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The new dilemma of plastic surgery and social media: a systematic review

Abstract

Background

There is no doubt we are living in the era of social media, as dealing with the digital platforms on a daily basis has become inevitable. During the last decade, social media was used heavily for advertising and mass marketing purposes. The healthcare industry is a part of the rising trend of social marketing as physicians from different specialties are actively using social media for marketing, self promotion, and patient education and communication. However, we believe that the relation between social media and plastic surgery is much more complicated than we think. This relation is changing the practice of plastic surgery and fundamentally transforming the surgeon’s concept as a ‘healer’ toward someone providing beauty services on demand. As a result, many surgeons are concerned about the ethical and professional consequences of this interaction. We have conducted this review to answer the following research question: how social media is influencing the practice of cosmetic surgery?

Methods

Two sources of data were searched: PubMed (including MEDLINE), and EMBASE using the following search terms: “plastic surgery,” “cosmetic surgery,” “aesthetic surgery,” “social media,” “marketing,” and “ethics.” We used the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) as our basis of organization.

Results

Cosmetic surgeons and surgeons with private practice are more likely to seek professional presence on social media, and in general, the social media presence of plastic surgeons is rising. Most of Twitter and Instagram plastic surgery-related content is not posted by certified surgeons. Most YouTube videos demonstrating cosmetic surgery procedures were of low quality, misleading, and biased. The use of social media increased acceptance of cosmetic procedures. Taking and posting selfie photographs significantly increased social anxiety and the desire to undergo cosmetic surgery. Finally, social media lead to unrealistic expectations among patients.

Conclusions

Despite the failure to produce a solid definition of social media professionalism and the difficulty to control social media content, it is the surgeon’s responsibility to understand the motives of each patient undergoing cosmetic surgery. Surgeons should be aware of the influence of social media on their patients. Patients with unrealistic expectations or with psychological disorders should be approached cautiously.

Level of evidence: Not gradable

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Fig. 1

Data availability

Not applicable.

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Contributions

SMM searched the literature for relative publications. ASE was the major contributor in writing the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Abdullah Sami Eldaly.

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This is a review of literature. Tanta University Research Ethics Committee has confirmed that no ethical approval is required.

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This is a review of literature. No consent is required.

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Conflict of interest

Abdullah Sami Eldaly and Sarah Magdy Mashaly declare no competing interests.

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Eldaly, A.S., Mashaly, S.M. The new dilemma of plastic surgery and social media: a systematic review. Eur J Plast Surg (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00238-021-01891-5

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Keywords

  • Plastic surgery
  • Social media
  • Marketing
  • Ethics