Cosmetic Surgery Tip #31: Increase your protein intake

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Two of the most important healing elements are calories and protein.  Extra protein is needed to build new tissue and blood vessels, repair injured tissue and step up production of cells that repair the wound.  Choose high quality protein sources like fish, poultry, beans & legumes or lean cuts of meat.

Photo Credit: Saul Steinberg “Masquerade”