Blog — Notes of a Plastic Surgeon

Welcome to my blog. I am a plastic surgeon in Seattle and have been in private practice since 1991. I've seen more than a few interesting faces and cases through my years spent in the exam room, the operating room and the emergency room. And I have an opinion on just about everything relating to plastic surgery (and a lot of unrelated stuff). If you like my blog, let me know. Thanks for reading! Lisa

Should I have my Biocell textured breast implants removed???

June 17th, 2019 — 11:50am

Looking pretty awesome after all these years.

This is a question posted by a patient on RealSelf.  She’s a lady in her 50’s with 11 year old anatomic Allergan Style 410 implants.  She has typical menopausal symptoms and does not think her implants are causing her night sweats, mild brain fog or hot flashes.  She’s heard about BIA-ALCL and wants to know if she should have her implants removed.  The photos she submitted show an absolutely beautiful long term result and the rest of her looks pretty awesome too.  She’s obviously either biologically privileged or she’s a gym rat or maybe both.  She’s very lean.  She doesn’t have enough fat for a meaningful fat transfer. Her breast volume is mostly implant. She loves her implants but she is scared.  What should she do?

So let’s be rational about the advice we give her based on what we know about BIA-ALCL.  First of all, she cares about her appearance.  Will she look good after explant?  IMHO, no.  She will be very, very small breasted.  If she’s okay with that, fine.  But I don’t think she will be okay with it.

What are the odds that she will get BIA-ALCL?  The latest numbers coming out of Dr. Mark Clemen’s work at MD Anderson estimate the chance of her developing BIA-ALCL is about 1 in 3000.  What about the chances of her DYING from BIA-ALCL?   Well, with increased awareness, early diagnosis and proper treatment, those chances are approaching ZERO.  I cannot rationally recommend she part ways with her awesome and great looking implants for those odds.

Now let’s look at breast cancer.  What are the odds?  Well, about 1 in 8 or 9 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. The cure rate for breast cancer is much lower that the 90% plus cure rate for early diagnosed and properly treated BIA-ALCL.  Do we recommend bilateral prophylactic mastectomy for your average patient with average breast cancer odds?  Of course we don’t.  Women should be freaking out about the fact that they have breasts instead of the fact that they have textured breast implants!  And this post is in no way dismissing the suffering and, yes, death of patients with delayed diagnosis and/or treatment of BIA-ALCL.  These numbers mean nothing to someone who has died or lost a loved one BIA-ALCL.  We now know so much more about the etiology, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of this really weird malignancy.

So this is what I would advise this lady if she were my best friend or sister:  Her implants are getting up there in years.  I would get them removed and replaced with smooth, round cohesive gel implants.   With her anatomy she will look fine with round implants.  It’s been demonstrated very well that anatomic implants offer almost zero benefit over round implants in patients with normal anatomy.  If her surgeon finds seroma fluid or capsule nodules, he/she should do a capsulectomy and send the fluid and capsules for examination.  If the capsule is smooth and thin and unremarkable, he/she can just adjust the implant pocket if necessary to accommodate the new implant and leave the existing capsule in place.

And then she needs yearly exams and regular mammograms based on her breast cancer risk.

Thanks for reading and I would be honored if you followed me on Instagram @sowdermd and @breastimplantsanity.  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Breast Implant Illness, Breast Implant Removal, Breast Implants

Opioid Free Surgery

May 20th, 2019 — 9:08am

I am very pleased to introduce our new opioid free surgery protocol.  This has been in the works for several months and we launched it 3 weeks ago with very good feedback from our patients.  Here’s just about everything you need to know.

Why?    The use and abuse of opioids cause a lot of problems not just for patient but society at large.  On the patient level, opioids often cause side effects such as itching, nausea, constipation, fuzzy head, bad dreams and the list goes on.  Having been on opioids myself for various surgical procedures, I personally think they don’t do a very good job at controlling pain but just get you so fuzzy in the head that you just don’t care.   On a societal level, have you heard of the opioid crisis?  The fewer pills out there in people’s medicine cabinet will mean less abuse.

