Where are they now? Even supermodels get old like the rest of us

There's a really interesting demonstration of facial aging you can see in a "Where are they now?" slideshow in former supermodels of the 1970's, 1980's and 1990's you can see here. Here's a representative sample of a few different "vintages" which I think show some of the signs of aging that creep onto all of us as we age. The lifestyle of many models in terms of diet, sun-exposure, smoking, drug use, and depression clearly play a role in some of the exaggerated changes you might see in some of these beautiful people.

Christy Turlington, (age 43) multiple Vogue cover model of the early 1990's.You see the early loss of midface volume of the cheek and hollowed areas around the lower eyelid.

Janice Dickinson, (age 56) one of the 1st supermodels of the late 1970's early 1980's. You see a striking loss of volume of the face with sun-damage related changes to the skin. She's also had a number of well-publicized issues with substance abuse and depression which are known factors in early facial aging. Animation lines and fine wrinkles around the eyelid and mouth become more prominent.

Twiggy (age 62) the waif-like icon of mid 1960's swinging London fashion scene. Twiggy demonstrates the fact that it's hard to grow old when you're frozen in time in pop culture as the "It" girl of 1966. Her interval photos demonstrate all the changes you see from volume loss, sun damage with discoloration, and a gradual change of the heart-shaped "Ogee" curve of the youthful face and cheek to a flattened and round shape.

The women in the story are still striking, but do show some exaggerated changes of the aging face that we see in consultation in the office frequently. The single biggest things you can do to slow down facial aging are common sense steps like to avoid sun, not smoke, and maintain a steady weight and diet.

BREAKING NEWS: A fairly significant announcement by the USFDA was in the paper today re. silicone gel breast implants (see NYT summary here). Based on testimony and evidence presented, the FDA has finally agreed that the suggestion that patients need routine MRI screening of their implants is no longer one they support. This is bringing the United States into line with the rest of the world on being more pragmatic on the issue and reserving workup for symptomatic patients only.  Recent papers in the surgery literature have been reporting that MRI has been associated with overestimation of rupture rates, particularly when applied to asymptomatic patients. The panel also concluded that no new evidence has been presented to change prior determinations that silicone implants are not causally linked to any known systemic illness.


The use of social media services like Facebook and Twitter to promote your medical practice on the web has become common in recent years. For today's potential patients, if you don't have a web footprint then you might as well be invisible. A new wrinkle on this has been causing some concern that it might be both illegal and unethical when applied to medical services like laser hair removal, BOTOX injections, and other goods and services.

Services like Groupon offer heavily discounted goods and services to people who buy the "deal of the day" through Groupon. They then collect the money and keep a large percentage of the fee, passing the rest to the merchant. Groupon’s first daily deal in October 2008 was famously a half-price deal for a pizza restaurant located in its office building in Chicago. From that event, the service has exploded. This is now a big business, with such "deal of the day" businesses projected to exceed $6 billion in sales by 2015.

Is this good for anyone other then the principals of Groupon and the like? I don't think so. Like many of the so called "innovators" of silicone valley and the web (ie. Facebook), most ideas you see bubbling up merely seek to skim money off the top of transactions rather then creating a product of any kind of value. It's a giant long con that would seem to be creating another internet bubble for shareholders and investors in these companies.

Expect to see more signs like this from small businesses:

A blog post I found from earlier this year (see here) crystalizes the problem for Groupon noting,
"many businesses will still make the mistake of overestimating the value of the customers they are likely to get from them. The proportion of customers procured from Groupon who are likely to make a return visit/repeat purchase may be dramatically lower than average meaning that, especially when you also factor in the significant cut of the revenue that the retailers have to pay to Groupon, they could actually make a significant loss on the deal. It’s the same logic which has led many online retailers to shun voucher code sites which they see as catering only to bargain hunters as opposed to potentially loyal customers."

You're hearing more and more horror stories from merchants who are not realizing how insane participating with such budiness models is, particularly at the levels of revenue Groupon is skimming from them. In aesthetic medicine, we see more and more of such deals from Botox and laser treatments for hair removal, skin tightening, and body contouring. I see these offers and am boggled at what these clinics and spas are thinking. You cannot stay in business offering services for less then cost, and it is clear that patients who shop through Groupon will always be price shoppers rather then repeat clients. I recently saw a dermatologist lose almost $5000 on a special they did on one of these services not realizing how much they were actually promising to deliver after their cost of the Botox (which is almost $600/bottle).

