Northern Virginia Cosmetic Surgery Center Agrees to Settle FTC Charges That It Deceived Consumers About the Recovery Period, Risks, Pain & Scarring of Cosmetic Surgery
FTC News Release
June 24, 1992
The Alexandria, Virginia-based BelAge Plastic Surgery Center and its founder, Dr George F. Miller, Jr., have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges announced today, that they falsely stated in promotional materials that breast implants do not interfere with mammography — the test used to detect tumors in the breast — among other alleged misrepresentations about the safety, risks, scarring, pain or recovery period of various cosmetic surgery procedures. The proposed settlement agreement contains broad prohibitions against the challenged claims, and requires a risk disclosure any time Miller or BelAge state that cosmetic or plastic surgery procedures are safe.
Miller, an otolaryngologist (a physician with special training in ear, nose and throat medicine), specializes in head and neck surgery and facial plastic surgery, and some of his associates specialize in other types of cosmetic surgery. According to the FTC's complaint, BelAge and Miller advertised on television and in local newspapers the availability of a brochure titled "Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Plastic Surgery," and invited consumers to call and request a copy. The FTC alleged that the brochure contained numerous false and misleading statements, including that:
- breast-lift surgery leaves only minimal, barely-visible scars (when, in fact, such surgery is likely to result in permanent and conspicuous scars, the FTC said);
- the recovery period following a face lift or breast reduction is likely to be very short (when that is not the case);
- a protruding chin or jaw can usually be corrected through surgery which involves a very short recovery time (when that is not the case);
- patients who have otoplasty to correct protruding ears, or breast augmentation or reduction surgery, are likely to experience no pain or only mild discomfort (in fact, such patients are likely to require narcotic pain medication, the FTC alleged); and
- silicone breast implants do not interfere with mammography (when, in fact, they can, the FTC said).
(According to a 1991 "Backgrounder" on breast implants from the Food and Drug Administration, "[b]oth silicone gel-filled and saline-filled implants can interfere with the detection of early breast cancer because they can 'hide' suspicious lesions in the breast and because having implants makes mammography more difficult to perform.")
Finally, the FTC charged BelAge and Miller with representing that cosmetic surgery is safe without disclosing that it entails serious adverse risks. Representing that cosmetic surgery is safe without also disclosing such risks is deceptive, the Commission alleged.
The proposed consent order to settle these charges, announced today for public comment, would prohibit BelAge and Miller from misrepresenting the likelihood of risks or scarring, the length of the recovery period, amount of pain, or the need for pain medication, following plastic or cosmetic surgery. Specifically, they would be prohibited from, among other things, representing in the advertising or promotion of cosmetic or plastic surgery procedures:
- that the results of the surgery can be achieved simply, quickly or easily, or that any recovery period is quick, easy, or simple when the recovery period actually is likely to be longer than 5 days, unless they also state, clearly and prominently, the actual length of the recovery period;
- a typical recovery period or experience unless they also disclose either the recovery experience of a typical patient of theirs, or that the experience described will be the case under only limited or atypical circumstances.
- that patients are likely to experience no pain or only mild discomfort following breast augmentation or reduction, or any other plastic or cosmetic surgical procedure after which patients typically take narcotic pain medication (unless the respondents can show that their patients typically do not take narcotic pain medication); and
- that any cosmetic surgery procedure that entails serious adverse risk is safe unless they also disclose that such a procedure entails adverse risks. The settlement would require that, in written materials, this disclosure be boxed and isolated, on the same page as the safety claim, and in the same typeface and color as the most noticeable safety claim on that page.
The FTC has published a fact sheet for consumers who may be considering cosmetic surgery. The sheet includes a discussion of how to choose the right doctor as well as some of the risks of specific procedures. For a free copy, write "Cosmetic Surgery," FTC Public Reference Branch.
- FTC File No. 902-3116.
This page was posted on August 27, 2006.