How?   By approaching anesthesia and post operative pain in a different way, pain control can actually be better than what we have achieved in the past with opioids.  The non-opioid medications are started pre-operatively to provide a preemptive strike against the pain cycle.

What?  Here are the medications we use.  Acetaminophen a.k.a. Tylenol:  It’s good for head aches and post op pain.  Celecoxib a.k.a. Celebrex:  this is a non-steroid anti-inflammatory but does not have the blood thinning effects of other NSAIDs such as ibuprofen.  Inflammation is a major factor in pain.  Gabapentin a.k.a. Neurotin:  This is a medication used commonly for nerve pain.  It has a mild sedating effect in some individuals but does not fuzz your head nearly as much as an opioid.  Marcaine and/or Exparel:  These are long acting local anesthetics that are injected into the operative sites that can render the injected area numb for hours or days.  Ice: Oh, yeah, ice packs can help a lot.  My husband got through a gnarly knee operation with virtually nothing more than Tylenol and a gizmo that surrounded his knee with ice slush, provided by his awesome caregiver (that would be me).

When?  We have out patients take a dose of Tylenol, Celebrex and Gabapentin a couple of hours before surgery with a sip of water.  During surgery, the surgeon injects the operative area with local anesthetic.  After surgery, the patient continues with the medication combination.  Ice packs can be added for most types of surgery but check with us first.

Who?  All of us – surgeons, anesthesiologist, nurses, patients and their caregivers.  This protocol requires that we all work together.  The patients must make sure to take their medication before surgery, anesthesia must minimize or eliminate the use of opioids during surgery, the surgeon must be thorough with injection of the local anesthetics, the nurses must be sure the patients and their caregivers understand the pre and post-operative instructions.

So, how’s it working?  So far I have had a dozen patients on this protocol including a tummy tuck patient with very, very favorable results. I am very excited about this plan.  I’m sure we will tweak it here and there a bit but thus far I’m a total fan.

Thanks for reading and I would be honored if you followed me on Instagram @sowdermd and @ breastimplantsanity.

Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

 

 

Uncategorized

En Bloc Resection of Breast Implants and Capsules

April 2nd, 2019 — 9:20am

I get a lot of requests from breast implant illness patients to do an en bloc resection of their implants and the surrounding implant capsule.  The term en bloc refers to a procedure that removes the structure in question in one piece or all together.  This term is used most commonly in cancer surgery where a tumor is removed in its entirety without actually cutting into the tumor itself.  Except in cases of BIA-ALCL, implant capsules are not cancer.

The photo below shows an en bloc resection of two ruptured breast implants and the surrounding capsule.  In cases like this, doing an en bloc makes a lot of sense in that it prevents any spillage of silicone and makes for a much cleaner explant.  Fortunately it is cases like this where an en bloc is usually doable.  The thick, nasty and calcified capsule often just peels away from the adjacent breast tissue, muscle and chest wall without causing any collateral damage.  Doing a clean and slick case like this is what surgeons live for and believe me, I wish every explant would go just like this!

But……….it is not always possible to do an en bloc resection.   Sometimes the capsule is very, very thin and fragile (sort of like a wet Kleenex) and it is not possible remove it unbroken.  Sometimes the capsule is very adherent to adjacent structures such as breast tissue, ribs and chest muscle.  It is just not worth the damage to those normal structures to get an en bloc resection.  Sometimes, with implants under the muscle, the patient is at risk for a collapsed lung when trying to peel a very adherent capsule from the rib cage. In cases like this, the capsule can be removed with curettage.  And sometimes, with really large implants or those put in though the axilla (arm pit), the upper part of the capsule cannot be visualized with the implant in the way.  And if I cannot see it, I will not cut it.  In those cases, I remove the implant and then am able to safely remove the capsule.  I am very careful about minimizing or, in most cases, eliminating spillage of any leaking gel.bessss

 

I am aware that the breast implant illness community is obsessed with en bloc capsulectomy.  I’m not sure why because for clean, intact implants, there is no compelling reason to do an en bloc, except maybe to show off and promote oneself, and yes, I am guilty of that!   Many patients are lead to believe that there is some sort of evil humor or miasma that exists in the space between the intact and clean implant and capsule.  The space (which is actually what we call a potential space because it contains nothing) contains nothing!

