THE BLOG
08/07/2012 06:20 pm ET | Updated Oct 11, 2012

Plastic Surgery Is Like Most Things in Life -- Let Moderation Be Your Guide

Though he wasn't referring to plastic surgery, if patients listened to the great Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero who more than 2,000 years ago said, "Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide," they would likely be happier and healthier.

When it comes to plastic surgery, the question "how much is too much?" is seen as a news headline today more frequently than perhaps any time in recent memory. In addition, there are more websites catering to those who are intrigued, or morbidly curious, about plastic surgery gone wrong than there are plastic surgery procedures themselves. Google "bad plastic surgery" and see for yourself.

For the more frequent plastic surgery patients, who are often in the OR to correct wrongs from previous plastic surgeries, societal pressures are often to blame for their apparent inability to exercise good judgment and moderation when it comes to cosmetic procedures. I refer to these patient-types as victims of the "pointed shoes theory." People wear them and suffer through the discomfort because society tells them they make us look good.

For example, while conservative lip augmentation can put the face in better balance and can make the mouth more appealing, those patients seeking the "trout pout" look that is so hot this year may regret that augmentation next year. Or, while breast implants that are appropriate for someone's stature and body habit can provide more wardrobe choices, overly large implants may be in vogue this year, but when the patient ages and their tissues begin to thin, patients may come to regret such significant implants.

As a plastic surgeon, I encourage my "regular" patients to consider the benefits and risks of any cosmetic procedure before committing. For example, we now have a better understanding of the fact that extreme plastic surgery can have a marked negative influence on the patient's psychological health and overall well being. This, and other considerations, should be examined by doctor and patient alike prior to any surgery. Prior to any procedure, patients must fully educate themselves.

According to statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), 13.8 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures (both surgical and minimally-invasive) were performed in the United States in 2011. An additional 5.5 million reconstructive plastic surgery procedures were also performed.

The vast majority of these procedures included breast augmentation, nose reshaping, facelifts, soft tissue fillers and chemical peels and other common cosmetic surgical and cosmetic minimally-invasive procedures. However, we are also seeing an increase in the number of extreme plastic surgeries.

Take for example cosmetic leg lengthening procedures, which are a cosmetic orthopaedic procedure and a far cry from the more common plastic surgery procedures. Developed by Ilizarov in 1951, this procedure has been performed successfully for about 50 years in Russia and was first performed in the U.S. in 1988. These techniques can be used to replace missing bone and lengthen and/ or straighten deformed bone segments. The procedure may be performed on both children and adults who have limb length discrepancies due to birth defects, diseases or injuries, and, for example, is appropriate for war veterans whose leg fractures have not healed or little people. However, we are seeing this complex, painful and costly procedure increase in popularity largely due to the premium society places on height.

Unfortunately, some people will never heed Cicero's warning when it comes to plastic surgery. For everyone else, always ask if the benefits outweigh the risk, and above all else, educate yourself.