What Is Dermatologic Surgery?
To begin with, everything dermatologic relates to the skin in health and disease. Your skin is the largest and most visible single organ in your body, providing your tissues, bones and organs with a natural suit of armor. Your skin is also a window to your overall health, as well as the first part of your body to show the noticeable signs of aging and sun damage.
Dermatologic Surgery deals with the diagnosis and treatment of medically necessary and cosmetic conditions of the skin, hair, nails, veins, mucous membranes and adjacent tissues by various surgical, reconstructive, cosmetic and non-surgical methods. The purpose of dermatologic surgery is to repair and/or improve the function and cosmetic appearance of skin tissue.
Thanks to research breakthroughs, clinical advances and instrumentation innovations pioneered by skin surgery experts, the majority of dermatologic surgeries is now minimally invasive and requires only local or regional anesthesia. This translates into superior patient safety while reducing the all-important "downtime" and recovery period. In addition, new developments and the latest techniques are constantly enhancing the results of many established skin surgery procedures.
Examples of dermatologic surgery procedures include anti-aging treatments, injectable and implantable soft tissue fillers, botulinum toxin treatments, correction of acne scarring, chemical peeling, tumescent liposuction, vein therapy, hair restoration, laser surgery, skin cancer treatment, and reconstructive flaps and grafts.
Who Is a Dermatologic Surgeon?
Dermatologic surgeons are physicians who have unique qualifications and experience in the use of a wide variety of surgical and non-surgical methods of treating the skin and preventing skin problems. Moreover, they are the "masters of your appearance," helping you to look good and feel good at any stage in life.
After completing medical school and a year of internship, a dermatologic surgeon receives specialized education in the form of at least three years of residency training in an accredited program that includes a core curriculum in the therapeutic, reconstructive and cosmetic treatment of skin conditions.
In short, a dermatologic surgeon demonstrates competence in the diagnosis, medical care and surgical management of:
Diseases and disorders of the skin, hair, nails, veins and nearby tissues
Benign and malignant growths and skin cancers
Aging and sun-damaged skin
Cosmetic improvement of the skin
Dermatologic surgeons are Board-certified dermatologists. After completing their residency education, candidates take an exam given by the American Board of Dermatology (ABD), which is sponsored by the leading medical organizations in the field. Doctors who pass the Board-certification exam are then referred to as Diplomates of the ABD.
Dermatologic surgeons are also members of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS), a professional medical organization founded in 1970. The Society is dedicated to excellence in the subspecialty of dermatologic surgery and the highest standards of patient care. To advance dermatologic surgery as a scientific discipline as well as the knowledge and skills of each practitioner, the ASDS supports clinical and basic research grants and provides continuing education opportunities for its members.
Why Choose a Dermatologic Surgeon?
Historically, dermatologic surgeons have been the pioneers and leaders in the field of cosmetic and medically necessary skin surgery. In fact, the science of many of the cosmetic surgery procedures and skin cancer treatments performed today were either originated or enhanced by dermatologic surgeons. For example, these skin surgery experts invented laser surgery for birthmarks, liposuction using local anesthesia, hair transplantation, the use of many filler substances, most chemical peeling treatments,Botulinum Toxin Type A therapy, laser hair removal, laser resurfacing for wrinkles, many leg vein treatments, microdermabrasion and more.
What Causes Surgical Skin Problems?
There are a variety of reasons why people seek the services of a dermatologic surgeon, but the most common causes are:
Aging and its effect on one's appearance, such as the results of time on skin structure, along with intrinsic and extrinsic skin changes producing lines and wrinkles, brown spots and resistant fat deposits.
Sun exposure that leads to skin damage, such as benign and malignant growths and tumors, broken capillaries, lines and pigmentation problems.
Diseases and disorders of the skin, such as skin cancer, acne, moles, birthmarks and rashes.
Other diseases that visibly affect the skin, such as diabetes, HIV, hormonal imbalances and internal cancer.
Trauma – injury and accidents that can cause relatively minor wounds and scars to more serious disfiguration.
Genetic factors with skin manifestations – inherited tendencies toward certain disorders such as hair loss, varicose veins, dark shadows under the eyes and resistant fat deposits.
Why Consider Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgery?
