Plastic surgery 'not about boob jobs and face lifts', specialists say

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The public's obsession with cosmetic surgery is leading to inappropriate referral of patients and encouraging poorly qualified surgeons to take it up, specialists said yesterday.

The public's obsession with cosmetic surgery is leading to inappropriate referral of patients and encouraging poorly qualified surgeons to take it up, specialists said yesterday.

The British Association of Plastic Surgeons (BAPS) moved to put cosmetic surgery in its place yesterday, stung by the growing perception that it is an extension of their own work. It said the media's interest with the practice, in programmes such as the American television show Nip/Tuck, was feeding a public obsession with the body beautiful.

Six specialists at a seminar in London united to say that the speciality is not all about "boob jobs and face lifts", but involves major reconstructive operations on cancer patients, trauma and burns victims.

Plastic surgeons carried out 232,000 operations in 2001/2, the latest year for which figures are available, of which 65,000 were emergencies. Skin grafts, breast reconstruction after cancer, cleft palate, and hand injuries were among the procedures. Some of the operations involved repairs when cosmetic procedures carried out by commercial clinics went wrong.

Such was the clamour for cosmetic surgery and treatments including Botox, breast implants and nose jobs that some patients were being given poor advice, the specialists said.

Showing a slide of the American singer Michael Jackson, Chris Khoo, president of BAPS and a consultant plastic surgeon at Wexham Park hospital, said: " This is not just about people who are rich, famous and spend a lot of money on their appearance. It is not just surface surgery. We have a concern with the whole person.

"We have a responsibility sometimes to say 'no'. There is an impression that has grown that there is a quick fix for everything. Patients want to be comfortable with their surgeon and they need continuity of care. They need a surgeon dedicated to their care who will deal with any complications."

Mr Khoo said the speciality was about "restoring, repairing and making good that which nature has given and fortune has taken away."

Plastic surgery had nothing do with plastic but the term was derived from the Greek meaning to mould or to form, and it involved taking tissue from one part of the body and using it to rebuild another part. "It is not just to delight the eye but to assuage distress," Mr Khoo said.

He showed a slide of a young man, the son of a farmer, whose face and jaw had been rebuilt after he had put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger following an unhappy love affair.

Martin Kelly, consultant plastic surgeon at Chelsea and Westminster hospital, London, said: "Interest in cosmetic surgery is now so high that it tends to draw out of the woodwork people who shouldn't be cosmetic surgeons. There are also ethical issues about whether people should be changing the shape of their body just because they have seen it on TV."

He added: "We are primarily doctors and not just along the spectrum from hairdresser. We are here to heal and help people."

Loshan Kangesu, a consultant plastic surgeon at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex, said: "The public frenzy has led to some misconceptions, inappropriate referrals of patients who don't have an understanding of what's involved and longer consultation times as we have to explain to people that it is not so easy."

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