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Safety concerns in medical spas outlined in studies

Two new studies published in Dermatologic Surgery examine the public perception of cosmetic procedures and medical spa safety in the U.S. The results emphasize the need for measures such as the Medical Spa Safety Act, developed by the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery Association (ASDSA), the authors report.

In the first study, Who Is holding the syringe? A survey of truth in advertising among medical spas, the survey of 127 medical spas in the Chicago area revealed there was no on-site physician at 81.1% of the medical spas that participated. The survey also found that non-physicians perform most cosmetic medical procedures at these medical spas. Without a physician on-site and immediately available, the ASDSA warns that patient safety could be compromised.

The second study involved 1,108 people who were surveyed regarding their perceptions of the safety of receiving cosmetic procedures at medical spas or physician’s offices. The study called Evaluating public perceptions of cosmetic procedures in the medical spa and physician’s office settings: A large-scale survey, showed that those who had only received cosmetic procedures at physician’s offices or who had never received a cosmetic procedure cared more about being treated by a physician (p<0.001) and rated safety as more important (p=0.03). The researchers also determined that total complication rates were higher at medical spas compared to physician’s offices (p=0.41). They noted that procedures such as minimally invasive skin tightening (0.77 vs. 0.0, p<0.001) and nonsurgical fat reduction (0.80 vs. 0.36, p<0.04) had higher rates of complications at medical spas than in physicians’ offices.

“These studies emphasize growing patient safety concerns regarding the proliferation of non-physicians practicing medicine, especially in medical spas with minimal to no physician oversight,” Dr. Seth Matarasso said in a press release. 

The ASDSA’s incoming president added: “Lack of regulation and enforcement has enabled many medical spas to offer cosmetic medical procedures performed by inadequately trained or unsupervised staff to unsuspecting patients. For optimal patient safety, ASDSA supports medical spa procedures based on patient outcomes and quality care, as well as appropriate on-site physician supervision, oversight and training.”

The ASDSA has developed model legislation called the Medical Spa Safety Act that asks states to regulate medical spas and keep medical procedures under the oversight of physicians. The Act also requires all medical directors to have training on every procedure performed at a spa. The model bill includes requirements for additional staff education and public notification if a physician is not on-site as well as options for mandatory reporting of adverse events.


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