The tremendous demand of the "baby-boomers" and the explosion of relatively safe and quick fixes to rejuvenate the aging face have fueled the pursuit of youth and beauty. Moreover, many people these days retain their inner youth and vitality even as the telltale signs of aging begin to show on the outside. According to Dr. William P. Coleman, III, Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA., there appears to be a growing acceptance and democratization of the desire to repair and enhance one's appearance. "Most consumers today have few, if any qualms about challenging the conventional notion of aging gracefully," comments Dr. Coleman. "We see people from all walks of life who choose to improve their appearance with cosmetic skin treatments and procedures."
Two key factors appear to be driving this trend: One is the vast array of newer, less invasive and more sophisticated procedures that offer people a way to 'tweak' their appearance subtly yet effectively. The second is the increasing number of younger people who are taking a proactive approach and having cosmetic skin procedures performed at the first sign of aging. Simply put, the opportunity to "turn back the clock" and improve the appearance of normal body features to match the vim and vigor felt on the inside is a strong motivator to visit a dermatologic surgeon.
Choosing a Dermatologic Surgeon
While you may think the most important decision that you make is whether or not to have dermatologic surgery, the choice of a qualified physician is truly the key to success. There are two important factors to keep in mind when selecting a dermatologic surgeon, particularly for cosmetic skin care: clinical proficiency and personal rapport.
Selecting a proficient physician is the single most important factor for a successful medical procedure. Patients should ask the following questions before they decide if a doctor and a dermatologic surgery procedure are right for them:
What are the doctor's credentials?
Make sure your physicians is Board-certified in dermatology. Ask to see his or her credentials. Inquire about his or her commitment to continuing education.
How many of these particular dermatologic surgery procedures has the physician performed?
Most dermatologic surgeons are well-versed in the full range of clinical solutions for a specific condition. In fact, dermatologic surgeons pioneered most of the skin surgery procedures in use today, but some doctors may specialize in acertain technique or technology.
What results can you expect?
Realistic expectations are very important to a positive outcome. Also remember that results will vary based not only on the skilland experience of the surgeon but also on the specifics of your condition, yourage, your general health, and other medical and lifestyle factors. Ask to see before and after photos of similar procedures your surgeon has performed on patients with comparable conditions.
What is the healing time and recuperation period? Some procedures require almost no down time; others may necessitate several weeks of recuperation. Know what you're getting into so that you can arrange your schedule accordingly.
What are the risks?
There are inherent risks with any type of surgery. While the risks of most dermatologic surgeries are minimal, you should discuss the pros and cons of any treatment with your doctor.
What will it cost? You should understand up front your financial commitment and the doctor's terms of payment. In cases where multiple treatment options are available, cost can be an important factor in making your final decision.
Ultimately, the decision to have any dermatologic surgery performed, by any dermasurgeon, is yours and yours alone. You have the right to obtain all the information you need to make an educated decision you are comfortable with. After all, it may well be the most profound step along the pathway to a lifetime of healthy and beautiful skin.
Overview of Popular Treatments
Aging or Sun-Damaged Skin: wrinkles, sagging skin, age spots, actinic keratoses
Loose eyelid skin Treatment: blepharoplasty, botulinum toxin, cryosurgery, chemical peel, dermabrasion, laser resurfacing, laser therapy, microdermabrasion, non-ablative techniques, soft tissue fillers including fat transfer.
Baldness, hair loss, thinning hair, receding hair Treatment: Hair transplantation, punch grafts, scalp reduction, scalp flap surgery, tissue expansion.
Birthmarks, Tattoos, GrowthsTreatment: laser surgery, excisional surgery, cryosurgery, chemical peel.
Cysts, Moles Treatment: Surgical excision.
Fat Deposits Treatment: Liposuction with local anesthesia.
Scars: acne, chicken pox, injury or previous trauma or surgery. Treatment: Chemical peel, dermabrasion, laser therapy, microdermabrasion, non-ablative techniques, soft tissue fillers, surgical scar revision.
Skin Cancer Treatment: Surgical excision, Mohs micrographic surgery, laser surgery, cryosurgery, electrosurgery and curettage.
Spider and Varicose Veins Treatment: Ambulatory phlebectomy, intense pulsed light therapy, laser surgery sclerotherapy.
Warts, Seborrheic Keratoses Treatment: Cryosurgery, curettage, excision, electrosurgery, chemical treatment, laser surgery.