Retaining a youthful look

Cosmetic procedures in demand here, too

Cheri Thompson, a registered nurse and nurse anesthetist, performs intense pulse light treatments on a patient at Lawrence Plastic Surgery, 1112 W. Sixth St., Suite 210, in 2008. The treatments are used to help diminish rosacea, discoloration and broken capillaries on the face, chest and hands. A series of four to six treatments is generally recommended. They cost between 00 and 00 per session.

Common types of cosmetic procedures. Source: Lawrence Plastic Surgery.

Common types of cosmetic procedures. Source: Lawrence Plastic Surgery.

New Year’s Eve celebrations tend to remind us of our age.

With each passing year, our ability to party like a rock star begins to sag, just like our skin. Wrinkles begin to form, and age spots begin to show.

While there’s no miracle cure to stop the aging process, there’s a plethora of services available in Lawrence to help people look younger.

They range from chemical peels to face-lifts and everything in between. Brochures for such procedures are popping up in doctors’ offices everywhere, and there’s a reason why. It’s big business.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, consumers spent $11.4 billion on cosmetic procedures in 2006 in the United States, where 11 million procedures were performed. That’s up 48 percent from 7.4 million procedures in 2000.

And if you think it’s only popular in Hollywood, think again.

Growing business

In 1994, Dr. Scott Thellman opened Lawrence’s first plastic surgery center. He had one employee at the time. Today, there are two doctors and about 10 employees.

“It has really grown,” he said of his business, which provides everything from Botox injections and lower body lifts to face-lifts and tummy tucks.

“There’s a lot more people having things done than most people know because they don’t talk about it. There is a Midwestern mentality of getting things done but not making a big deal about it,” Thellman said. “I’ve talked to people who are from California, Dallas and New York, and it’s like, ‘Well yeah, everybody has things done. If you haven’t had something done, you feel left out.'”

He’s right about Midwesterners’ attitudes, because it was tough getting anyone to talk about their procedures on record – let alone getting them to share a photo.

Thellman said while Midwesterners are getting procedures done, they also want them to look natural – not flamboyant.

“People don’t want the extreme face-lift. They don’t want the lips the size of hot dogs,” he said.

‘Healthy again’

An area resident, who decided to remain anonymous, couldn’t agree more. The breast cancer survivor had reconstructive surgery at Lawrence Memorial Hospital by Dr. John Keller, of Lawrence Plastic Surgery. She was so delighted with the outcome that she decided to try other cosmetic procedures – a neck lift, laser treatments, restylane, Botox and eyelid surgery.

“For me, it was not about looking like a celebrity, but looking whole and healthy again after surviving breast cancer,” said the woman who has been a registered nurse for more than 30 years. “I just feel healthier. The cosmetic procedures provided a positive outlook after surviving the loss of hair, eyebrows, eyelashes and the other symptoms associated with chemotherapy and radiation.”

She also said the procedures were worth the cost.

“Why not invest in your health and appearance? It occurs to me that people will get excited about purchasing a new car, which has very little equity, while there is seemingly no limit to the value placed on investing in yourself.”

She said all of the minimally invasive cosmetic procedures were “tolerable” and enhanced her looks.

“I couldn’t go anywhere without friends saying, ‘I don’t know what you did, but you look so good, so rested and so healthy,'” she said.

‘I look younger’

Lawrence resident G.D. Cox, 55, heard similar comments after his eyelid surgery at Lawrence Plastic Surgery. Cox said the extra skin was sagging so badly on his eyelids that he couldn’t read in the morning.

He said the 40-minute, pain-free procedure was worth the approximately $2,000 price tag.

“It was (worth it) for me because I am a single male. Not only can I read the paper in the morning now, I like the idea that I look younger. I figure I knocked about six or 10 years off my age,” he said.

Cox, a motorcycle rider, isn’t afraid to admit that he also gets facials and has had a chemical peel, which took between one and two hours.

“My face felt like a newborn baby’s butt. I am not kidding. It felt brand new,” he said of the peel. “I can’t believe the last time my face felt like that – maybe when I was 10.”

He said the most painful procedure that he had done was laser treatments to remove rosacea from his cheeks and nose. He had three treatments – each lasted about 30 minutes.

“To tell you the truth, that was more painful than the eye surgery, because they do it with a laser and when they click that laser, it really shoots a lot through your nose and everything,” he said. “It really gets your attention because it’s quite a little jolt, but I am happy with having that done, too.”

