"The public needs to be aware of the risks associated with these procedures," said the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society President Dr. Glenn B. Pfeffer. "Women need to know what they are getting into."
He noted that the trend toward the practice of cosmetic surgery raises serious concern when one considers the risks of surgery on painless feet. "Complications can include infection, nerve injury, prolonged swelling of a toe, and even chronic pain with walking," Pfeffer said.
Not surprisingly, the sector of consumers that tends to be the most enthused at the prospect of better-looking feet are women who hope to adorn their feet with the latest in strappy, high-heeled fashions.
And the procedures involved run the gamut from filler injections to full-blown surgery to reshaping the foot. The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society noted that surgery to shorten the toes or narrow the feet are favorite options in this category. Some practitioners will also inject the fat pad of the feet with collagen or other substances -- again, solely to change the appearance of the feet.
Injectable fillers, simply put, are special gels that are injected into the skin to plump up lips, push out wrinkles and fine lines -- in short, "fill out" spaces in the face where a bit of extra volume is needed.
Most of the fillers that are on the market today are temporary -- that is, after a certain amount of time they are absorbed into the body and the results are lost. This group of fillers includes the natural filler collagen, as well as a number of newer gels such as hyaluronic acid.
But some fillers are designed to stick around in the body for longer periods of time. These fillers, appropriately termed permanent fillers, include liquid silicone and the product known as Aquamid.
Though tantalizing to some consumers who would prefer to pay for fillers once rather than shell out for repeat procedures, such fillers have also been known to lead to a number of complications, including irreversible binding with tissues and a tendency to "drift," which can lead to a distorted appearance.
Roth said that the problems become even more severe in the event of a botched job.
"I do not do permanent fillers," Roth said. "Even with temporary fillers, once it's injected, even though it's going to go away, you're stuck with unsatisfactory results until it goes away. Permanent fillers don't go away."
But despite widespread disapproval among cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists, many consumers still seek out permanent filler injections.
"Silicone is still being used by some practitioners," Roth said. "I have seen three people in the last year who had silicone injections administered by nonphysicians."
What if getting bigger breasts was as simple as getting a shot?
The idea is not a new one, and it stands to reason that pumping the breasts full of fat or fillers would offer an alternative to breast implant surgery -- all without the scars.
Traditionally, doctors performing such procedures have used the fat harvested from other areas of the body, such as the buttocks and thighs. By purifying this fat and reinjecting it into the breasts, they say, they can offer their patients a safe enhancement using the body's own spare materials.
But in reality, the procedure is not nearly as simple as it appears.