Danger of Doctors ‘Practice Drift’ to Cosmetic Surgery

Increasingly, doctors are being tempted to add in-office or non-surgical cosmetic procedures to their practice – regardless of their specialty – a phenomenon known as “practice drift”. Surprised that a gastroenterologist could perform a tummy tuck? There are no laws in the United States that require doctors to practice medicine only within their fields.

How many doctors are practicing outside their specialty? No one knows: doctors are not required report “practice drift” to any medical authority. And doctors performing cosmetic procedures are not even required to report complications.

“There is a misconception among consumers that as long as a doctor is certified in a medical field that he or she is qualified to practice plastic surgery. This is absolutely wrong and it is dangerous for patients.” American Society of Plastic Surgeons

Physicians practicing medicine outside the specialties in which they’re trained and board certified is usually prohibited by hospitals. However, outpatient surgical facilities used for cosmetic procedures are often unregulated, and expose patients to dangers from untrained staff, improperly sterilized equipment, and lax safety processes.

If there are complications in the procedure, in-office facilities – in some cases, medical spas or tanning salons – may not have even the most basic emergency equipment. Only 21 states, among them Oregon and Washington, require outpatient surgical facilities to have life-saving emergency equipment and medication, as reported in a series about cosmetic surgery by USA Today.

There are patient risks in any cosmetic procedure – even non-surgical procedures like Botox. If you’re considering cosmetic surgery, make sure the facility is accredited in that field – and so is the doctor.

Read the full article on state regulation in cosmetic surgery, including physician and facility accreditation.