Expanding services

Rhonda Burgess, 41, has undergone laser treatments at the Laser and Cosmetic Center in Lawrence for rosacea and brown spots. She described the approximately $400 procedure as feeling like a snap of a rubber band. As for the results, she wished the brown spots would have vanished, but she said she was happy that they were significantly lighter.

“It’s not completely gone. It still looks like I have a little shadow place on my skin, but I am really overall pretty happy with it,” Burgess said. “I probably would do this procedure again if I had more age spots show up or if some of the ones that I got done became darker again.”

Burgess said she learned about the procedure through a brochure that she picked up during a visit to her doctor at Lawrence Family Practice, where the cosmetic center opened three years ago.

Dr. Carla Phipps said she began offering cosmetic procedures after a number of patients started to ask about such services.

“My patients were wanting to know what was available locally and regionally, and I found a void in what was easily accessible,” she said. “In addition, as a baby boomer myself, I found that in educating myself, I had opened up an exciting new opportunity in medicine.”

Maintaining competence

The expansion of cosmetic procedures has caught the attention of the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts, which regulates health care professionals.

Mark Stafford, general counsel of the board, said that doctors are not required to have an additional license for cosmetic procedures; they also are not required to obtain a certain amount of training. But they are required to be competent in what they provide.

“If a patient or another person feels that a physician is providing a service without professional competence, or if there is fraud or false advertising – some kind of misrepresentation – we certainly would take the complaint,” he said.

Stafford said they have received complaints concerning cosmetic procedures and have taken action against doctors. Most recently, many of the complaints have involved the controversial lipodissolve procedure.

“I can confirm that we have numerous complaints that surround the current issues with lipodissolve both as to the business practices, the competency of the physician and also, I would add, the general safety of the product itself,” Stafford said.

He reminds consumers that all cosmetic procedures should be taken seriously.

“I’ve heard some horror stories and seen pictures on the Internet of people who have been burned with a laser, of people who were having skin resurfacing or hair removed, and they were expecting to go to their high school reunion looking a little bit younger and they come back looking scarred up,” he said. “There are some dangers. Those are the kind of risks that, hopefully, are minimal. But the person ought to know what kind of risk is involved.”

He also said that technicians tend to do some of the minimally invasive procedures such as Botox, but he cautions consumers to make sure that a doctor is involved in at least the beginning of stages when the procedures and risks are discussed.

“Technicians are the physicians’ responsibility. The physician is ultimately responsible for what they do,” he said. “Now, I would not go have open-heart surgery knowing that I don’t really have to talk to a doctor or the doctor won’t be involved.”

Dr. Robert Dinsdale, of Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates, is involved in all of his procedures.

“Plastic surgery has kind of a mystery about it. It is surgery, and people have to remember that. It can have complications. So if you are looking for somebody who does it, yes, you have to be cautious about who you choose,” he said. “I think (patients) should really look for somebody whose personality is compatible with what they want. I mean a 90210 personality doesn’t really fit the Midwestern mindset.”

Expanding market

Dinsdale has been practicing in Lawrence for 17 years. He has a broad-based practice that includes facial plastic surgery. Over the years, Dinsdale has seen an increase in demand for the minimally invasive procedures such as Botox, fillers and lasers, and he predicts they are here to stay.

“I think you are going to see continued development of types of fillers,” he said. He predicts the industry will work to make ones that have even less risks and are easier to correct if inserted into the wrong area.

Dinsdale said it isn’t easy keeping up with the products and procedures. He reads journals, attends lectures and national meetings, and takes courses.

If doctors are having a tough time, how is a consumer supposed to know what’s best for them? If you do a Google search for cosmetic surgery, you get 45 million results. That’s a lot of reading material.

Even Lawrence doctors’ procedures and products vary. For example, some use fat, and some use solutions such as Restayline to fill in wrinkles. Some use lasers to remove age spots, while others use chemicals. Even in removing fat, Phipps uses a procedure called Lipodissolve, while Thellman uses liposuction.

Dinsdale said it is best to make an appointment with a competent doctor and go over exactly what is bothering you, just like you would if you were ill.

“If a patient can clearly say what is bothering them, then that will lead to a good decision about what might work,” he said. “The patient needs to clearly define what they want, and the doctor needs to listen. There should be a trust issue.”