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Plastic surgery, as seen on TV
Reality television shows such as "Plastic Surgery: Before and After" and "Dr. 90210" seem as if they'd be the perfect, free product-placement venues for plastic surgeons: They highlight the most successful, dramatic surgery and compress weeks of recovery time to fit the final minutes of an hour or half-hour show.
A new study suggests that is, indeed, how such shows work. People who seriously consider surgery often regularly view surgical makeover shows.
A team led by Dr. Richard Crockett of the Yale University School of Medicine studied 42 patients during their preliminary cosmetic surgery consultations during a four-month period at the Yale Plastic Surgery Clinic. (It took the doctors four months to find enough patients?Maybe stereotypes about Los Angeles really are true -- just walking to work today, I think I passed 42 people who'd had plastic surgery.)
Participants filled out surveys about their familiarity with cosmetic surgery-related television shows. Before and after their consultations, they rated their perceived knowledge about surgical benefits, risks, cost and alternatives, as well as the length of the recovery period and of the procedure itself.
Only 12% of those studied had never seen a cosmetic surgery show; 79% reported that television influenced their decision to pursue a cosmetic operation.
Crockett and his collaborators compared "low-intensity" and "high-intensity" viewers and found that those who watched frequently always thought they knew more about the pros and cons of surgery. They also tended to believe the shows were more "like real life" than those who watched more rarely. The findings were published in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal.
But does the study mean that the shows are driving people to go under the knife? That's hard to tell. People who are already thinking about surgery may be far more likely to watch such shows, after all.
Even if there were undue influence, with these shows at least there's nothing much to worry about.
Of the six shows featured in the 2005 survey, only two are still on the air; the final episode of Extreme Makeover aired last month.
In television, the thing most likely to get sliced, liposuctioned, lifted and sewn back together is the prime-time schedule.
-- Chelsea Martinez