It is really easy to pontificate for a potentially dangerous procedure when one has zero responsibility for any downside.  Who is responsible for harm to the patient – the surgeon holding the sharp instruments or the social media pundit?

And I am also aware that there are surgeons out there who guarantee an en bloc, every implant, every time.  I honesty don’t know how they can.  I also provide a guarantee… I’ll do my best.

Thanks for reading!  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

I would be honored if you followed me on Instagram @sowdermd and @breastimplantsanity.

Breast Implant Illness, Breast Implant Removal, Breast Implants, Patient Safety, Plastic Surgery

What does this plastic surgeon really think about breast implants?

March 27th, 2019 — 3:59pm

On Monday I testified in front of the FDA General and Plastic and Surgery Devices Advisory Committee on breast implant safety.  I think I surprised a lot of people in the room when I stated that I wasn’t crazy about breast implants.  Let me clarify a bit.

For the flat chest woman who could be mistaken for a boy with gynecomastia or a pubescent girl, and who does not have enough available fat for fat transfer, breast implants can be beneficial. Ditto for women who have a significant breast asymmetry or tuberous breast deformity that cannot be significantly improved without implants.  And some women with a pear shape (big hips and thighs and a narrow chest and small breasts), implants can add balance and be very beneficial.  Also, for women who have experienced deflation after pregnancy and nursing or after major weight loss, breast implants can restore volume to an extent that fat transfer usually cannot.  For mastectomy patients who are not good candidates for autologous reconstruction, implant based reconstruction can restore a sense of wholeness.  For these patients, breast implants are very beneficial.  And really, some patients find implants to be life changing in a good way.  Don’t judge a woman’s desire for implants until you’ve gone bra shopping with her breasts. That’s the upside of breast implants and really, all aesthetic breast surgery.

This might not end well.

Now I would like to wander into territory that a male plastic surgeon could not go lest the sisterhood ask for his head.  I would like to discuss the concept of bimbofication.  There are many, many women with perfectly fine breasts (defined by me as a nice shape and a size proportionate with the rest of their body) who opt to go larger, sometimes much larger in order to produce a hyper-sexual look and persona.  And I think this is a bad idea. Bimbos have a very short shelf life and getting what one wants via this sort of manipulation of certain types of men is not a good game plan at any age and is not going to work after a certain age.  It just won’t.

I also think that breast implants have skewed the vision of the ideal.  It is not normal for lean women to have huge breasts.  Yes, it occasionally occurs in nature (and a lot of them come in for breast reduction!) but it is not the norm.  I do think that the tide is turning some.  I think a more natural look is becoming more fashionable and I, for one, am glad to see it.  And for those who think I make millions stuffing breast implants into unsuspecting victims: if implants disappeared tomorrow my bottom line would likely go up because of my interest and expertise and experience in non-implant based aesthetic breast surgery.

Are breast implants safe?  I think smooth shell implants are.  (Textured implants, on the other hand, are worrisome.)  Breast implants have been around since the 1960’s and have undergone many design changes and a lot of scrutiny.  Many of the studies looking at implant safety are sorely lacking in follow-up (that’s also another blog) and it should come as no surprise that inserting a large foreign body has a lot of implant related down sides – rupture, deflation, malposition, capsular contracture, etc.  And they are not life time devices and have to be removed and/or replaced eventually.  I recently did a permanent removal of a ladies fifth set!  Do I think breast implants cause systemic illness?  I think there may be a teeny,  tiny subset of women who are sensitive to the materials in implants.  But I think breast implants are safe for the vast majority of women who choose to have them.

Now would I let my mother have implants?  No, she passed away 2 years ago (at 97!).  She had a full and lovely set probably because she did not breast feed her three children (it wasn’t in fashion in the 1950’s).  How about my sister?  I don’t have one but one of my sisters-in-law had postmastectomy reconstruction with an expander followed by an implant and balancing breast reduction and she looks better than she did before breast cancer.  She is thrilled with her result.  And how about my daughter? She is heading off to college this fall and will be making many, many decisions about her life without my input.  Actually, she has been making most of her decisions for a while now.  This is just one of many decisions.  Fortunately this young lady has a healthy body image and zero bimbo tendencies.  Lucky me.

