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Evaluation of Plastic Surgery Information on the Internet

Jejurikar, Sameer S. MD*; Rovak, Jason M. MD; Kuzon, William M. Jr MD, PhD*; Chung, Kevin C. MD*; Kotsis, Sandra V. MPH*; Cederna, Paul S. MD*

Original Articles

The Internet allows vast access to medical information. Unlike most plastic surgery literature, the Internet is a quagmire of unfiltered information, not subject to peer review. To assess the accuracy of medical information on the Internet the authors studied one commonly performed elective procedure, classifying and defining the information retrieved. Using the keyword “breast augmentation,” the authors compiled a list of the first 300 web sites, obtained from six distinct search engines, yielding 215 unique sites. They devised an instrument to evaluate each site for its accessibility, relevance, and accuracy. Of the 215 unique web sites evaluated, 20 were inaccessible, 24 were irrelevant, and 41 contained no medical information. Of the remaining 130 sites, almost 34% contained false or misleading information. Errors pertained most often to the technical details of the operation, potential benefits, and risks. In addition, exaggerated claims concerning alternative breast enhancement regimens, adverse sequelae of silicone breast implants, and potential effects on lactation were also seen commonly. A considerable amount of information regarding breast augmentation on the Internet was either misleading or inaccurate. Physicians can assist their patients with specific guidelines to allow them to process information discerningly, thereby diminishing the likelihood that medical decisions are based on misinformation.

Using key words “breast augmentation” on six search engines, 215 unique web sites were identified, of which 85 were inaccessible or useless. Of the remaining 130 sites, one-third contained false or misleading information concerning technical factors, benefits, risks, exaggerated claims, and adverse sequelae.

*Section of Plastic Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of Michigan Health Systems, Ann Arbor, MI; and †Section of Plastic Surgery, Washington University, St. Louis, MO.

Received Mar 4, 2002,

and in revised form Apr 9, 2002.

Accepted for publication Apr 9, 2001.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr Jejurikar, University of Michigan Health Systems, Section of Plastic Surgery, 2130 Taubman Health Care Center, 1500 E. Medical Center Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0340.

Jejurikar SS, Rovak JM, Kuzon Jr WM, Chung KC, Kotsis SV, Cederna PS. Evaluation of plastic surgery information on the Internet.

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.