x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Health experts warn on cosmetic surgery risks

Those wanting plastic surgery are told to be vigilant and only seek help from professionals licensed by Dubai Health Authority.

Dr Luiz Toledo, a Dubai-based cosmetic surgeon from Brazil, says the UAE has more people in his profession per head of population than either his home country or the USA. Sarah Dea / The National
Dr Luiz Toledo, a Dubai-based cosmetic surgeon from Brazil, says the UAE has more people in his profession per head of population than either his home country or the USA. Sarah Dea / The National

DUBAI // The UAE has one of the highest concentrations of plastic surgeons in the world, far outstripping countries such as the United States and Brazil.

This makes it more important, amid the growing demand for cosmetic surgery, for patients to be diligent and seek out licensed professionals, health experts warn.

“It is absolutely essential that patients check the credentials of doctors before undergoing any kind of surgery, aesthetic or otherwise,” said Dr Layla Al Marzouqi, assistant director and head of clinical governance at the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).

While the US has one plastic surgeon for every 50,000 people and Brazil one for every 44,000, the UAE has one for every 18,000, said Dr Luiz Toledo, a Dubai plastic surgeon from Brazil.

The Emirates Plastic Surgery Society has 150 members – 103 of them in Dubai – including visiting surgeons, which is up from 60 about eight years ago.

With so many recognised aesthetic surgeons in Dubai, Dr Al Marzouqi said it was important for patients to see a specialist who is licensed by the DHA, whether it is for something as minor as a Botox procedure or for a major operation.

“Patients must avoid getting plastic surgeries done at non-licensed venue for the sake of cheaper prices,” she said.

“For example, private residences are not the right venue for operations and small clinics are not the right place for major plastic surgeries.

“Having said that, it is a known fact that Dubai has some of the best plastic surgeons in the world practising here and therefore medical tourists do visit the emirate for plastic surgery as well.”

The DHA received 24 complaints that it classified under plastic surgery last year.

There were 11 cosmetic surgery complaints, eight for hair removal and five for dental veneers.

In 2008, the health authority received 17 complaints about clinics, and announced that it was monitoring more than 1,000 clinics that had recently opened in the emirate, some of which have been closed.

Illegal procedures may involve techniques or materials such as fillers that are not approved for use in the UAE.

Dr Toledo said patients, mostly from Arabian Gulf nations but also from India, Pakistan, Russia and Eastern European countries, come to Dubai for high-quality operations as the city cannot compete with other destinations such as Thailand in terms of cost.

The top five procedures are liposuction or lipoplasty, rhinoplasty, breast augmentation or lift, face lift and stomach tuck.

“They come here not because it’s cheap, but because it’s good,” Dr Toledo said.

The concentration of plastic surgeons in the UAE was one reason Dubai was chosen to host last month’s conference of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, an organisation founded in the US in 1970, Dr Toledo said.

About 170 surgeons attended the event on January 24 and 25, including Dr Robert Ersek, who was on his first visit to Dubai and said he was impressed with professional standards here.

“The level of quality here is as good as anywhere else in the world,” said Dr Ersek, from Texas, who performs cosmetic and reconstructive operations.

The plastic surgery society hopes to attract more surgeons to the city and to encourage visiting doctors to stay, especially because visiting plastic surgeons who are not permanently based here sometimes complicate follow-up procedures for patients.

“We want to stimulate surgeons to really put their roots here in Dubai,” Dr Toledo said.

Dr Al Marzouqi said the DHA’s regulation of the industry and licensing requirements were reasons for Dubai’s plastic surgery reputation.

“Tight quality assurance measures like random and planned inspection of healthcare facilities in Dubai, and auditing performance of healthcare professionals, are some of the measures that are undertaken by the regulatory department,” she said.

lcarroll@thenational.ae