So there you have it.  Implants are beneficial for many, many women and for some they are not.  I’m just glad to live and work in a society that allows adults to make their own choices!  You should be too.

Thanks for reading and I would be honored if you followed me on Instagram @breastimplantsanity and @sowdermd.  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Breast Contouring, Breast Implants

Today is Match Day – Maybe the Most Important Day in the Life of a Doctor

March 15th, 2019 — 12:00pm

Seattle Plastic Surgeon goes back, way back to Match Day 1983.

I remember the excitement of MATCH DAY like it was yesterday.

Every March, fourth year medical students across the United States convene to receive and open a small white envelope that has a huge influence on their future.  The information contained in this white envelope is where they “matched” for post-graduate training.

The Match System works like this:  As a fourth year student, you apply to a dozen or so residency programs and if asked, go for an interviews at these programs.  Then you rank the programs in decending order of fabulous to surely miserable and everything in between.  And the residency directors rank all of the applicants in decending order of incredible to surely a disaster.  An all knowing computer takes these rankings and matches the applicants with the programs.  Supposedly, the applicants’ wish list has more weight than the residency programs’  but I bet that students are still advised NOT to list any program that makes them want to chew glass instead of go there.

This is a momentous day.  This Match determines where you will live and train for anywhere from 3 – 8 years, who will become your BFFs, often whom you will marry, where you will eventually live and how you will practice your specialty.  Every fourth year medical student wants a great residency experience both academically and socially.

Okay, enough about that and more about me.  I matched at my 2nd of 10 choices, the University of Utah and, as a skiier and a woman, was thrilled.  Of course Utah has the BEST SNOW ON EARTH and the University of Utah had a lot of women in their general surgery program, even back then.

I ended up spending 6 years in Salt Lake City, 5 years as a general surgery resident and 1 year working in the Intermountain Burn Unit.  My years there made a man out of me (even though I’m a girl).  I came away from Utah feeling I could handle just about anything that walked in through the emergency room door.  I also came away from Utah in fantastic physical condition (the altitude makes for a strong cardio-pulmonay system), with many, many lifelong friends and a deep love and appreciation for deep, dry powder snow and Mormons (really).

And then there was Match Day for plastic surgery.  Again I snagged my 2nd choice, the University of Cincinnati.  I loved the program and training but it was a bit of culture and climate shock for me.  I even took up golfing which was about the only outdoor activity available.  I learned to love fireflies, the Ohio River, badass thunderstorms, cicadas and the way the humidity turned my naturally wavy hair into a Brillo Pad.  I never learned to love Skyline Chile which involves spaghetti noodles and cinnamon.

And now I am living in my home state, Washington in my dream city, Seattle.  But I so cherish those years away.  They expanded my world view while giving me great surgical training and some interesting ex-boyfriends.

So I hope every fourth year student matches at one of their top ranked programs and  some 36 years hence, looks back on their residency program with as much fondness as I do.

Thanks for reading.  I would be honored if you followed me on Instagram @sowdermd and @breastimplantsanity.    Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Surgical Eductaion

Saying goodbye to Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct

January 10th, 2019 — 12:49pm

This Friday one of my favorite drives on the planet will cease to exist.  I know it’s silly to be attached to stretch of asphalt and concrete but I’m going to really, really miss the Alaskan Way Viaduct. For those of you who do not live in the Seattle area, the Viaduct is a big ugly, noisy and dirty double decker monster of a highway that is a blight on Seattle’s waterfront.  But when I’m shifting my Minicooper into 5th gear on this monster, I feel like I’m flying through a magical landscape with a bursting young city on one side and a busy and beautiful waterfront on the other.  On a clear day I feel like I could roll down the window and reach out to touch the Olympic Mountains to the west. It has the best damn view in Seattle and this view is available to anyone in a car or bus.

But alas, all good things must end, at least that’s the party line.  This Friday night, barriers will go up, connections will be made to the deep bore tunnel that took many years to drill, and in a month, the big machines will come in to tear the Viaduct down.  Over the next few years, Seattle’s waterfront will explode with new developments and I’m sure it will be awesome but I’m going to miss that big ugly magical asphalt ride.

