Aesthetic surgery industry continues to be plagued by lax regulatory mechanism

Reshape, tighten and augment – the world of aesthetic/cosmetic surgery is today a multi-crore industry (estimated at around ₹460 crore by industry experts) and growing exponentially.

The industry is back in news following the death of a 21-year-old budding television actress who underwent liposuction (a body contouring procedure) and died at a private facility earlier this week.

The incident throws open vital questions – just how safe are aesthetic surgery interventions? Are there enough regulatory mechanisms in place to protect the patients coming in for these procedures? Is there a standardisation of the equipment, staff and costs across the country? And most importantly how informed is actually an informed consent?

In India aesthetic surgeries are ‘protected’ through a relatively lax regulatory mechanism, driven often by profit margins and promises of magical-instant results.

The industry is currently buoyant by the customer surge created by social media influence and the growing obesity epidemic in the country. A regular advertisement by the beauty centre will promise a customer – painless procedure, no cost EMI, instant results and free doctor consultation, pick-drop facility, no stitch/scar/swelling, 60 min sessions and one-day discharge.

“Too good to be true advertisements are always a red flag. All interventions come with inherent risk factors and here is where a trained, qualified professional comes into play. All bodies aren’t the same and the one-fit-all approach of clinics mushrooming without any quality control is a cause for concern. Patients unrealistic expectations, coupled with lax legislations and implementation drive the profit centric market. This is where the problem comes in,’’ explained Dr. D. Dinesh Kumar, consultant dermatologist, Chennai. He is also the honorary secretary general, Indian Association of Dermatologist, Venereologists & Leprologists (IADVL) which is now working with the government to bring in some form of accreditation for derma-clinics to ensure that standardised treatment is offered to patients.

“We are also working on a set of work guidelines that will bring all the professionals on a level playing ground,’’ added Dr. Dinesh Kumar

As per the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery’s (ISAPS) – a professional body for board-certified aesthetic plastic surgeons – worldwide survey report, breast augmentation, liposuction, eyelid surgery procedures, rhinoplasty, abdominoplasty are the top five surgical interventions sought by patients. While non-surgical procedures that top the list include – botulinum toxin procedures, hyaluronic acid procedures, hair removal, nonsurgical fat reduction and photo rejuvenation. India carried out a total number of 5,24,064 aesthetic procedures (surgical and non-surgical) as per the ISAPS survey 2020.

Dermatologists in India have, meanwhile, welcomed the recent Delhi High Court direction that only trained dermatologists and surgeons can carry out hair transplant procedures. They point out that the minute the idea of profits comes into the picture – “patients become customers”.

“In such an environment, professionals who keep patient safety and follow stringent work and treatment ethics suffer. Of course in the long-run patients and customers realise the true value of a trained professional, with standardised infrastructure and trained staff….but by then the harm has been done,’’ said Dr. Sarfaraz Baig, who works in the field of bariatric surgery at Bellevue Hospital, Kolkata.

Liposuction isn’t the weight reduction surgery but a body contouring procedure. The risk factors include — contour irregularities (skin may appear bumpy, wavy or withered due to uneven fat removal, poor skin elasticity and unusual healing), fluid accumulation, numbness, infection, internal puncture, fat embolism, etc.

Liposuction (involves removal of the pockets of excess stubborn fat accumulated on various parts of the body and improving your body contours and proportion) alone offers a buffet of services which promises to contour customers – abdomen/waist, hips, buttocks, thighs, calves, male breast, upper arm, cheek, chin, neck, with services starting at ₹30,000. The other on-dial service has an exhaustive list of procedures including – botox, fillers and peels (for the skin), tummy tuck, arm and thigh lift, 4D, mega-liposuction, butt augmentation, mommy make-overs etc.

“The industry is plagued by online patient aggregators,’’ said Dr. Sumeet Shah, director and head, metabolic and bariatric surgery, PSRI Hospital, Delhi.

“Factually incorrect advertisements, centres with no hospital back-up, those compromising safety standards, sub-standard staff – all add to the risk factors,’’ said Dr. Shah.

“Stringent regulation is the need of the hour. Patients, doctors and the government need to sit-up and take notice of the need to regulate the industry. We are now concentrating on educating the patients to make informed choices which will ultimately drive the market to offer standardised and safe treatment plans which work for every individual,’’ said Dr. Dinesh Kumar.

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Printable version | May 21, 2022 2:47:08 pm |