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Cosmetic work? Research before you undergo it

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dr. Travis Love has a warning for people looking to have cosmetic medical procedures at medical spas or in a physician's office.

Research their outcomes before getting work done there.

"If you go in to see someone who's offering cosmetic procedures and they cannot show you before-and-after pictures of their own personal work, leave," Love said.

Love is a doctor of osteopathic medicine who works at Imagine Medispa, where he does injectable Botox and dermal fillers, as well as chemical face peels and other procedures used to improve patients' looks.

As with medical facilities, the state of West Virginia does not regulate medical spas as an industry, but they do regulate the medical professionals who work in them, Robert Knittle, executive director of the state Board of Medicine, said.

The board oversees medical doctors and physician assistants who perform procedures at medical spas and other facilities, but they don't inspect the facilities, Knittle said.

Across the country, there has been some debate over what regulations should be placed on medical spas, but that hasn't been the case in West Virginia, Knittle said.

"I know, nationally, there have been issues with things going astray with different types of medical spas," he said. "Frankly, we have not had a groundswell of issues and concerns dealing with practices in medical spas."

The BOM receives between 160 and 180 complaints each year about doctors, physician assistants and podiatrists, he said, "but I can't think of any in recent memory that dealt specifically with treatment received at a medical spa," he said.

Evan Jenkins, executive director of the state medical association, said despite the state's not having specific rules regarding medical spas, West Virginia has clear laws about the practice of medicine.

"How a facility is labeled is not as important as the issue of what services are being performed at that facility," Jenkins said. "And we have pretty clear laws about that. If, at that facility, whatever you call it, unlicensed people are performing services that are deemed the practice of medicine, we have clear laws that can prohibit those practices from occurring."

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has regulations that are specific to health-care facilities, Jenkins added. Local health departments also have some authority to inspect health-care facilities.

The cosmetic-procedures industry regulates itself to some degree, Love said.

Companies that sell Botox and filler products won't sell to people who aren't certified to do those procedures.

"They want to see certification that you've been trained before they will allow you to open that account and sell," Love said.

There's a reason for that. While temporary fillers like Botox and dermal fillers pose no risk of permanent disfigurement, save for the chance of infection if they are not sterile, temporary complications could last a while, he said.

They range from lumps and bumps in the face to drooping eyelids and brows and uneven smiles and can last up to six months, Love said.

"When you're a female and it's four to six months, that's a long time," Kathy Eller, a nurse practitioner who works alongside Love at Imagine Medispa.

Eller went through additional training to be able to perform those types of procedures.

She was involved in opening a medispa in Charleston in 2005 and has been at Imagine since October. Eller said she thinks regulation for those undergoing training for cosmetic procedures has ramped up over the past few years.

"I know the difference in continuing education now is that I actually have to show my license before I'm even allowed to register for a course," Eller said. "Before, you could say you were anything and take a course in ascetics, lasers, anything that has to do with the medical spa industry."

Eller said some training courses are better than others.

"You have to honestly, proactively look for something that's comprehensive, not just pull the first thing that you see on the Internet," she said. "[There are a] ton of people doing fly-by-night courses on how to do Botox."

When it comes to picking a place to have cosmetic procedures, Eller and Love recommend asking who at the facility is doing those procedures. A physician might have a laser that's used for skin procedures, but is that physician or someone else actually doing the work?

"Sometimes you think you're getting something that you're not," she said. "So it's extremely important that you really think everything through."

Also, if you're concerned, ask about the person's background, Love said. Medical licensing boards -- for instance the Board of Medicine and the Board of Osteopathic Medicine in West Virginia -- keep records of physicians online.

"You can check the licensing boards of medicine in every state and see what disciplinary actions, if any, have been taken against a physician," Love said. "Medical schools, where they did their residencies . . .  . There's nothing that's not available on a physician."

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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