There’s a lot of confusion about the safety and issues surrounding cosmetic plastic surgery and medical beauty procedures in Hong Kong. To follow up on our article on cosmetic plastic surgery and medical beauty procedures, we asked the Chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery at Queen Mary Hospital, Dr. Jimmy Yu-Wai Chan 陳汝威醫生 to talk to us about some of the issues in this sector in Hong Kong at the moment and how to best choose your doctor.
What should consumers look for when seeking a surgeon for cosmetic plastic surgery in Hong Kong?
Finding a plastic surgeon can be confusing. People come to plastic surgeons through referrals from friends, advertisements, or just walking past a facility. Clinics should have every plastic surgeon’s qualifications clearly visible and it is worth cross-checking that they are on the specialist registry. Plastic surgery is a big decision so it’s important to make sure you go with the right surgeon.
Why do we hear stories in the news all the time about ‘plastic surgery gone wrong’ in Hong Kong?
A lot of the problems we see in the media are surgeries completed by people who are not plastic surgeons but perhaps another type of physician. Plastic surgeons first complete their general training, then general surgery training and, finally, they sub-specialize in plastic surgery training and go through a mentorship with a senior plastic surgeon.
Sometimes clinics or beauty salons will hire a doctor who has completed their general physician training but has not specialized further to be a surgeon or plastic surgeon. There are quite a few ‘diplomas’ available online at the moment – given to individuals who have their MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery – the first step in doctor training but not trained in plastic surgery) and who are ‘trained’ in cosmetic surgery via. online videos. But you know, cosmetic surgery is complex. A lot can go wrong if you are not well-trained, especially without proper hands-on experience. Plastic surgeons who are recognized by the medical council have undergone extensive training and mentorship to get to where they are.
A lot of the consumer complaints I see are also related to patient satisfaction. A wound may have healed properly and it may have been a medically-sound operation but what if it’s asymmetrical? If you pay for cosmetic surgery and your breasts are vastly different sizes or your eyelids don’t look the same after a blepharoplasty (double eyelid surgery), will you be happy? I don’t think so. These skills also come with proper training, mentorship and experience.
What are the most pervasive consumer myths regarding plastic surgery in Hong Kong at the moment?
Some people don’t realize that plastic surgery is a serious and complex surgery. Take liposuction, for example: liposuction requires general anesthetic so you need someone properly trained in anesthesia; and some people who undergo liposuction are overweight and have heart problems. There are risks and some of them are major so it’s important to seek services in a clinic from someone who is properly trained. If sedation is required, an anesthetist should be present. A multi-disciplinary approach is beneficial to patient safety when sedation is part of the procedure. Plastic surgery should not occur in a beauty salon.
Is there anything else that consumers should be aware of when seeking a plastic surgeon in Hong Kong?
We really want more government regulation. One of the big problems in Hong Kong is that once you have the MBBS degree (i.e. general medical practitioner degree), you can do what you want. You can offer services you may not be fully trained in. This is a specific problem in the cosmetic surgery industry as obviously there’s a lot of money involved, especially compared to working for the Hospital Authority.
What should people look for when choosing a medical beauty procedure provider in Hong Kong?
Look for a dermatologist or plastic surgeon in Hong Kong to undertake your medical beauty procedures. They are trained to a high level to provide these services (please consult The Medical Council of Hong Kong’s specialist registry list of registered dermatologists).
If you get services at a beauty salon, you may be advised by a doctor but a nurse or someone else may actually do the procedure. At a clinic, you are much more likely to have a doctor – dermatologist or plastic surgeon in Hong Kong – conduct your treatment. If you have any questions or queries about anything, they should be clarified with the consulting physician before the procedure.
Providers are trained in each treatment. They understand the principles of each treatment so when a new technology comes out, and they may be slightly different, the company selling the machine will train them to use the new machine. The company has a vested interest in making sure their machine is used correctly. We also have continued medical education requirements so doctors will get together and share their knowledge all the time.
How to ensure a safe medical beauty procedure in Hong Kong?
Even simple procedures like lasers, botox and injectables can be dangerous. The substances we inject for fillers, especially near the nose, can cause blockages in blood vessels and people can lose the tip of their nose. Obviously, this is a major patient satisfaction concern. If the early symptoms are addressed, it’s avoidable so clients need to be aware of potential complications and their early symptoms. A good medical beauty provider in Hong Kong should make you aware of any side effects or complications.
All surgeries carry a risk. Examples of plastic surgery complications are scarring, organ damage, nerve damage, infection, seroma, hematoma and blockage of blood vessels.
Reviewed by Dr. Jimmy Yu-Wai Chan 陳汝威醫生 on 16 May 2018.
Dr. Jimmy Yu-Wai Chan is a Clinical Associate Professor and academic head and neck surgeon at The University of Hong Kong, and an Honorary Consultant and Chief of the Division of Head and Neck Surgery and the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at QMH. He graduated from HKU in 1998 and pursued post-graduate training in Head and Neck Surgery at Queen Mary Hospital (QMH). He sub-specialised in head and neck oncology surgery and obtained a Master of Surgery in 2008 and Doctor of Philosophy in 2015. Dr. Chan pioneered several sub-specialties of plastic surgery in Hong Kong: namely burn surgery, pediatric plastic surgery and microsurgery. Dr. Chan has lengthy experience and expertise in the fields of aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgeries.
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This article was independently written by Healthy Matters and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.