Can anybody perform liposuction?

When it comes to crowded markets, Southern California has got to be tough for those offering liposuction. There’s competition around every corner, it seems.

Recently, a study in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery did a survey of liposuction providers in Southern California, and the results were eye-opening in terms of surgical training and experience.

They found that in the 45,000 square mile area encompassing Los Angeles and San Diego, there are 1867 cosmetic practitioners of all backgrounds.

– Of these, 834 offered liposuction.
– only 495 of the 834 were trained in plastic surgery,
– 140 were trained in ENT (ear/nose/throat),
– 63 were trained in dermatology.
– Most of the rest were primary care doctors, Ob-Gyn, Ophthalmologists or General Surgeons.

The study found that nearly 40% of liposuction practitioners in Southern California had no surgical training in liposuction before entering practice.

Not surprisingly, the mainstream media picked up on this. Here’s the story presented in the LA Times. (link)

So it becomes a question of patient safety versus free-trade. Traditionally trained plastic surgeons, like myself, favor limiting liposuction to those specialties that have actual surgical training, and in particular, training in liposuction. After all, liposuction is an invasive surgery, with potential for real complications. Patient safety is certainly an issue. The non-surgical types, on the other hand, counter with cries of “turf battle” or “restraint of trade”.

My opinion: Not just anyone should be allowed behind the controls of a 747. Do you want a Captain Sullenberger (miracle landing on the Hudson river) as your pilot, or do you want some guy who’s seen the movie “Top Gun” a few times?

I know what my choice would be. Lawmakers and consumers need to make up their minds.

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