Tomorrow, after work, I’m going to take one last ride and say goodbye.  I’m sure I won’t be the only one.

Thanks for reading and I’d be honored if you followed me on Instagram @sowdermd and @breastimplantsanity.  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

 

I Love Seattle!, It's All About Me., Stuff I love

Some suggestions for New Year’s Resolutions

December 29th, 2018 — 8:06am

 

I cannot improve on this list of Woody Guthrie’s.

blog new yearsThanks for reading and Happy New Year!

Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Uncategorized

Will there be plastic surgery under your Christmas tree?

November 30th, 2018 — 3:11pm

Seattle plastic surgeon encourage the gift of plastic surgery.How to give the gift of plastic surgery.

Looking for the perfect gift this holiday season?  That perfect gift may just be a plastic surgical procedure.  Here are a few tips if you are considering this most thoughtful and personal of presents.

  • Only consider this if your loved one has confided in you that he/she is considering “doing something” or that he/she just wishes that he/she could just “get rid of this ______(fill in the blank)”.  Remember, it’s about him/her, not about you.
  • Make sure the lucky recipient is a good candidate for surgery.  Good candidates for surgery are in good heath (physically and mentally) and are in a socially stable place in their life.   If in doubt, shoot me an email and I can probably make an educated guess.  Do not, I repeat, do not give the gift of liposuction as a substitute for weight loss.  Need convincing that doing so is a bad idea?  Check out my blogs on obesity.
  • Make sure that you can afford the surgery!  You wouldn’t want to have to back out because of sticker shock.  I have a lot of ball park prices posted on my web site.  Or feel free to shoot me an email and I can give you a financial idea of how much this could set you back.
  • Make sure that lucky guy/gal will be able to take enough time off of work and/or household duties to recover.  It’s misery to try to get back to work too soon.  You want your gift to be a positive experience.  I have recovery times listed for most procedures on my web site.  Or shoot me an email.
  • Make sure you have nice package to present.   You can’t wrap up a tummy tuck or eyelid lift, but you can wrap up something they might love to wear or use after all the discomfort and bruising is gone.  Maybe something sassy from Hanky Panky for that mommy makeover patient or a pair of beautiful Firefly earrings for that eyelid lift patient.  Or for that dude of yours, how about a nice pair of Ethica boxer briefs You can include one of my practice brochures and a procedure brochure.  Oh, I can just hear the shrieks of joy now!

And just think, your gift of plastic surgery will last years, even decades.  You and your loved one will be enjoying the benefits much longer than a new car or television or laptop.  Do the math.  It could end up being a great value as well as a great gift!

HAPPY SHOPPING AND THANKS FOR READING!  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

I would be honored if you followed me on Instagram @sowdermd and @breastimplantsanity.

Mommy Makeover, Now That's Cool, Plastic Surgery, Postoperative Care

Happy Thanksgiving

November 21st, 2018 — 10:17am

 

’tis the season of Thanksgiving. 

Here are a few things that this plastic surgeon is thankful for……….

  • Modern Anesthesia.  This makes for painless surgery.  And the surgeon can take her time to do a really, really nice job.  During the Pilgrims’ time, the main qualification for being a surgeon was to be really, really, really fast. Yikes!
  •  The Germ Theory and Antibiotics.  Surgery used to mean infection.  Now surgical infections are rare.  Not rare enough, but rare.
  • The Bovie.  This is the electrical gizmo that seals blood vessels as it cuts.  This is why you don’t need a blood transfusion when I do your Mommy Makeover.
  • Surgical Scrubs.  It’s like working all day in my pajamas.
  • My Dansko Clogs.  It’s like working all day in my slippers.
  • Surgical Loupes.  These are my silly looking magnifying glasses that allow me to see important teeny tiny things like nerves and blood vessels.  They also come in handy for reading the newspaper when I can’t find my reading glasses.
  • My Battery Powered LED Surgical Headlight.  Now I don’t have to be attached to the light source by a fiberoptic tube (which is how my dog must feel on her leash).
  • Power Assisted Liposuction a.k.a. PAL.  This PAL is a true friend.  It makes liposuction so much better for the patient and the surgeon. 
  • My Wonderful Staff and Colleagues.  They keep me on my toes.
  • My Wonderful Patients.  They are why I love coming to work!
  • My Wonderful Husband and Children and Dog and Cat.  They are why I love going home in the evening.
  • My Freakishly Good Health.  I’m 62 and still running, skiing, biking, and just starting with tennis lessons.  I’d like to take full credit for this but really I think I’m just lucky. 

