There’s a lot of confusion about the safety and issues surrounding cosmetic plastic surgeries 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 be looking for when seeking a surgeon for cosmetic plastic surgery?
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’?
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 subspecialize 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 seem to be the most pervasive consumer myths regarding plastic surgery 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 you think consumers should be aware of when seeking a plastic surgeon?
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.
MEDICAL BEAUTY PROCEDURES
What you should be looking when choosing a medical beauty procedure provider?
Look for a dermatologist or plastic surgeon 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 for a 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 – 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.
The safety of medical beauty procedures 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 should make you aware of any side effects or complications.