Your Cosmetic Doctor: Board-Certified or Not?

Sue Chung Health Guide
  • A recent headline claimed that Priscilla Presley, widow of the King, had suffered a botched noninvasive cosmetic procedure in 2003. Daniel Serrano, an unlicensed Argentinean doctor, had previously treated Larry King's ex-wife, Shawn, as well as Lionel Richie's ex-wife, Diana. Serrano claimed his injections were superior to Botox and Presley allowed him to treat her.


    Unfortunately, the injections that were supposedly better than Botox turned out to be industrial-grade silicone, which can cause severe inflammation and infection as well as permanent deformity. Some of Serrano's clients were left with facial paralysis. Since then, Serrano has been convicted of drug smuggling and may be deported.

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    While this kind of intentional-and criminal-misrepresentation is not the norm, the growing popularity of noninvasive cosmetic procedures (which include injections, peels, and lasers) are behind another, more alarming trend: Doctors who work in other specialties are beginning to moonlight in cosmetic procedures.


    According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the number of noninvasive cosmetic procedures performed each year has grown to over nine million, making it a lucrative field for cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists. In addition, since most of these procedures are considered elective and are not covered by insurance companies, doctors receive payments directly (and more quickly) from patients.


    As a result of these financial benefits, doctors who specialize in fields such as obstetrics and podiatry now choose to offer non-invasive cosmetic procedures as well. While these doctors may have board certification in their specialties, they often have only a handful of hours of training in cosmetic procedures. They often do not recognize small errors and do not know how to handle commonplace complications.


    In addition, those who are not board-certified in dermatology or plastic surgery do not have the training to ensure that their patients' faces are left smooth. They may know how to inject a filler or apply a peel, but the end result will not be a sure thing.


    Although non-invasive procedures do not require the use of scalpels, there is still plenty of room for error. Medical complications can ensue even with proper credentials, but a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon has had rigorous training working alongside specialists and knows how to recognize and deal with last-minute complications.


    The bottom line: Don't gamble with your health. You may think it's a matter of convenience to get the same doctor to look at your bunion and smooth your forehead, but the trade-off isn't worth it. Last year, the Physicians Coalition for Injectable Safety announced that 38 percent of its plastic surgeons have dealt with complications that resulted from poorly administered cosmetic fillers.


    No matter how simple a cosmetic procedure may seem, always do your research. It's easy to check whether or not a doctor is qualified to perform a Botox injection, chemical peel, or a laser procedure. Ask how many procedures they've performed (it should be at least in the hundreds) and how long they've been performing the procedure (preferably longer than a year). In addition, you can ask them where they learned to perform the procedures as well as how long it took them to complete training.


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    Last-but not least-check to make sure that the practitioner is board-certified in cosmetic procedures. The American Board of Medical Specialties is a good resource that will help ensure that you get the best care possible.




Published On: March 31, 2008