Dr. Susan Downey | Pasadena
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Dr. Susan Downey: 1301 Twentieth Street | Suite 470 | Santa Monica, CA | Tel: 310.401.2929
Female Plastic Surgeon | Pasadena

Archive for the ‘Plastic surgery' Category

Plastic surgery in Peru

Friday, May 20th, 2011

I recently returned from a medical mission in Qoya Peru.    The organization sponsoring the mission was Women for World Health.  Qoya is in the Sacred Valley about 40 kms from Macchu Picchu.    We saw a mixture of patients with clefts lips to burn scars.    It was exciting to have my sister-in-law Ginger along on the mission .  Ginger is a fantastic recovery room nurse who has always wanted to go on missions but was busy raising their four sons.  At last she had a chance to go on a mission and hopefully we will be able to go on another one soon together.    As always we came home with a renewed sense of how lucky we are and how many opportunities we have .  It truly is a privilege to be able to give something back I always get back so much more than I give on a mission.

Numbers of Plastic Surgery procedures increases as Economy improves

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons released their statistics for 2010 yesterday.  The overall number of cosmetic procedures increased 5 % in 2010.  This may represent some pent-up demand as patients return who had put off cosmetic work when the economy was so unstable.  Reconstructive procedures also increased 2% in 2010 with breast reconstruction up 8% !  This puts breast reconstruction into the top five reconstructive procedures for the first time .  The other top reconstructive procedures were (1) tumor removal (2)laceration repair (3)scar revision and (4) hand surgery.  Good news !  Hopefully this means that our work to get the word out to patients  undergoing mastectomies about their reconstructive options is working!

Cosmetic versus reconstructive surgery

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Plastic surgery as a specialty encompasses both cosmetic as well as reconstructive surgery.  The definition of cosmetic surgery is surgery  ”to improve on the normal”  whereas reconstructive surgery is surgery  ” to restore to normal form and function”.  In some cases it is clear -   repair of a cleft lip is clearly reconstructive surgery and liposuction of small amounts of fat that one just does not like is cosmetic surgery.  In other situations it is more difficult.  An upper eyelid lift to improve one’s appearance is cosmetic while an upper eye lift to remove excessive skin which is blocking one’s vision is reconstructive.   Breast reconstruction after cancer treatment is unusual in that there is a Federal Law signed into effect by Bill Clinton mandating that breast reconstruction and surgical treatment of the opposite breast (if needed) is covered by insurance.  Thank you Mr. Clinton!

Why I am a plastic surgeon

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

I remember the first time it happened. The teenage girl had come to the Plastic surgery clinic when I was a new plastic surgery resident. She had one breast that had not developed. She was wearing baggy clothes and kept her head down with her hair covering her face. Her mother did all the talking. We discussed a surgical plan and took her to operating room. Afterwards when she came for her postoperative visit the change was nothing short of miraculous. Not the surgical results although that had turned out well but the overall change in her appearance and even attitude. She was wearing clothes that fit, her hair was pulled back and best of all she would not stop talking! She even left her mother outside when she came into the exam room for her postoperative exam. `I was again reminded of this girl when a similar situation happened. Again it was a young girl and her mother. No one could explain why she had failed to develop on one side of her breasts but worse yet, no one had offered any solutions. It had even been suggested that she might have to wait to get anything corrective done until she was an adult. I was able to diagnose her and offer surgery that would give her symmetry throughout her development with a final surgery to be done when she was fully grown. The look of relief and gratitude on both the mother and daughters faces was overwhelming. The day had been long before with problems with obtaining authorizations from insurance companies, scheduling problems, lost dictations and all the other myriad of problems that make up a typical day in a medical office. I had recently received notice from my medical school that a big reunion year was approaching. A questionnaire had been sent out to all of the alums. One of the questions asked was “If you had it to do over again would you choose a career in medicine?” Quite a few had responded that they would not , citing the increasing pressures on physicians with decreasing reimbursements and increasing paperwork as the reasons. If I had been asked that question earlier that day while in the middle of a particularly frustrating fight with an insurance company I might have been tempted to answer “No” . Fortunately most of my time is spend in the actual care of patients and just when you get frustrated enough a patient comes along like that young girl who reminds you of what plastic surgery is all about. Too often especially in Hollywood the perception of plastic surgery is one of a purely cosmetic field. Cosmetic surgery is the improvement on the normal, reconstructive surgery is the restoration to the normal. Plastic Surgery encompasses both, often with the same techniques used to achieve the different goals. It is too easy to get swept along in the business side of keeping a practice going and forget what the real goals of the day are and most importantly why I became a plastic surgeon. I have the privilege of being able to travel with Interplast and offer my skills to help the very poor of the world correcting cleft lips and palates or undoing the damage done by burns. On my last trip to Ecuador in December a burn victim brought us her finest chickens to thank us for what we had done for her. No thanks were necessary. I had received much more from her than she had from me. My husband calls these mission trips my “psychic income”- a term he learned from a business professor in college. Medicine and in my opinion especially plastic surgery, is a wonderful career and fortunately these patient interactions occur often enough to remind me of how lucky I am to have chosen this profession.

What is Plastic Surgery?

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Plastic surgery has certainly  received a lot of media attention in the past few years especially with shows such as “Extreme Makeover”.  Despite all of this attention a lot is still not understood about plastic surgery.  First the name -  plastic surgery is derived form the Greek word Plastikos which means to bend or shape.   The substance plastic can be molded or shaped into any shape one desires.    Plastic surgeons mold or shape the body to change the contour or to even remake a part and so the name Plastic Surgery.  A very good example is when the skin and fat of the abdomen is used to recreate a breast after cancer treatment.  This procedure is called a Tram flap.  Extra skin and fat of the abdominal wall can be transferred to the chest area with the blood supply coming from the rectus muscle.  Once the abdominal tissue is up on the chest it can be molded and shaped to match the opposite breast.

Plastic surgery includes both cosmetic and reconstructive procedures.  The definition of a cosmetic procedure is one done to improve on the normal.   A reconstructive procedure is one done to restore the normal form or function.  Although the goal is different the surgical techniques are often the  same.  For example a breast implant can be placed for augmentation of  a breast in a cosmetic operation or a breast implant can be placed to reconstruct a breast after cancer.  The implants are the same, the surgical techniques are similar but the reasons for the operations are very different.