Videos of plastic surgery procedures on YouTube are their own special genre of body horror. If you're into watching someone get their face shuffled around and repositioned under a surgeon’s knife, and then endure multiple minutes of “before and after” time lapses of their bruised faces while they heal, there's a video out there for you.
But if you’re considering getting plastic surgery, you might also consult YouTube to research surgeons, techniques, and how procedures work. A new study out of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery found that a lot of these videos are just flimsy marketing for the people featured, or the physicians themselves.
They evaluated 240 top-viewed videos on YouTube, with a combined 160 million views, that they found in keyword searches for "blepharoplasty," "eyelid surgery," "dermal fillers," "facial fillers," "otoplasty," "ear surgery," "rhytidectomy," "facelift," "lip augmentation," "lip fillers," "rhinoplasty" and "nose job."
Most of the videos they found in these results didn’t include qualified professionals. Ninety-four of the videos included no medical professionals at all. Seventy-two of the videos did feature board-certified physicians, and scored highly on the DISCERN criteria, a tool used to decide whether educational materials provide enough unbiased information to help patients make informed decisions about their health.
But even videos posted by legitimate board-certified surgeons are often more marketing for their own practices than educational materials, the researchers found.
"Patients and physicians who use YouTube for educational purposes should be aware that these videos can present biased information, be unbalanced when evaluating risks versus benefits and be unclear about the qualifications of the practitioner," Boris Paskhover, lead author and an assistant professor at Rutgers New Jersey said in a press release. "YouTube is for marketing. The majority of the people who post these videos are trying to sell you something."