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Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Why are breast enlargements soaring despite PIP scandal?

This was one of the headlines in the Daily Telegraph today. This, of course, follows the news from BAAPS that breast augmentation (along with every other cosmetic surgical procedure) has seen a significant increase over the last year. And why not? It's a simple, predictable and effective procedure that is versatile enough that almost anyone can find a shape and size that is to their liking (within reason - although there are surgeons out there who, in my opinion, are unethically acting outside of the patient's best interest by putting in breast implants that are patently too big for the patient's frame...)

There is one good thing that has come out of the PIP scandal (although I concede that it is a pretty thin veneer of silver lining on a rather large and ominous black cloud) and that is the undeniable fact that patients are more aware. With awareness comes caution and with caution comes safety. Patient safety to be precise. If you haven't already, please read my previous blogs on 'What do the Letters after a Surgeon's Name Mean''The DOs and DON'Ts of choosing where and by whom to have plastic surgery'  - both of these are pertinent to this topic as they discuss ways and means of vetting your surgeon and hospital for markers of quality.

Breast augmentation took a dip (understandably) in the 2011/2012 period while the PIP scandal was ongoing. To use business parlance, this was an example of a decrease in consumer confidence. It's hardly surprising - the PIP scandal was fraud of epic proportions. However, just like we are now seeing the back of the Global Economic Crisis (GEC), we are now seeing the back of this hideous scandal. Unfortunately, however, the comparison does not end there. There are bankers (try saying "bankers" while pulling the corners of your mouth apart with your fingers. Much better.) in the shadow of the GEC who are behaving in exactly the same gung-ho and arrogant fashion as they were before the excrement hit the turbine. Sadly, there are still surgeons and companies (can anyone say "cosmetic chain"?) who have not learned lessons from history and so are destined to repeat it.

It is not good enough to say "oops, no one told us that these implants were rubbish and dangerous. Sure, we knew that they were unbelievably cheap and that their cost was too good to be true and that they both looked and felt of inferior quality but, hey, our bottom line was fantastic for a while and, anyway, that's behind us now and, look, we're using top quality implants now so come back to us, come back, come back..."

Poor quality implants are just a link in the chain of cause and effect. Until companies use the best quality and practice in everything that they do, patient safety will always be a concern. For example, at present there is not a single surgeon on the books of the UK's largest cosmetic chain that is a member of either BAPRAS or BAAPS - the UK professional bodies for plastic surgeons. There is not single surgeon on those same books that holds the FRCS(plast) examination - the UK exit examination in plastic surgery, widely held to be the most rigorous plastic surgery specialty examination in Europe. How can it be good practice  to meet your surgeon on the day of surgery and not before? How can it be ethical practice to have the surgery explained to you by a cosmetic sales advisor who cannot possibly answer all your questions to an appropriate standard as they cannot perform the surgery?

Until all of these quality issues are adequately addressed, I'm afraid that the next scandal is just around the corner...

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