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

Category: Plastic Surgery

Will the real plastic surgeon please stand up.

November 1st, 2017 — 1:31pm

Is he certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery? It would be in a patient’s best interest to check!

Real Seattle Real Plastic Real Surgeon blogs about the difference between a real plastic surgeon and a wannabe.

I participate in a physician only message and discussion board called Sermo.  Lately there have been many discussions about the dangers of plastic surgery performed by doctors who are either poorly trained or, in some cases, not trained at all in surgery.  These doctors may be trained in pediatrics, ophthalmology, family practice, radiology, OB-gyn or even occupational medicine.  The things these doctors do have in common is that they have not completed formal and rigorous training in plastic surgery and they do not have hospital privileges for plastic surgery.  They do their procedures under local anesthetic (this way they do not have to have their facility inspected or accredited) and they don’t know what they don’t know.   It’s that “don’t know what they don’t know” that really scares me.  It should also scare you.

Before signing up for surgery, check to make sure your doctor has hospital operating privileges and is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery – the only plastic surgery board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.  Accept no substitute!

Thanks for reading, Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder, certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.  Follwow me on Instagram @sowdermd and @breastimplantsanity.

Patient Beware, Plastic Surgery

Continuity of Care – A Great Value!

August 31st, 2017 — 1:55pm

Seattle Plastic Surgeon implores patients not to fall for “Botox on Sale”.

Occasionally I have patients come in for Botox or fillers who have flitted around from doctor to doctor looking for the “best price”.   I hear statements like  “the last Botox didn’t work” , “the Restylane didn’t last”, “I’m not sure what she used but I didn’t like it”, and this is my favorite, “it was on sale but it didn’t last”.

This flitting around in search of a “deal” makes it very hard for a hardworking plastic surgeon (moi, for example) to figure out what, where and how much injectable to inject.  In my practice, we keep very accurate records of all of the above so I can judge what works best for any given patient.   And believe me, every patient is different.

Sometimes I think just because it is “cosmetic”,  patients don’t take these treatments seriously enough.  I cannot imagine anyone shopping around for the “best” price on, say, steroid injections into a bum shoulder or the “best” price for an hour of psychotherapy!

Usually continuity of care provides the best value of all, even if the prices are not bargain basement.  So for injectables, find a good doctor and stick (nice pun, huh?) with him/her.

Thanks for reading and follow me on Instagram @sowdermd and @breastimplantsanity.  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

General Health, Non-invasive, Patient Beware, Plastic Surgery, Skin Care

Plastic Surgery FAQ: I’m a total wreck. Where should I start?

June 14th, 2017 — 4:16pm

Seattle Plastic Surgeon answers Plastic Surgery FAQ:  I’m a total wreck.  Where should I start?

faq total wreckI often see patients who are interested in several different procedures.  They have a laundry list of things they would like to change.  A recent example was a middle aged lady who wanted hip liposuction, a face lift, a tummy tuck, a breast lift and an otoplasty to pin back her protruding ears.  Geeze, it would be unsafe and impractical to do all of those procedures in one mega 12 hour case.  It would be unsafe because that is a long, long time to be under anesthesia, multiple areas of the body would need to be exposed and that increases the risk of hypothermia, although any one operation has very little blood loss, all those procedures combined could significantly lower her blood count, and she would be sore from head to toe making her post operative recovery miserable.  It would be impractical because I really can’t stay at my best in the OR for 12 straight hours.  I just can’t.  And my nurses and techs and anesthesiologists don’t want to work a 12 hour case and we would finish the case well after dinner time.

My advice to this patient is to start with the area that bothers her the most.  In her case, it was her abdomen.  So we made the decision to do her hip liposuction and her breast lift at the same time as her abdomen.  By grouping these procedures, she saves some money and it saves her a lot of recovery time.   And – this is really important- I won’t be fatigued when I am putting in those last few stitches and the anesthesiologist will still be awake!

So if you are contemplating several procedures, try to decide which procedure you want the very most.  We can usually group procedures and still keep it safe and practical.

Oh, one more thing.  Sometimes the place to start is not the operating room.  It may be smoking cessation, getting into better shape or even a serious medical skin care program.  Sometimes surgery is the last stop on the line to improving appearance.

Thanks for reading! Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

If you think you are a total wreck and don’t know where to start, give my office a call to schedule a consultation, (206) 467-1101.

I would be honored if you followed me on Instagram @sowdermd and @breastimplantsantity. See you there!

