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Cosmetic Surgery: The Cutting Edge of Commercial Medicine in America.

Lynch, John B. M.D.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: September 1st, 2003 - Volume 112 - Issue 3 - p 909-910

Cosmetic Surgery: The Cutting Edge of Commercial Medicine in America. By Deborah A. Sullivan. Pp. 233. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, N.J., 2001. Price: $22.

This 6×9-inch paperback is published by Rutgers University Press and contains 206 pages of text plus an introduction and 16 pages of bibliography. The author states that this book is neither a consumer guide to cosmetic surgery nor an ethnographic account of the body custom. Rather, it represents an attempt to understand what factors contributed to the emergence, growth, and demand for this medical practice, the supply of practitioners offering it, and the implications of its subsequent commercialization for medicine. The book is well written, well researched, and well documented, and it still makes for easy reading.

The author starts with a brief overview of the feminine and masculine standards that have evolved over the last two centuries, and she includes detailed current statistics on the incidence of aesthetic surgical procedures. She traces the evolution of cosmetic surgery during the first half of the twentieth century with the efforts made by practitioners to overcome the stigma that was associated with this activity at that time from the American Medical Association and mainstream medicine. She also outlines the technological advances that have made this field possible, and with supply outstripping demand, she traces the growth of marketing and practice-enhancement activities and includes a large section about the advertising phenomenon in women’s magazines in recent years.

Interspecialty turf battles are discussed, including various initiatives from interested parties at the American Board of Medical Specialties and other arenas. There is substantial coverage of the silicone breast implant controversy in the early 1990s, advertising, the impact of ambulatory surgery, and unregulated practice. This book is recommended for anyone with an interest in this area of medicine.

©2003American Society of Plastic Surgeons