Rodrigo Alves is a poster-child for extreme plastic surgery – the kind of plastic surgery the media tends to focus on. An extraordinarily bizarre amount of procedures costing him north of 500,000 dollars has led to a “living Ken Doll,” catapulting Mr. Alves into Instagram fame. The question as to whether fans are enamored by his so-called “bravery” to “embrace himself” or rather mere interest in spectacle is hard to answer.
What is relatively easy to answer is whether or not this amount of surgery, coupled with a “lifestyle” hitched to plastic surgery, is wise. Nationally-recognized board certified plastic surgeons weigh in on Rodrigo Alves on the latest episode of No Spin Live.
The Abuse is a Two-Way Street
It’s certainly easy to decide Rodrigo Alves is suspect #1 in why his current state came to pass. It’s his fault for requesting and/or demanding so many procedures from so many surgeons, right? The answer isn’t so simple, and the best plastic surgeons agree that the surgeons involved with Mr. Alves are in someways complicit.
“I think this is a classic problem of the patient with some kind of leverage pushing the plastic surgeon to operate,” shares board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Dan Del Vecchio. “If you think about Michael Jackson who pushed his plastic surgeon to do multiple surgeries too soon – and we know what happened there – here we have this slightly famous, Insta-famous, person requesting surgery and the surgeon can’t resist. And the difference is it’s not the same surgeon every time, it’s one of 60 different surgeons. So each of them feels like maybe they can get some marketing out of it. So there’s kind of abuse on both sides.”
Plastic surgeons are and will always be physicians first. This seemingly overlooked aspect could be argued as one of the most important examples of physicians helping patients decide what’s best. In many medical situations, “what’s best” usually translates as what will heal or cure the body’s ailments; there is an enemy, it’s just how physicians choose to combat it. With plastic surgery, and any elective procedure, physicians have a more nuanced opinion as to what is or isn’t best, since the answer may be purely subjective. When physicians bypass what is both physical and emotionally appropriate, it makes one wonder why and what benefit they may see coming from saying yes.
“I completely agree with Dan – I’m concerned about all of these doctors that are actually doing these procedures,” explains board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Sean Doherty of Boston. “I’ve never met the man, but he clearly has some level of body dysmorphia. And then he really has an inappropriate relationship with plastic surgery, paralleling it with career advancement. These are all things we’re taught to tell our patients that these things aren’t associated with that, you should be doing surgery because you have a particular issue that you want treated.”
“Rodrigo shouldn’t have this much surgery – no one should. The problem is, there’s someone always willing to do it.” Dan Del Vecchio, MD
The Problems Only Begin After So Much Surgery
Mr. Alves is in the news lately after admitting that he has finished all desired cosmetic surgery and looks the way he wants to. For the concerned, that sounds like great news – his seeming obsession with plastic surgery and potential body dysmorphia issues have been solved. That’s all well and good, but having 60+ surgeries to dramatically alter the body doesn’t mean the changes are permanent.
“With near 100% certainty, it’s inevitable that he has future procedures just based on potential complications that are going to occur from the amount of surgery he’s had to date,” explains board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Daniel Maman of New York City. “If you put breast implants in a 22 year-old patient, you can almost guarantee her that over the course of her lifetime she’s going to have at least one or two operations for revisional surgery – either implant replacement or some type of skin operation.”
The future possibility of surgery is almost never 0 following cosmetic procedures. As Dr. Maman noted, one of the most popular and heavily-performed procedures, breast augmentation, will need follow-up procedures in the future. They may be decades away, and they may be small, but their likelihood of occurrence is almost a guarantee. And that’s a relatively simple procedure, and only one procedure. Mr. Alves has had over 60 of varying degrees of difficulty, and some introducing unnatural states of being to the body (such as removing ribs). He may think and/or wish he’s done with surgery, but if he has any hope of maintaining the look he’s created, surgical revision down the line is inevitable.
An Easily Abused Procedure Without Surgery – Fillers
While Rodrigo Alves is a carnival-esque representation of the extremes of plastic surgery, any great surgeon will probably run across patients that don’t know when to stop. The advent and extreme success of facial fillers can create in patients a sense of wanting more – even when their surgeon explains that they’ve had enough. This can cause problems, and if not handled delicately with the right information, that patient may take the “no” and just head down the street and get it from someone else. It’s a tricky issue that demands competence and professionalism from surgeons, hallmarks of what it means to be board certified.
“I don’t have any patients quite like Rodrigo, but on the filler side of things, we all have patients that push us,” admits board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Jason Pozner. “I think it’s something that happens to all of us – maybe not in the extreme as with Rodrigo – but we all have to cut patients off sometimes and say, ‘OK, enough is enough. You’re not helping yourself or my practice.'”
Sadly, Mr. Alves is famous for and a fine example of what not to do. Whether good or not, his story and appearance incite extreme interest in the population, and give surgeons a chance to speak about the truth of plastic surgery. The specialty is not the harbor of body dysmorphia nor severe transformations, but rather the place where patients with issues can have them altered or corrected to achieve natural, normal-looking results.