A new wrinkle (no pun intended) has been the examination of such a relationship in the context of restrictions of what's known as "fee splitting". These types oflaws prohibit the offer, solicitation, payment or receipt of anything of value, direct or indirect, overt or covert, in cash or in kind, intended to induce referral of patient for items or services reimbursed. The language of such laws vary by state, but the spirit of most of them would seem to be at odds with the Groupon model. A number of experts are concluding that such programs, by virtue of their "per unit" fee model, violates such federal rules and many states medical board rules (see here and here) and are advising providers to tread carefully.

So, in summary we have an illogical business model that may or may not be legal for medical goods and services. What's not to like?


Plastic Surgery Playlists: What Doctors Are Rocking Out To In The OR

In a recent article on iEnhance.com, doctors were asked what songs were on their plastic surgery playlists. Below are the outtakes from the article which feature a full list of songs and artists that some of the doctors surveyed shared.

Dr. Raffi Hovsepian

  1. Frank Sinatra - I've Got You Under My Skin
  2. Frank Sinatra - My Way
  3. Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto - Garota de Ipanema
  4. The Rolling Stones - You Can't Always Get What You Want
  5. The Rolling Stones - Gimme Shelter
Maurice P. Sherman, MD

  1. Neil Diamond - Song Sung Blue, Coming to America, I Am She Said, Love on the Rocks
  2. John Denver - Rocky Mountain High, This Old House, Leaving on a Jet Plane
  3. Kenny Rogers - Lucille, The Gambler, Coward of the County
  4. Willie Nelson - Georgia on My Mind, Don't Let your Sons Grow up to be Cowboys, Angels Flying Too Close to the Ground
  5. Johnny Cash - Ring of Fire, A Boy Named Sue, Sunday Sidewalk, Folsom Prison Blues
  6. Frank Sinatra - Summer Wind, The Way You Look Tonight, I'll Be Seeing You
Paul Vanek MD, FACS

  1. Rick Braum - Body and Soul
  2. ZZ Top
  3. Sting
  4. Chicago
  5. Beethoven
Larry H. Pollack MD, FACS

  1. Steely Dan - Gaucho
  2. Joe Bonamassa - Further On Up The Road
  3. Seal - Crazy
  4. Van Morrison - Brown-Eyed Girl
  5. Keb Mo - Whole Nutha Thang
Michelle Bonness, MD

  1. Eva Cassidy - Over The Rainbow, Fields of Gold
  2. Andre Bocelli & Laura Pausini - Dare To Live
  3. Rush - Trees
  4. The Stanley Brothers - Angel Band
  5. Frankie Valli - My Eyes Adore You

I was checking Sports Illustrated's web page to get the updates from Wimbledon and they showed a smiling picture of German, Sabine Lisicki, who'd just won her quarterfinal match.

MS. Lisicki demonstrates a phenomena known as a "gummy smile" which is produced most often by an overly tight band of tissue under the upper lip called the frenulum.

Release and lengthening of this band is commonly performed during rhinoplasty procedure (at least in my hands) and produces an instance and sometimes dramatic correction of the smile with much less show of the gums and upper teeth. This surgery takes about 1 minute to do and can be performed under local anesthesia BTW.


SAFE: FDA re-confirms safety of silicone gel breast implants

In a not unexpected conclusion, yesterday the United States Food & Drug Administration re-affirmed their 2006 decision to reintroduce silicone gel breast implants into the United States market for cosmetic indications. In statements from the FDA, they explained that no new information has arisen to question the safety or efficacy of the devices for intended use. As has been discussed on Plastic Surgery 101 a number of times, this is not really news and has been accepted world-wide for a number of years now. Hopefully this statement from FDA heralds the availability of the new form stable "gummy bear" silicone implants here in the United States which have been available everywhere else for almost 15+ years.
Breast augmentation remains the most popular cosmetic surgery in the U.S., with nearly 300,000 women undergoing it last year. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), more than 70,000 others received implants for breast reconstruction.

The most disappointing finding was that only ~60% percent of women enrolled in a 1,000-patient study of one manufacturers implants are still accounted for after eight years. A larger study of 40,000 women conducted has lost nearly 80 percent of its patients after just three years. Diana Zuckerman of the National Research Center for Women and Families, one of the most prominent (and persistent) anti-implant activists, cried foul and suggested that most medical journals would not publish the studies cited by the FDA because of the missing data. I'd agree with her, but for different reasons. She's implying safety issues exist (which they don't by and large), while I'm more interested in outcome data to understand how to reduce re-operations.

