American Society of Plastic Surgeons
For Medical Professionals

What does TV plastic surgery get right and wrong?

television plastic surgery right and wrong

Plastic surgery as featured on television and internet shows – truth or fiction? Good or bad? For years, patients have asked me if I've seen show X, Y or Z featuring the latest plastic surgeon media personality. Sometimes they ask with careless shrugs, making me think that my patients are a little nervous about mentioning the topic.

However, patients shouldn't be embarrassed about it. I think the shows serve a real purpose, pulling back the veil that shrouds the plastic surgical patient experience in mystery, at least a little.

Personally, I think it is time we in medicine, surgery and plastic surgery embraced the world outside the clinic and operating rooms. Historically, we've tried to function as if medical and surgical care happens in a vacuum. When we enter the medical establishment as patients, the outside world falls away. Our everyday concerns, obligations and even our identities are stripped away when we shed our normal clothes and don the dreaded cotton or paper gown.

To some extent, the same happens to the plastic surgeon when we shrug into the white coat and surgical cap, effectively smothering our individuality. Of course, I exaggerate a bit, but I think we can all relate to this at least a little.

Understanding the person

Why do we do it? Well, undergoing plastic surgery, even the most routine procedure, is without doubt, question or debate, a very serious thing, never to be taken lightly. Patients and physicians alike must focus on difficult conversations, decisions and physical and emotional experiences that leave little room for frivolity.

However, we should make room for understanding the person we face, either when we are sitting on the exam table looking at our doctors or when we are sitting on the physicians' stools, facing our patients. When I mention understanding the person, I think it includes understanding the life situations, the background, the experiences and the beliefs of the other person. These can be shaped by entertainment.

Plastic surgery on TV isn't all bad

For these reasons, I think TV plastic surgery shows – and plastic surgery-based entertainment on other media channels – serve a multitude of functions. They open a line of communication that may be less emotionally charged or personal than a discussion about the actual clinical situation at hand. They break down barriers by providing an opportunity to bond over shared entertainment experiences.

They also provide a level of understanding for patients about what a glimpse into the patient experience might look like. They help presage the physical appearance of clinics and operating rooms. Additionally, plastic surgery-based entertainment provides some knowledge of patient concerns and outcomes.

Overall, I think plastic surgery shows work well as one source of education – but not the primary one – for patients. As with any single educational method, the patients and surgeons should discuss the relevance to their particular clinical situations. The shows should be viewed through the lens that these are created with the primary intent to entertain and may be edited to portray particular viewpoints that might not be shared by all.

While I'm pretty sure I'll never make the cut for "exciting enough for primetime," I do appreciate the doctors who are willing to demystify plastic surgery a little bit. We all know the spotlight comes with shadows, but there is no stopping entertainment. I believe we should embrace its existence and use it for good.

Always consult with your doctor

At the end of the day, these plastic surgery tv shows may provide a glimpse into plastic surgery, but it's important to recognize they are, in fact, tv shows. Remember to do your research and speak with a board-certified plastic surgeon if you are thinking of getting a procedure done.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.


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