Medical Spas are notorious in cosmetic surgery in offering dangerous procedures from unqualified personel. They consistently make headlines from consumers who routinely die from operations that are performed by Cardiologists or nurses with no real anesthesiologist available. As already mentioned throughout this site, anyone with a medical degree is legally allowed to practice surgery without much regulation. So, technically, an ophthalmologist could perform liposuction on a patient with little training. They are growing at a rapid pace, a 400% increase from 2004-2008 and have gross revenues of $3.5 billion according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The report also comments:
However, the rapid growth in the medical spa market suggests that physicians from other specialties and non-physician directors are entering the business
The main difference between a real professional medical setting and a spa-like clinic is this:
Unlike physician offices where board certified clinicians oversee the treatment and maintain medical records, spa-type centers may have limited or no full-time medical staff and may lack the experience or training to handle more than routine beauty service
Moreover, all a medical spa needs to legally operate and perform procedures involving lasers, injectables or even small surgical procedures is a “supervising physician,” who is usually not involved in any daily operations. Many just come in to sign off on the procedure paperwork and receive their cut of the profits. If you’re interested in any cosmetic surgery, it’s highly recommended that you undergo the procedure under the supervision of a board certified plastic surgeon — not a medispa. Remember, aestheticians have absolutely no medical training.
There is so much information on the internet that covers this popular topic, but none is more eye-opening than illegalmedspa.com which highlights the deceiving practices of medspas.
The consumer must also understand the power and money behind the International Medical Spa Association. This is most easily seen in this California Assembly Bill 2398 . The bill is requiring medical spas to be treated as medical facilities and requiring physician ownership. The bill is meant to ensure safety comes before profits for 100’s of California medspa’s. The medspa association fought back with this comment:
We do agree that a non-doctor licensed healthcare professional should be supervised by a MD or DO. However, we do NOT believe that a doctor or DO acting as a medical director should be required to be on-site. Instead, the International Medical Spa Association believes there should be a better definition of “indirect supervision”; including the medical director’s distance from the facility and how many facilities he or she can supervise.
The potential dangers, even in laser and other facial procedures, is huge in the field of medicine. It is unfathomable that a group of individuals wants to put money before safety.
Example of a Gynecomastia MedSpa - Ciao Bella
Here is a perfect example of a typical medspa that one would typically find through google ads or a flyer in the their mailbox (these places always advertise significantly more than a real plastic surgeon’s office). What makes this spa interesting is that it offers invasive surgery alongside the average skin-care routine procedures. The director of the spa is NOT a board certified plastic surgeon and has not completed any residency of general surgery yet manages two locations that offer plastic surgery such as Gynecomastia.
Alongside the history and qualifications of the medical director, the spa is still technically legal. There is no mention of the certifications and qualifications of the staff let alone if a board certified anesthesiologist is used.
The largest danger in electing a medspa is the guarantee that the doctor you consult with may not be the one you get your surgery from. Here is a snapshot of Ciao Bella’s paperwork that highlights this shocking detail:
A consult with Dr. Zavala for example may not actually transition to that doctor performing the surgery and you may never know until after you have woken up after the procedure.
Also, the patient must be vigilant in asking about revisions. Most procedures require a healing time of 6-12 months, yet only offer free revisions BEFORE this time period. Beware.
Another interesting fact is looking at this medical spa’s job listings. They have a Medical Office Receptionist listing on glassdoor that shows “Address complains” as the third item down in tiers of importance out of the entire 18 bullet-point listing.
One is left to wonder why a receptionist and not the performing doctor is answering complaints as well as the total number of complaints a receptionist must get by working at a medspa
Another example of a Gynecomastia MedSpa - SonoBello
This entire thread on the gyno.org forums is a must-read for those seeking gyno correction from a medspa. In summary, the poster thinks it is a great deal when in reality it is not.
Dr. Jacobs Elliot, a prominent real plastic surgeon states:
SonoBello is a company which features low cost plastic surgery. It has numerous clinics across the nation. Not all the surgeons may be fully trained plastic surgeons. You should check the credentials and background and experience doing gynecomastia surgery with the surgeon who will be doing your surgery and not accept a substitute surgeon at the last minute. source
The poster then decides to get the surgery anyways even after being warned is in predictably disappointed.
It’s been a little over four weeks and these are my results. Sadly, I’m disappointed and feeling I’ll have to seek additional surgery from someone else in order to excise. I was told I would be a “great candidate” for tri-sculpt lipo and I probably shouldn’t have signed all the paperwork. I know I probably can’t receive any sort of refund and am quite upset that I spent so much money for what seems to be very limited change. source
Typical MedSpa’s only require a 3-day training course before liposuction
Here is a medspa called “Weston MedSpa” that is still in buisness after a patient named Rohie Kah-Orukotan died after receiving liposuction from a doctor on staff named Omar Brito who was trained in occupational health, not plastic surgery. This was the clinic’s second death. Here is the most damning information about this “doctor” - Brito took a three-day course in plastic surgery which totaled just 18 hours of training. The doctor’s lawyer claimed that “Brito “followed the letter of law,” completing the required three days of training to perform plastic surgery in the state”. “Three-day intensive course with hands-on training, which Dr. Brito had, in addition to approximately two dozen liposuction or lipo-sculpture procedures under his belt at the time he performed this surgery, yes, it’s enough,” Beiber said. “He had enough experience.” Source
Medspa wrong deaths
Here is another common medspa story src:
In July, Dr. Peter Normann of Phoenix, Arizona, was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder and one count of manslaughter in connection with three deaths during liposuction and fat-transfer surgery procedures at his office. Two of the victims died due to the anesthesia during surgeries performed by Normann, and a third died from a fat embolism during a procedure performed by a homeopathic surgeon in Normann’s office. Assistants during Normann’s surgeries included a janitor and a massage therapist.
Normann was sentenced to 25 years in prison last month. He originally fled Arizona after his license was revoked in October 2007 and was apprehended at an Ohio airport a year later.