Medical spas growing in number, but are they a safe alternative?

February 24, 2012

Medical spas growing in number, but are they a safe alternative?
Medical spas growing in number, but are they a safe alternative?

With cosmetic surgeries more popular than ever, it's no surprise that the industry of facelifts, breast implants and Botox is booming. This trend, reported by the Boston Globe, has led to the rise of medical spas or facilities that offer cosmetic surgery procedures without the hospital-like atmosphere. While it may be enticing to visit one of these locations for an injection or laser treatment, many question whether the spa setting is as safe as an accredited facility.

"A lot of people assume that the person treating them in a white coat is a physician, and they don't ask," the director of dermatology laser and cosmetic center at Massachusetts General Hospital told the Boston Globe. Making such an assumption could lead to trouble later on down the line.

According to the news source, The Bay State alone has 250 medical spas. While some are affiliated with local universities, others are standalone. Many of these locations may offer a relaxed setting, but the staff members there are not required to be licensed and regulated by the state, provided the facility is owned by or associated with a physician. In fact, these sites do not require a doctor to be physically on-site.

Legislators are working on this issue, though some roadblocks have prevented formal laws from passing in the state. The potential laws to tighten regulation on medical spas met resistance as it passed through the Massachusetts State House in the summer of 2011, as the medical professionals who helped draft the bill often disagreed with one another.

Some lawmakers also made claims that the bill lacked evidence supporting the notion that medical spas showed "a pattern of bad outcomes." The news source points out, however, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration received 930 reports concerning dermal filler injuries over a five-year period, many of which occurred because the practitioner delivering the injectable medicine was untrained and operating in a facility that was not a health clinic.

Still, the demand for medical spa facilities seems to be driving the market. A research report from Global Industry Analysts, Inc., projects that in the future, nonsurgical procedures that aim to remove excess body fat and reduce the signs of aging will become the leading services sought by those visiting medical spas.

According to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, patients should find out if the medical spa has a licensed, board-certified physician responsible for oversight, trained and licensed personnel performing the procedures and if all treatments are FDA approved. It is important that you do your homework, as you should on anything that can affect not only your appearance but your health and safety as well.


The mission of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) includes medical education, public education and patient advocacy. Plastic Surgery News Briefs are summaries of current stories found through various news and magazine outlets that relate to or mention plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures. The views expressed in these news articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASAPS, but are merely published as an educational service to our members and the general public. For additional information on these subjects and other plastic surgery related topics, please go to www.surgery.org

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The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world’s leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body.  ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; active members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures. International active members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.

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