Keeping the Patient Informed
The 1980s saw plastic surgery expand its efforts to bring knowledge and information to the public. Studies indicated that patients wanted information to take home and read, so the ASPRS began producing a host of brochures on the specialty and individual plastic surgery procedures.
Another Pillar Falls
The other founding pillar of the ASPRS, Gustave Aufricht, passed away in April 1980, one year short of the organization’s 50th anniversary.
The 1990s began on a high note of growth, cooperation and continued innovations in the field of plastic surgery. More than 5,000 board–certified plastic surgeons were active in the United States. Many were engaged in research or volunteered in their communities or overseas.
Public Perceptions Need Improvement
Despite the contributions plastic surgeons make both in their own communities and the world community, the profession still suffers from an identity problem as consumers did not recognize the kind of work plastic surgeons perform. A survey conducted by the ASPRS indicated that the American people did not realize plastic surgeons perform reconstructive work, instead equating “Plastic surgeon” with “Cosmetic surgeon.”
In 1979, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed reclassifying silicone gel implant devices and asking manufacturers for studies on implant performance and safety.Throughout the 1980s, the issue went largely unnoticed by the public. However, in December 1990 the questions of implant safety exploded nationally when “Face–to–Face with Connie Chung” detailed the “Horrors” of breast implants. Her report sparked a wave of concern among breast implant recipients and increased pressure on government officials to act.Plastic surgeons sought to reassure breast implant patients and the public. A survey that indicated more than 90 percent of implant patients were satisfied with their devices was conducted.. The ASPRS set up a toll–free hotline for physicians and patients with questions about implants.Despite the efforts of the Society and Foundation to address growing fears scientifically, the FDA effectively banned the use of silicone gel breast implants in January 1992.
The other great challenge of the 1990s has been health care reform. Plastic surgeons have been active in advocating coverage for reconstructive procedures in any new health plan and ensuring patient choice and access to specialists.Meanwhile, plastic surgeons push ahead with innovations, improving current techniques and discovering new ones. For instance, the potential of the endoscope, a fiber–optic tool used by orthopedic and other surgeons for more that a decade, is just now being unlocked in the field of plastic surgery to reduce scarring and recovery time. Researchers are now trying to unlock the secrets of the growth–factor environment of the womb, where scarless healing takes place, and apply it to wounds in children and adults.