Mommy Makeover, Patient Safety, Plastic Surgery, Surgical Eductaion


May 14th, 2017 — 7:00pm

motherhoodSeattle Plastic Surgeon Discusses Mommy Makeover on Mother’s Day

Ah, the joys of motherhood! I can wax eloquently about fat little feet, apple cheeks, wet baby kisses and so on but one of the joys I did not expect was a boost in my Plastic Surgery practice, especially my “mommy makeover” patients. Since becoming a mother myself, I speak “mommy” really well. I know first hand the glorious details of feeding, bathing, changing, and schlepping the baby. I can recite the stages of the toddler, the preschooler, the gradeschooler, the tween, the teenager and currently I am becoming an expert on the joys of being the mother of young adults.  

Being familiar with all that being a mother requires makes me much better at counseling patients about the process and timing of a “mommy makeover”.

“Mommy makeovers” usually combine breast surgery (augmentation and/or lift or reduction) with body surgery (usually abdominoplasty and/or liposuction). Most women are healthy enough to have a combination of procedures during one operative session. It is, however, the first couple of post operative weeks that are the most challenging for the patient.

Mommy is used to taking care of everyone but herself. After surgery the Mommy needs to take of only herself. She needs to be “Queen for a Week or Two” and resist the urge to cook, clean, change, wipe, mop, vacuum, load, unload, fold, etc. And if her youngest weighs over 20 pounds, she may not pick him/her up for at least two weeks if breast surgery was done and for at least six weeks if an abdominoplasty was done. The little one can crawl into Mommy’s lap for a cuddle but NO HEAVY LIFTING for Mommy. This also applies to the dog.

It’s very important to for patients to discuss these issues with their families. I’ve had a few ladies who have underestimated their recovery time, have done too much too soon and have turned what should be a relatively comfortable and relaxing recovery into a very sore and frustrating one.

So, calling all mothers interested in a “mommy makeover”: Plan ahead and get your husband and your children and your friends on board. Make a sign for your bedroom door. “DO NOT DISTURB – MOMMY RECOVERING”.

Body Contouring, Breast Contouring, Breast Implants, Breast Lift, Breast Reduction, Mommy Makeover, Plastic Surgery

Happy Valentine’s Day – Pucker Up!

February 14th, 2017 — 7:00am

Seattle Plastic Surgeon loves doing subtle and artful lip augmentation with Hyaluronic Acid fillers. 

Are they real or plumped up with filler? It should be impossible to tell with a nice and artful lip augmentation.

I am always amazed at how much my practice has evolved after being in practice for over 20 years now.  

Back in 1991 when I first hung my shingle, lip enhancement was done with collagen injections or with a procedure where a strip of skin above and below the lip vermilion border was excised and the lips expanded out.  I wasn’t enthusiastic with either procedure.  The collagen was often lumpy and the excision procedure left a scar and sometimes a funny shape. 

Then along came fat transfer and I liked this much better in that it lasted, sometimes for years and years and years, and it looked and felt natural.  But is was unpredictable in that some patients had resorption of the fat over time and needed repeat procedures.  And the recovery from fat transfer is a couple of weeks looking like the love child of Mick Jagger and Angelina Joli. 

Then along came lip implants, Softform Implants, that worked okay in some patients but in others distorted the lips with smiling or puckering.

Then along came HA (hyaluronic acid fillers) and oh happy day.  These fillers make lip augmentation predictable, natural and easy on the patient because down time is in hours or days at most.  The longevity of the fillers varies from filler to filler and from patient to patient but most patients get a good 3 – 6 months.   And a relatively new filler, Volubella lasts a year or more. 

I used to kind of cringe when I would see “lip enhancement” on my schedule.  With the new HA fillers, I love seeing this on my schedule because I know the patient will likely be pleased and that always makes my day.

Thanks for reading!  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Facial Fillers, Fat Injection, Lip Enhancement and Augmentation, Non-invasive, Plastic Surgery, Uncategorized

Can these procedures be combined?

October 13th, 2016 — 1:05pm

Seattle Plastic Surgeon answers another

It is common to combine surgical procedures and often makes a lot of sense to do so.  Combining procedures saves a trip to the operating room, saves some money and consolidates recovery time.  Procedures often done in combination include breast lift with a tummy tuck and face lift with blepharoplasty.

