Is It Safe to get “Ship-Shape” When You’re on a Ship?

Cruise lines seem to have some things in common with plastic surgeons.  They used to be considered a luxury for only the very rich but now are accessible for almost every economic category.  Cosmetic plastic surgery used to be thought of as only for the very rich but now is accessible and available for most patients.  There used to be just a few cruise lines a limited number of ships but today there are lots of cruise lines each with lots of ships and new and bigger ones arriving all of the time.  There used to be a certain number of plastic surgeons in most communities who were well known for their expertise.  Today there are more plastic surgeons in practice and even more “want-to-be” plastic surgeons-these are doctors who really did not go through a plastic surgery residency training program but still want to do cosmetic surgery and so come up with a variety of confusing “titles” and “certifications” to demonstrate their qualifications to potential patients.  [Just a simple reminder; there is only one true certification for plastic surgery and it is by The American Board of Plastic Surgery.  Only plastic surgeons that have trained in and completed a certified plastic surgery training program are allowed to sit for both the written and oral board exams and if they pass, become Board Certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery. Only  Board Certified Plastic Surgeons can become members of The American Society of Plastic Surgeons and The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.]

 As there is more and more competition, cruise lines keep coming out with more and more exotic things to lure you on to their ships-things like rock-climbing walls, ice-skating rinks, huge duty-free shopping malls, etc.  The latest twist is from Norwegian Cruise Lines which is starting to offer Botox and soft-tissue filler treatments in their on-board spas.  According to their website, on-board guests seeking these medical treatments will get a 30 minute consultation with a “trained” doctor in the on-board spa and then the guests will have a “customized” treatment program performed-all while cruising the high seas.  The cruise line does emphasize that their on-board spas do have a medical director who is a Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon but it also points out that he is not on the ship itself and never really sees the “patient”.  The big plus according to Norwegian Cruise Lines is that you get on the ship all run-down and tired and you get off all rested and refreshed-and if you ever been on a cruise, you probably get off heavier.

One of the problems is; what happens if you don’t get the right result?  What if you have a complication?  Yes, complications are few and far between with these types of treatments but they still can happen, so now what does the cruise ship cosmetic patient do?  Wait until the ship comes back into port to have a revision?  Go to their local plastic surgeon to fix their problems?  Who is the local plastic surgeon supposed to talk to in order to find out what types of treatments have been performed and what filler or dosage was used?  Some of the fillers used on these cruises may not be approved by the FDA for use in the United States.  Other issues are who is to determine that these “injectors” are properly trained and certified?  Which country’s standards of training are being used by the cruise ship spa?  Who is actually responsible for the quality and safety of the treatments given while at sea?  The “injector” on the cruise ship, the medical director on land somewhere, the cruise line?

I think a better idea would be to have your treatments done at any appropriate time before you go on your cruise so you can look rested and relaxed while on your vacation.  This way you only have to worry about which dinner selection you want tonight. [Hint from my son, Gyde, who loved our trip to Alaska two years ago-if you can’t decide which entree to select for dinner while on your cruise, have both of them.  Sounds like a 14 year old boy!]  The fact is that while Botox and soft-tissue fillers may seem like a “minor” procedure, they are still medical procedures and should be treated as such.

I can’t wait for the first cruise line to offer liposuction and breast augmentation procedures during your cruise.  I just hope the seas are calm and smooth during the surgery.

Herluf Lund MD

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