More than Just Nose Jobs: The Public Perception of Plastic Surgery

DECEMBER 28, 2015
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP
Many American associate plastic surgery with the procedures they see on reality television, and this perception may limit plastic surgeons’ scope of practice. A team of plastic surgeons from New York City, NY, has published results of a survey they conducted to assess the general public’s lack of knowledge about their skills and abilities in area other than cosmetic surgery. Published in the Journal of Craniofacial Surgery, this survey indicates that plastic surgeons have a public relations problem.
 
The authors used a short, anonymous, survey and distributed it throughout all of New York City’s major boroughs. They recruited English-speaking participants at coffee shops, parks, shopping centers, busy street corners, and subway stations. The survey listed 12 specific clinical problems, all of which can be corrected with the skill and expertise of a plastic surgeon, and asked the participant to select the medical specialist they believed should address the problem.
 
This was a large survey, with 1000 surveys collected. Participants were well distributed by sex and age.  The survey described procedures in patient-friendly language (ie, rhytidectomy was called “surgery for paralysis of the face”).
 
Participants identified plastic surgeons as the preferred surgeon most often for breast augmentation (96%), breast reconstruction (87%), rhytidectomy (85%), blepharoplasty (71%), rhinoplasty (61%).
 
Fewer than have of participants identified plastic surgeons as the preferred surgeon for Botox (47%), cleft lip and palate surgery (46%), open facial wound (40%), thumb replantation (32%), hand/finger fracture (18%), open leg wound (15%), and mandible fracture (12%).
 
Participants selected plastic surgeons as the preferred experts in only 8 of these 12 domains (67%).—rhinoplasty, blepharoplasty, rhytidectomy, Botox injections, breast augmentation, breast reconstruction, cleft lip and palate surgery, and treatment of open wound of the face.
 
Clearly, members of the general public are unaware of the plastic surgeon’s many and most technical skills. They seem to presume that plastic surgery is a soft-tissue skill, and tended to select orthopedic surgeons as preferred experts for medical problems, including bone fracture. The authors indicate that plastic surgeons need to educate the public better so they can expand their practices.
 
 

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