Plastic surgery meltdowns in TLC's new show
Intern Megan Button interviewed plastic surgeon Dr Vik Vijh about his role in TLC’s new television show Last Chance Salon.
|Last Chance Salon is a reality show set to hit South African TVs this week. From botched boob jobs to bungled noses, Dr Vik Vijh and his team help to rectify plastic surgery gone wrong. I spoke to the UK’s Dr Vijh about his experiences with plastic surgery mistakes, and he gave some handy tips for avoiding disasterous surgery.
How much experience have you had with botched surgery?
I probably really started fixing botched surgeries about ten years ago and over the last ten years the number has increased. Other surgeons have realised that if they have something they can’t fix they directly contact me.
What are three questions to ask your plastic surgeon before you have plastic surgery?
Firstly and most importantly, you should ask your surgeon what his or her qualifications are. Then you should ask them how long they have been practicing as a consultant. Also ask how many of this particular procedure they have done. You also really want to know what your complication rate is – they might not always be honest with you but it is important to ask. My recommendation then is that you do an online search on them and if their answers don’t match what you find on your online search that rings a loud bell.
What was the worst or most complicated case you had to work on?
There are two things that strike me when I see bad cases of botched surgery. The first aspect is what’s been done to the patient and the second aspect is the way the surgeon has treated the patient after it has gone wrong. I’m never quite sure which horrifies me more - what they’ve actually done physically to the patient or the fact that they just don’t care anymore. I take pictures now because I think that sometimes patients won’t believe me when I tell them what I’ve found. For example I’ve opened noses and discovered that cartilage is missing. Similarly I’ll go to patients who’ve had their breasts done, and what shocks me is that they may have put different implants on both sides. Its negligent when you don’t care and that’s what horrifies me.
How do these botched procedures affect patients psychologically?
The psychological impact is massive. The psychological effect is far worse if the area is constantly visible, so for example a very poor nose job mentally affects them far more, whereas a very bad tummy tuck may physically affect them more because they may have a lot of pain and discomfort from it. Psychologically, the most pronounced feeling they all have is guilt. They feel guilty that they’ve put themselves and their loved ones through this. I tell them that the first step is to stop feeling guilty, as they have not done anything wrong – someone else has. Beyond that, they often feel they can’t leave the house. Women feel terrified taking their clothes off in front of their partner. On the first show, we fix a lady’s nose in a remarkably difficult procedure. The only real change is that it no longer looks like it’s been operated on, and it stopped hurting. But the change in the patient’s personality as a result of it is profound.
What are three questions to ask yourself before deciding to get plastic surgery?
One, be clear and specific on what you want done. So, if you want your nose done, think about what you would like it to look like. The second question is: Is what I want sensible and reasonable? For example, if you were to walk into my office and say: Can you give me two litre breast implants? That is not a sensible request and I’m going to say no. The last and most obvious question you should ask yourself is: who should I go to? When you’re considering this, remember three things – one, you’ve got to choose your surgeon carefully. Two, choose your anaesthetist carefully too. Remember the anaesthetist is the person keeping you alive. Thirdly, you need to consider where the operation is being done. Is it being done in some awful backstreet clinic or are you being operated on in a beautiful, state of the art hospital that has all the equipment present.
What type of plastic surgery is the most common to botch?
I’ve seen everything botched, I’ve seen breasts botched, noses botched, lipo botched, tummies botched. I think the highest percentage of procedures botched is rhinoplasty because it is a remarkably difficult operation to do well. Breast surgery will always be the most common procedure to bungle because it’s the most common operation.
What are the most common factors driving women to have plastic surgeries?
That’s an interesting question and again I think there are two aspects to it. I think the first aspect is that relatively safe plastic surgery is readily available in big top-notch hospitals. The best plastic surgeons are remarkably talented and well educated and operate in a manner that is safe. The second aspect is that there is a drive to look a certain way. If we look at the people we consider iconic, we’ll find that if we went back 100 years it was scientists, doctors and teachers who were considered iconic. There are no famous footballers or famous pop stars. These days however, we seem to put far more importance on the way we look than the way we’re educated and we spend far more time trying to look good. Nowadays women are slim and suntanned. It’s very simple: what is considered beautiful is what is considered wealthy. Today, a wealthy woman is tanned, because it means she can afford to go abroad and sunbathe and she is slim because fashion demands women to wear nice dresses. If we were to go to a warmer climate, an Asian climate, beautiful is considered pale or fair again because those individuals are not working outdoors.
Working in different countries and with different clients, can you tell me the difference in their attitude towards plastic surgeries?
They’re hugely different. If you go to central Asia, those individuals do not want anyone to know they are having cosmetic surgery, including their own families. It is almost considered shameful. If we were to go to Central Europe, it is about a natural look. It must look like you haven’t had surgery at all. You’re not ashamed of it; you just don’t really want to look odd. If we go to America, big is best and they want everyone to know they’ve had surgery. Having had plastic surgery is a badge of honour and they almost want the surgery to look slightly extreme. If we look at the operations they’re looking for, the most common operation in America would be a breast augmentation. In France a breast reduction is much more common because they want to look slinky. In Asia, it’s much more about liposuction and getting tummy tucks. In the Middle East and Southeast Asia rhinoplasty is very important. In the Orient lots of surgery is done on the eyes to make them look more western. In South America a lot of time is spent making the bottom more round. So there are huge cultural differences between countries, both in what surgery they want and in the way they behave about getting that surgery.
So far you’ve mentioned mainly women but how about men?
The number of men having cosmetic surgery is increasing. There are two reasons for this. One, in the same way it is becoming important that women look a certain way, it is becoming important that men do too. The metrosexual man has become far more common and it is now considered acceptable to spend hours making yourself look good in the morning. The second aspect to it is that it is now more acceptable for a man to talk about these sorts of things and have them done.
What are the statistics on botched plastic surgery? Is it getting any safer to have surgery?
This is a difficult one for me to answer because the number I see is going up but that’s probably just because more people have been coming to me as my reputation for fixing things increases. I think the risks of botched plastic surgery remain high for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a fairly poorly regulated area. One technique surgeons and doctors use is they will fly in and out of various countries. For instance, they’ll fly into the UK, do their operations and fly out that evening. They constitute the bulk of my botches. So yes, it is still relatively unsafe. I think governments are trying their best to regulate it and every day I see further regulations, certainly in the UK.