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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Northwestern Study Explores the Safety of Minimally-Invasive Cosmetic Surgeries

Minimally invasive cosmetic procedures, including fillers, neurotoxins, and laser and energy device procedures are exceedingly safe and have essentially no risk of serious adverse events, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study that analyzed more than 20,000 procedures around the country.

This is believed to be the first large, multi-center study that prospectively analyzed the rate of adverse events among tens of thousands of cosmetic procedures done at many centers around the United States by experienced dermatologists. These procedures are used to decrease the visible facial signs of aging.

When side effects – such as bruising, redness, swelling, bumpiness, or skin darkening – occur, they are usually minor and go away on their own, the authors report. Such minor adverse events occurred in fewer than 1 percent of patients.

For many years, there was a perception that minimally invasive cosmetic procedures are safer than larger, more invasive cosmetic procedures.  However, there was little evidence to back up this belief.

The new study, published in JAMA Dermatology November 5, was led by Dr. Murad Alam, professor in dermatology, otolaryngology – head and neck surgery and surgery – organ transplantation.

“The message for patients is that if you are thinking of getting one of these procedures, you are not indulging in something drastic or high risk,” Dr. Alam said. “The take home is these procedures are very safe and can be mixed and matched to give the individual a significant cosmetic benefit, rather than getting one big cosmetic procedure that might be risky.”

Previous studies have been small (typically one physician looking at his or her own data) and retrospective, in which practitioners are asked to look back over the last year or years to determine complications. That approach tends to result in underestimates because physicians can’t remember and have a natural bias to not remember bad things even if they are trying to be accurate, Dr. Alam said. In addition, the critical data may not be available on the chart.

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