Factors Influencing Surgeons' Decisions in Elective Cosmetic Surgery Consultations

Cook, Sharon, Rosser, R., James, M. I., Kaney, S. and Salmon, P. (2007) Factors Influencing Surgeons' Decisions in Elective Cosmetic Surgery Consultations. Medical Decision Making, 27 (3). pp. 311-320. ISSN 0272-989X

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0272989X07300607


Background. Current guidelines for surgeons' decisions about whether to offer cosmetic surgery are ineffective. Therefore, surgeons have to make difficult decisions on a case-by-case basis. The authors sought to identify the patient variables that influence surgeons' decisions in practice.

A qualitative study first delineated, from observation of consultations and interviews with surgeons and other staff, variables that might influence their decisions. Then, in a cross-sectional survey of patients seeking cosmetic surgery, the authors measured these variables and tested whether they predicted the surgeons' decisions to offer surgery.

Participants were 6 consultant plastic surgeons who assess cosmetic surgery referrals and 276 new patients aged 16 years or older referred to these surgeons.

The qualitative study suggested that, as well as clinical factors (the probability of a satisfactory surgical outcome and the risks v. benefits of surgery), surgery was more likely to be offered where it was of low cost (i.e., minor skin surgery), physical symptoms or dysfunction were present, and abnormality of appearance was extreme. The role of patients' quality of life was unclear. The quantitative study confirmed that the probability of surgery was increased where requests were for minor skin procedures and by abnormality of patients' appearance. In patients seeking major body procedures, surgery was less likely when patients reported poor quality of life.

Surgeons' decisions about whether to offer elective cosmetic surgery follow systematic rules. By incorporating the factors that surgeons use in their decision making, more effective guidelines about elective cosmetic surgery provision than are presently available could be developed.

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