Why the relatively poor follow up in the FDA trials?

Dr. Phillip Haeck, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS)sums it up saying that, "When women are happy with their implants they tend to feel that a regular follow-up is pointless - it becomes a nuisance and an unnecessary expense". I'd agree 100% with that.

It also begs the question of what exactly are we trying to demonstrate with the FDA follow up studies. There is overwhelming world-wide information that suggests safety at this point. It would be nice to have a little more data on longevity so as to better counsel patients on when to consider routine exchange with prior devices, but as we're on the cusp of a major design change in the polymers that make the implant almost impossible to rupture (the "gummy bear" form stable devices) we're going to quickly lose interest in exhaustively studying older devices. This kind of technology advance has always created problems about making conclusions with medical devices, as you end up comparing apples to implants :) (bad pun alert).


In office breast cancer surgery, just a matter of time?

This is kind of a post I've been sitting on for about 7-8 months that I though would be kind of interesting. Last Fall there was an article in a New York business magazine about a small trend in some breast cancer surgeries being performed in plastic surgeon's offices in Manhattan. The article, "Mastectomies check out of the hospital" describes this phenomena and I found this quote interesting,

"Dr. Evan Garfein of Montefiore Medical Center was the driving force behind the new state law requiring that patients be informed of their surgical options. The breast surgeon says his effort was meant to correct a disparity: Poor minority women are less likely to get reconstructions because they often aren't told that federal law requires their insurers to cover the procedure.

But Dr. Garfein says he never thought the law's passage might drive a boom in office-based breast cancer surgery.“With the right doctor and the right patient, reconstruction can be safely done in an office,” he says. But not a mastectomy. “To me, that's the type of operation that should happen in a hospital.”

Dr. Garfein questions the motivation of plastic surgeons offering such procedures. The specialty has been hit hard by a drop in business during the recession. “When you look at the economics, you know that if a plastic surgeon owns his own operating room, it's [financially] better for him to do the surgery there,” Dr. Garfein says. “You have to ask, 'Why is this being done?' If there's a trend like this, it should be because patients are demanding it. Plastic surgeons shouldn't be driving a trend to get patients out of hospitals.” "

As someone with an interest in office based surgery, I found Dr. Garfein's comments kind of puzzling. Our office is equipped with a large hospital-grade operating room and is accredited for surgery by one of the same groups that reviews hospital and free-standing ambulatory surgery centers (ASC). We routinely do operations significantly longer and more difficult then breast cancer surgery (which is neither particularly long or difficult in most instances) at 1/2 the cost of the hospital with an infection rate close to 0% (our's is actually zero for over the 2 1/2 years we've been up and running). While there's a selection bias in outpatient surgery candidates towards younger, healthier patients there are many,many breast cancer procedures (both tumor removal and reconstruction procedures) we could absolutely do safely if we choose to.

The big hold up here in Alabama is the dysfunctional Certificate of Need (CON) process and the reluctance of insurance carriers to upset the hospitals (who would lose some cases).  State's with CON's are essentially franchise cartels that try and protect their exclusivity of where surgery can be performed. Predictably, CON  states become a political quagmire of competing hospital systems suing each other to prevent the other from outmaneuvering their business model. In Birmingham we currently have 4 hospital systems in court trying to prevent the state CON board from either allowing a hospital to move from one area to another in town (see here) or building new hospitals in attractive demographic areas where none exists nearby. As a direct result of the CON fights here, we actually have a former Democratic golden boy and governor, Don Sielgelman,  sitting in federal prison for taking bribes to appoint a requested person to the CON board (that's a post for another day).

In an era where we're pinching pennies to come up with cheaper ways to deliver care, it's mind boggling to dismiss a simple (and safe) way to do many procedures. I take issue with Dr. Garfein's suggestion that it's a financial incentive on the surgeon's part as if you actually expense running an office OR like an accountant would, it's likely a break even proposition (at best) with better paying insurance companies and likely in the red for Medicare and other low-paying insurers. While it's certainly helpful to 1) my efficiency and 2) the patient's experience (as they much prefer the office to the hospital), the main beneficiary in all that is the system which is likely to see equal or better outcomes at reduced cost. What's not to like?