There is no doubt plastic surgery is popular, and with growing popularity, researchers have delved into the psychology, risks, and technological advances of these procedures. Researchers have been looking into many common procedures such as rhinoplasty, breast augmentation, and botox injections to take a look at the effects they have on people both physically and mentally. While rare, plastic surgery can also come with risks to a patient’s physical well-being. The procedure is not the only threat. Materials used can also carry risks and harm the body. The effect of plastic surgery on patients’ mental health varies. While some people feel better about themselves overall, some feel worse.
While rare, plastic surgery comes with risks that can be damaging to one’s body. According to Mayo Clinic, people with a history of cardiovascular disease, lung disease, diabetes, or obesity are at higher risk for pneumonia, stroke, heart attack, or blood clots in the legs or lungs. Smoking increases these risks and interrupts the healing process. Infections, scarring, and numbing are just a few of the other risks (Mayo Clinic, 2017). Mayo Clinic provides us with this information to inform us of possible negative outcomes of a process that seems positive to some. Mayo Clinic warns people about the potential sacrifices before they get into plastic surgery. Considering you are adding to and removing from the body, there are bound to be risks. Plastic surgery has never been and will never be risk-free. However, there is no evidence that risk has decreased over the past 20 years. Despite this, we can take a look at the procedures, technology, and material to form a conclusion as to whether or not these factors have lead to a potential decrease in risk.
Technology in surgery has evolved over the past two decades in order to improve precision and range of what can be done. In 1998, microvascular tissue transfer was developed. According to plastic surgeon Dr. David Johnson, this procedure made it possible to replant severed body parts as large as while limbs, and as small as fingertips. Success depended on mechanism, correct management, and prompt surgery. This meant that clean cuts did better than crushed parts, the amputated part had to be kept cool, but not frozen, and the surgeon had to carry out the procedure within a few hours of injury. The skill of the surgeon also played a major part (Johnson, 2002). Dr. Johnson says this in order to shed light on how far technology had advanced and how much further it could go.
As more procedures become more widely accepted, we begin to make more breakthroughs, but we also face more risks. An example of these risks is the recall on two breast implant manufacturers in March of 2019. The FDA warned these manufacturers because they had not conducted the long-term safety studies that the FDA required as a part of the implant’s approval from the FDA. These two companies are Mentor Worldwide LLC in Irvine, California, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson, and Sientra, Inc. in Santa Barbara, California (FDA, 2019). We see that more risks are faced because while we are advancing as a whole, some individuals do not feel the need to ensure that products are safe. We can see that this is true because of these two recalls.
The effect of plastic surgery on the mental health of patients varies. There are also factors that can determine if the patient may feel better or worse after plastic surgery. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, cosmetic procedures performed by plastic surgeons, dermatologists, and otolaryngologists increased 119 percent between 1997 and 1999. In 1999, over 4.6 million procedures were performed, many being chemical peels, botox injections, laser hair removal, and collagen injections. Rhinoplasties, facelifts, and breast augmentation were also among the list of procedures carried out (Castle, 2002). The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery provides these figures in order to explain that not many people were satisfied with their appearances.
According to psychiatrist David J. Castle, people typically seek cosmetic intervention in order to feel better about themselves, thinking that what they believe the outcome will be will truly happen. In order to see if the confidence patients longed for really came to be, he observed 36 studies of patients undergoing specific procedures, that of which were rhinoplasty, breast augmentation, breast reduction, and face-lifts. Overall, the studies suggested that people did feel better about themselves after plastic surgery. Patients showed improvement in self-worth and self-esteem, and were less shy (Castle, 2002). This goes to show that plastic surgery can have positive effects on people’s lives.
However, not everyone seems to benefit from these procedures overall. Patients can never be completely certain as to what the outcome of their procedure will be. However, there are factors that may help predict how the outcome will affect a patient’s confidence, specifically if a patient’s procedure will affect them negatively. According to psychiatrist Castle, factors identified with unsatisfactory outcomes included being young, suffering from depression or anxiety, and having a personality disorder.
The degree of change is also important to the outcome. More extensive procedures such as rhinoplasty and breast augmentation are more likely to result in serious body-image disturbances than “restorative” procedures such as face-lifts and botox, this being because the patient’s expectations may be higher than reality. This does not just apply to expectations of the body, but expectations of life. This means that by changing their appearance, patients believe their social lives will change for the better (Castle, 2002). Castle uses this information to explain that using plastic surgery as a solution to one’s problems in life is unhealthy as an unrealistic expectation leads to a poor outcome and a larger problem.
This dissatisfaction is called body dysmorphic disorder: when a minor flaw in one’s appearance becomes a major problem to them. According to certified nurse practitioner Beth Haney, in 2018, these problems still exist. Haney states that people who have body dysmorphic disorder are preoccupied with very slight and even non-existent defects for at least an hour a day. People with body dysmorphic disorder also tend to mirror check, pick at skin, and compare themselves to others a lot. Haney uses these trends to show that plastic surgery can have a negative effect (Haney, 2018). Haney’s findings prove that not much has changed when it comes to the psychological effects of plastic surgery on Americans.
- Castle, David J, et al. “Does Cosmetic Surgery Improve Psychosocial Wellbeing?” The Medical Journal of Australia, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 17 June 2002, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1851945/.
- Commissioner, Office of the. “FDA Issues Warning Letters to Two Breast Implant Manufacturers for Failure to Comply with Post-Approval Study Requirements.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-issues-warning-letters-two-breast-implant-manufacturers-failure-comply-post-approval-study.
- “Cosmetic Surgery.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 19 July 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cosmetic-surgery/about/pac-20385138.
- “FDA Warns Two Breast Implant Makers About Lack of Long-Term Studies, Will Review Implant Safety.” Breastcancer.org, 29 Aug. 2019, www.breastcancer.org/research-news/fda-warns-implant-makers-about-lack-of-studies.
- Haney, Beth. “Aesthetic Procedures: Nurse Practitioner’s Guide to Cosmetic Dermatology.” Google Books, Google, 2018, books.google.com/books?id=keOwDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA35&lpg=PA35&dq=psychosocial%2Bplastic%2Bsurgery%2Bbdd%2Bamerica%2B2019&source=bl&ots=ETHuHcUhZ7&sig=ACfU3U3u6O0nMncSQE8pWtFBvw9Ja4uThw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjwioKxp7jnAhXCQs0KHcRUA5cQ6AEwEHoECAsQAQ#v=onepage&q=psychosocial%20plastic%20surgery%20bdd%20america%202019&f=false.
- Johnson, D, and I H Whitworth. “Recent Developments in Plastic Surgery.” BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.), BMJ, 10 Aug. 2002, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1123831/.