The majority of cosmetic surgeons will probably readily agree that the use of plastic surgery to enhance your appearance or body shape is definitely on the rise. There were more than 50,000 cosmetic surgery procedures carried out in the UK in 2013 alone and every single different procedure available from breast augmentation to liposuction, saw a rise in the number of patients having work done.
Not the whole picture
The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (Baaps) represents about one in three of all the cosmetic surgeons who are carrying out procedures in the UK, meaning that there are likely to be many more people beyond the 50,000 recorded, who have had work done by a surgeon.
This explosion in the popularity of cosmetic surgery means that it is an industry that is probably generating somewhere in the region of £3.5 billion annually, and that doesn’t take into account the so-called lunchtime cosmetic procedures such as Botox injections.
There are many potential risks associated with any surgical procedure and cosmetic surgery is definitely not immune to its problems, some of which can have serious or dire consequences for the patient. The growth in this market has also seen the number of medical negligence claims increase and companies like Axiclaim are often asked to deal with compensation cases that may have arisen out of a cosmetic surgery procedure that has gone wrong.
Why the rise in popularity?
Social networks have a huge influence on a lot of people’s lives and whilst it would be unfair to lay the blame squarely at constant online exposure leading people to become obsessed about how they look to other people, it could be a contributory factor.
Selfies have become a phenomenon but there has to be a concern that an obsession with selfies combined with a huge rise in the number of mobile phone pictures in general, being uploaded onto social networking sites, is creating an unrealistic level of expectation in some people as to how they think they should look.
Surgeons in the US recently reported a rise in the number of requests they had for surgical procedures due to the patient telling them that the reason they wanted the work done because they were becoming more self-aware of their looks due to social media. Whatever the specific reason each person has for getting cosmetic surgery, there is no doubting that it is more popular and widespread than ever before.
Weeding out the cowboys
Any industry that is capable of generating such large sums of money will almost inevitably create a bandwagon, which in turn will mean that some cowboy operators might try to muscle in on the action, without having the required qualifications and skills. The use of breast implants is a good example of how there is work underway within the industry to clean up any rogue operators and try and provide a better level of protection for those that go under the knife.
Government ministers recently announced that there was to be a register set up for the purpose of recording every breast implant operation carried out in England. This is a response to the global scare that resulted from the discovery that the French company Poly Implant Prothese sold surgeons some faulty implants that contained sub-standard silicone gel.
This meant that the implants had double the rupture rate of other implants and represented a potentially serious health risk to patients who had received them during their surgery.
The surgeons carrying out the procedures using the faulty implants, may not have been aware of the fact at the time, but it does highlight the fact that better regulation of the materials and the surgeons carrying out the work is definitely needed.
Sun and silicone
The high cost of some of the cosmetic work being carried out such as breast implants and augmentation, has led to a number of patients being tempted to travel abroad to get the work done. A report from Leeds University highlighted the inherent dangers of taking a week in the sun and travelling abroad to get cosmetic surgery at a cheaper price than in the UK. There is the real possibility of increased frequency of complications and poorer aftercare, when you travel abroad and put yourself in the hands of a surgeon who may not be as strictly regulated or qualified to do the surgery.
There is also a much lower possibility of being able to seek legal redress from a company abroad if the surgery goes wrong. The survey also found that nearly 9% of patients who had cosmetic surgery abroad, required further treatment when they returned home.
Think carefully and ask plenty of questions before even considering plastic surgery, especially when you consider the risks involved and the potential consequences if something goes wrong.
Ian Craig is a trainee solicitor at Axiclaim who has experience working with clinical negligence cases. He completed the LLB Law degree at the University of Liverpool in 2008 and the Legal Practice Course at BPP Law School in Leeds in 2009.