Breakthroughs in Plastic Surgery

‘Awake’ Tummy Tuck Too Good to Be True?

‘Awake’ Tummy Tuck Too Good to Be True?

Tummy tucks are one of the most popular plastic surgery procedures. But, untrained doctors looking to boost revenue with cosmetic procedures could put patients at serious risk.

In the down economy, many doctors in different areas of specialization are looking for ways to attract more patients and increase revenues. But, clever marketing gimmicks are not always in the best interest of consumers, who may not recognize that simply holding a medical degree does not qualify a doctor to perform any type of procedure.

Recently, a local television station in San Antonio, Texas, featured a segment on Dr. Laura Bennack, owner of Radiance MedSpa, who is promoting “awake tummy tuck” procedures that allow a patient to stay awake and even interact while the surgery is taking place. No general anesthesia is used, just local injections and light sedation. And, although the resulting scar is higher than those in traditional tummy tucks, the procedure may sound like a great alternative to those worried about going under general anesthesia. What many patients may not realize, however, is that Dr. Bennack is not a board certified plastic surgeon. Rather, she is trained in Family and Emergency Medicine.

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“To become a board certified plastic surgeon is a really long road,” says Dr. Charles Slack, a board certified plastic surgeon in Allen, TX. “For most of us, it took at least five years of a general surgery residency, and two to three years of a plastic surgery fellowship before we could even become board eligible.” Candidates must then sit for both a written and oral board examination, and only 75 percent pass the certification process, notes Dr. Slack.

Patients considering any type of invasive surgery are advised to always check the credentials of the doctor who is performing their procedure and make sure the doctor has adequate training to ensure their safety. Unlike offices where plastic surgeons oversee the treatment and maintain medical records, spa-type centers may have limited or no full-time medical staff, and practitioners may lack the experience or training to handle more than routine beauty services.

Notes Dr. Slack, “In the United States, if you’ve got a medical degree, you can practice any kind of specialty you want to out of your office.” To determine whether a doctor has the appropriate board certification to perform plastic surgery, patients should ask whether the doctor also has surgical privileges to do cosmetic surgery procedures at a hospital. Patients can also check a physician’s credentials online with the American Board of Plastic Surgery at

Although some doctors may offer procedures at a discounted rate or highlight the comfort and convenience of having surgery done in their office instead of in a hospital setting, the risks involved could cost you more money – and even your health – in the long run.

As is the case with so many things in life, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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