Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Medical Reports: Doctor in the House
Everybody loves a spa day -- but something new is popping up in South Florida. "Medi-spas" offer cosmetic procedures in addition to the pampering treatments. But not every medi-spa is run by an expert, and patients are paying the price. In tonight's special report, 7's Diana Diaz shows us why it's so important to have a Doctor in the House.
WSVN -- Botox, Restalyne, lasers that zap hair and erase sunspots -- treatments once only available at a doctor's office are now offered at your local spa or mall.
But there's an ugly side to this cosmetic convenience.
Jordan Miles: "They were going to remove sun spots."
Years of basking in the Florida sun left Jordan Miles with skin damage.
After seeing an ad in the paper, she decided to go to a medi-spa to get the laser treatment.
The biggest draw -- it was run by a nurse practitioner.
Jordan Miles: "I thought because the lady was a nurse practitioner, she would have the medical expertise and would know what she was doing."
But Jordan instantly became concerned as soon as the treatment started.
Jordan Miles: "Throughout the procedure it hurt a lot, and I complained, but their response was they were almost done."
She trusted them -- she shouldn't have.
Jordan Miles: "I ended up with second and third degree burns on my back and it looks, in appearance now, like a zebra stripe."
Medi-spas started opening in the late '80s when businessmen and doctors realized they could make more money doing cosmetic procedures -- procedures they were never fully trained to do.
Dr. Stephen Mandy: "They have no special training or knowledge in the structure and function of the skin nor do they have training in these devices."
Physician Assistant: "I was very concerned, not only about the safety of the patients, but also of my own future in the medical field if I continued to practice in that manner."
This physician's assistant, who asked that we hide her identity, recently quit her job at a local medi-spa.
She claims her medical director was never in the office and didn't have proper qualifications.
Physician's assistant: "No one was around to not only supervise me but support me in the event that I had a problem."
And there are plenty of problems...
Dermatologists report seeing a 45 percent increase in the number of patients asking them to correct a medi-spa procedure that went wrong.
Dr. Stephen Mandy: "Laser hair removal is generally the number one that you see. Patients who suffer pigment changes, actual scarring."
Rising complaints prompted the Florida legislature in July to pass a law requiring medical spas to have either a board certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist as their medical director.
Dr. Michael Salzhauer: "We have the same exact medical charting system and level of safety and regulation that we do in our standard medical office, we are a little bit more stringent here because we are in the public eye that much more so."
Plastic surgeon Michael Salzhouer recently opened the Laser Lounge in a local mall.
As medical director, he sees patients at the spa a couple times a week.
When he's at his primary office, he looks at patients' charts online and even keeps an eye on the spa with this camera.
Diana Diaz: "But he's in the minority. Seven News called 15 medi-spas in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Out of those, only three had medical directors with the proper credentials. What's worse, there is no one policing the spas."
Dr. Stephen Mandy: "There are no spa cops running around the state trying to intervene here."
So it's up to the patient to ask the right questions:
Who is the medical director?
Is that medical director a board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon?
Also, ask about the person who will do the procedure.
Once the procedure begins, if there's extreme pain or burning, speak up!
Dr. Stephen Mandy: "All too often patients are led too easily to the slaughter, and they just think that they are being a good patient by keeping quiet."
Jordan knows she didn't ask enough questions in the beginning.
Now she's left with scars that may never heal.
Jordan Miles: "I assumed way too much, and I shouldn't have. I should have checked out the individuals."
Or at least asked if there was a doctor in the house.
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