Are TV Shows Helping Encourage Multiple Cosmetic Procedures?

Have extreme makeovers — combo face-lifts, tummy tucks, liposuction and more — left Hollywood and gone Main Street?

Apparently thanks to numerous prime-time television shows devoted to the world of personal cosmetic upgrades, plastic surgeons from across the country are reporting an increase in the number of requests for multiple operations, the type seen on popular programs like ABC’s Extreme Makeover.

“I have seen an increase in the number of patients requesting multiple procedures over the last year,” says Dr. Michael Olding, chief of plastic surgery at George Washington University Medical Center. Several other surgeons contacted by confirm the trend.

Not only are patients requesting more operations, they are increasingly particular about the exact procedures they want performed.

“Patients used to come to the office with a specific complaint, for example, ‘I look tired,’” says Olding. “Now they request particular procedures, for example, ‘I need a blepharoplasty [eyelid surgery], face-lift, and chin implant, and I was thinking about thigh liposuction.’”

Risky Business?

But even as more patients request more than one cosmetic procedure at a time, doctors are wary of the risks of performing several simultaneous surgeries.

“Many of my patients will ask for multiple procedures to be done at the same time. The key determinant about whether that should be done or not is safety,” says Dr. John Anastasatos, professor of plastic surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“As these are outpatient procedures and often done under general anesthesia, I don’t like to exceed six hours of operating time,” explains Anastasatos. “The risk of postoperative complications increases if one does so.”

That’s because general anesthesia has a strong effect on the cardiovascular system.

Among the dangers involved in multiple surgeries and long periods of general anesthesia are pulmonary thrombosis, which occurs when a blot clot forms in the artery carrying blood to the lungs.

“Furthermore, the longer the anesthesia time, the longer the recovery time is,” Anastasatos adds. “Surgery and anesthesia both represent trauma to the body and its immune defenses.”

But not all multiple procedures are problematic, and there are good reasons for performing some operations at the same time.

“If a surgeon can perform multiple operations on a patient at the same time there is some merit to that” acknowledges Anastasatos. “The patient will have to undergo general anesthesia once and recuperate from all at the same time.”

Before and After Pictures

One reason for the increase in patient requests for specific, multiple procedures appears to be the TV programs’ ubiquitous “after” pictures of smiling patients. Yet plastic surgeons view such images with skepticism.

“The media, including TV and magazines, often allow for misleading representations of what is efficacious and safe when it comes to plastic surgery,” says Anastasatos. “Often there is misinformation.”

Viewers’ expectations run high when they see the quick results shown on television. “On Extreme Makeover, it is striking how limited the swelling and bruising is depicted,” says Dr. Peter Rubin, eye plastic surgeon and professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Mass.

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