Thanks for reading!  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Now That's Cool, Plastic Surgery

Breast implant revision vocabulary

November 1st, 2018 — 12:05pm

Over the years, I have done a bajillion implant revision cases.  This comes with the territory of being in practice many years (27 years and counting as of this blog post!) and also with showing and voicing an interest in revisional surgery.  Implant revision is a fact of life.   Breast implants are not life time devices and in general what goes in must eventually come out.  Here a primer on the vocabulary of breast implant revision.  Your surgeon may throw around these terms.  Make sure you understand what he/she is saying and ask for clarification if you need to.  Here goes:

Capsule:  The scar tissue that forms around the implant.  This happens with ALL implants.  It’s a normal response to a “foreign body”.  Yes, breast implants (like all non-biologic implants) are a foreign body. 

Capsular contracture:  The presence of a tight and often thick and sometimes calcified capsule.  This results in a “hard implant”.   This is abnormal scarring.

Implant pocket:  The space where the implant resides.  In cases of submuscular implants, the pocket is between the pectoralis major and the rib cage.  In cases of subglandular implants, the pocket is between the breast gland and the pectoralis major.  Sometimes a change in the implant pocket is advised for implant revision.  

Implant malposition:  Implants that are too high, too low, too medial or too lateral.  This is most often corrected by modifying the implant pocket.

Bottoming out:  A condition that occurs when the implant settles too low and/or is too loose.

Inframammary fold (IMF):  The crease under the breast that is densely attached to the chest wall.   The IMF tends to go back to where it was before implants after implant removal. 

Double bubble: A condition that occurs when the implant falls below the inframammary fold.  This is often accompanied by a crease along the lower breast at the level of the native inframammary fold or the edge of the pectoralis muscle.   

Waterfall deformity: A condition that occurs when the implant stays put but the breast sags as it ages and falls over the implant. 

Synmastia a.k.a. unaboob:  Implants that are too close together.  This looks really weird and is very, very hard to fix. 

The gap:  The space over the sternum that separates the breast.  Sometimes the patients anatomy will result in a wider gap than she desires.  Trying to close the gap can result in really lateral nipples or the dreaded unaboob.  See above.   

Capsulotomy:  Cutting open the layer of scar tissue either to loosen it up or to change the position of the implant.  This can sometimes be done with a local anesthetic.

Capsulectomy:  Cutting out the capsule.  This always requires a general anesthetic.  This can be very difficult.  

Capsulorrhaphy:  Putting stitches into the capsule to either tighten it up and/or to raise the implant.  This usually requires a general anesthetic. 

En bloc capsulectomy:  Removing the implant capsule with the implant without opening the capsule.  This is the preferred method for removing a ruptured silicone gel implant.  This is not always technically possible. 

Acellular dermal matrix (ADM) and surgical mesh:  A sheet of collagen or other substance that controls position of the implant and may prevent recurrent capsular contracture.   Alloderm and Strattice are two of the ADMs I have used.  I have also used Seri surgical mesh.  Think of these as an internal bra, a very, very expensive internal bra.

Perfect symmetry:  Not possible but we try.  

Touch-up:  This term best used when referring to make-up application.  I try to avoid this term when it comes to breast implants.  It implies that it’s easy and it’s never easy. 

Revision:  This term best used when referring to repeat surgery on a breast with an implant.   

So there you have it.  Now you can translate what your surgeon has told you needs to be done.  And again, if you don’t understand make him/her go over it again until you do understand.  Tell them Dr. Sowder told you to do so.  Thanks for reading and I would be honored if you followed me on Instagram @sowdermd and @breastimplantsanity.

Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

 

Breast Contouring, Breast Implant Removal, Breast Implants

Back to top