Jeffrey Frentzen

Along with resolutions and renewals, the New Year encourages people to broadcast their predictions. Predicting trends and associated events in a science-driven industry is an iffy business—ask any meteorologist. And should a known aesthetic surgeon stand up and predict something, anything …well, the news media tends to broadcast it.

I separate New Year’s predictions into three bins: predictions that could possibly come true, those that are highly unlikely but entertaining and imaginative, and the Ostrich Theory Award candidates. The latter is reserved for those who don’t want the future to come at all, and predict some improbable return to bygone era, aka, “the good old days.”

Last month, I spotted an ostrich—a well-regarded surgeon whose qualifications and experience are beyond reproach. However, he publicly predicted that in 2008 aesthetic surgery customers will want to “…return to more traditional procedures with a decline in shortcuts. The time invested pays off in the long run, and the safety of established procedures is so high that people don’t have the same concerns they may have had in the past.”

In other words, would aesthetic surgery customers rather opt for invasive, painful surgeries if they had a choce? Will they move away from the kind of noninvasive, short-term, relatively painless procedures that have more or less dominated the industry for the past year or two?

Now for the reality check. As new technologies facilitate the creation of products, the trend is for increasingly noninvasive techniques that will replace the less safe, invasive procedures. Many core medical procedures, which have been for decades in the hands of an experienced few, have been getting “commoditized.”

For instance, customers do not have to get a filler or injection at your office. Dentists and gynecologists can offer those services in their offices, too.

Would you rather bid return to the so-called good old days, or does it make more sense to embrace the tremendous advances coming our way? For example:

  • The FDA recently approved a new treatment with Botox-like effects called GFX, which uses radio frequencies to relax the furrows between the brows.
  • Several laser companies that were offering nonablative fractional resurfacing have developed ablative fractional techniques because patients wanted a bigger result and will tolerate more downtime to get it.
  • New micro-lipo procedures that “fine tune” your abs and sculpt your neck; SmartLipo and LipoSonix products that use ultrasound to break down fat.
  • SmoothShapes, a product that claims to noninvasively improve the appearance of cellulite (this is the holy grail, since most women have cellulite and don’t want it).

Another holy grail for this industry is the use of stem cells in researching new aesthetic surgery methods.

Implants grown from stem cells could potentially offer a safer alternative to silicone or saline implants. In addition, they could also be aesthetically superior, keeping their shape and size for longer than artificial inserts, which typically shrink over time.

The research into fat-derived cells is still in the very early stages and many questions remain, but there is good evidence the fat-derived cells can also morph into skeletal muscle and blood vessel tissues.

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Ultimately, as the commoditization of the aesthetic surgery industry grows, its new products and technologies will be re-engineered to the exact needs of the consumer.

Imagine your patients carrying around a device that is preprogrammed to deliver a scheduled dose of medicine (eg, fillers, vitamin cocktails, etc) on-the-fly, check major bodily functions and stats in the manner of Star Trek’s tricorder, transmit any anomalies to the physician, schedule an appointment, and even confirm the appointment via built-in messaging.

Should we forsake all of this and, rather than hand our patient the tricorder, send them to a hospital and make them endure a terribly invasive surgery that will lay them up for weeks and risk additional sickness or injury in the course of implementing a cure?

Don’t become an ostrich. We should embrace the future, no matter how unpredictable it may seem.

Jeffrey Frentzen
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