There are some procedures, however, that I will not combine.  Here is an example:  Posterior hip liposuction and facial surgery.  Why?  Liposuction involves some heavy physical labor.  I work up a sweat with most major liposuction cases.  That heavy large muscle effort leaves me with a fine tremor for about an hour or so and I don’t want to do fine facial surgery with a fine tremor.  So can’t I do the facial surgery first?  No that won’t work either.  The posterior hip liposuction requires the patient to be face down on the OR table.  Positioning a patient who has just had facial surgery face down is NOT a good idea.  Another example:  Brachioplasty (upper arm lift) and tummy tuck is not a good combination.  A tummy tuck really leaves the patient without core strength for several weeks so the patient is very reliant on the arms to move around in bed or get up from lying or sitting down.  Arms that are fresh from a brachioplasty are very sore and should not engage in heavy work.

So, when patients are looking at more than one procedure, sometimes it makes sense to combine them but sometimes it doesn’t.  Oh, and one other factor is surgeon fatigue.  Yes, even badass surgeons like me get tired.  More about that in another blog post.

Thanks for reading!  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

My Plastic Surgery Philosophy, Plastic Surgery

Patient selection and surgeon selection. We have to like each other!

February 2nd, 2016 — 12:38pm
blog dislike

“And I feel the same way about you.”

Recently I saw a patient who I just did not like.  I did my best to be professional and courteous but there were some very important health issues that he was unwilling to discuss.  It was sort of like he thought I was a technician who could just do what he told me he wanted done.  He had had several body contouring operations by other surgeons over the years to treat his weight problem.  He was unhappy with his surgical result, had had some significant postoperative complications (which he blamed on his surgeons) and he just wanted me to “fix things”.  I wanted to explore his weight issues which included secondary serious medical issues but he would have none of it.  I also wanted to know more about his previous surgery and he wanted none of that either.  He refused to allow me to obtain records of his previous surgery.  I wasn’t being nosy I was doing my job.  After about 10 minutes (seemed much longer) of this back and forth, he decided he didn’t like me and left.  I honestly cannot remember the last time this happened and I felt bad that I was unable to establish rapport with a patient.  But I am really, really glad he and I decided to dislike each other before I had a chance to operate on him!  Operating on someone is kind like going steady for several months.  Love my not be necessary but like certainly is!

Thanks for reading!  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

My Plastic Surgery Philosophy, Plastic Surgery, This Makes Me Cranky., Uncategorized

A victory for truth-in-advertising.

September 11th, 2015 — 4:22pm


Appeals court affirms previous victory for Utah Society, ASPS, ABPS truth-in-advertising efforts

blog cosmetic surgeons

The 10th District U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver, Colo., on Aug. 31 upheld the September 2013 dismissal of a lawsuit filed by an ENT and oral surgeon against the Utah Plastic Surgery Society (UPSS), ASPS, the American Board of Plastic Surgery – as well as 19 individual plastic surgeons – which had contended that patient-safety education advertisements amounted to monopolistic efforts and messaging that caused direct financial damage to the non-plastic surgeons.

The appellate court decision provides another victory for patient safety and organized plastic surgery, while also serving as implicit validation of the ASPS “Do Your Homework” public-education campaign to improve patient safety.

The plaintiffs claimed in the original complaint that the Utah Society’s advertising – specifically billboards posted along one of Utah’s main interstate highways, as well as media interviews modeled after the “Do Your Homework” campaign – were in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and amounted to false advertising claims in violation of the Lanham Act. The plaintiffs asserted that the campaign was deceptive by indicating that cosmetic surgery is safer when performed by plastic surgeons rather than cosmetic surgeons.

The Appeals Court concluded late last month that the plaintiffs failed to show any plausible antitrust or deceptive advertising violation, and it affirmed the previous ruling in favor of UPSS, ASPS, ABPS and the individual plastic surgeons named in the lawsuit.

“This decision further confirms the value and importance of our efforts to instill public awareness on the distinctions between ABPS-certified plastic surgeons and lesser-trained physicians who present themselves as similarly skilled,” says UPSS President Brian Brzowski, MD. “We were helped tremendously by ASPS through its early financial and material support and its guidance in crafting the overall ‘Do Your Homework’ effort.”

“Despite the hurdles we have had to cross in dealing with the lawsuit, I was always supremely confident that we would prevail in promoting safe plastic surgery in Utah and beyond,” adds UPSS immediate-past President Trenton Jones, MD. “This public-safety education campaign was modeled largely after the ASPS campaign, so it’s a victory for organized plastic surgery and a huge win for the Utah Society.”

“We’re pleased that the legitimacy of the public-education efforts of UPSS and ASPS have been recognized yet again by the federal court,” says ASPS President Scot Glasberg, MD. “We applaud the Utah Society for taking a stand for patient safety and our specialty – and we welcome any local, state or regional society to confer with the leaders of the ASPS Public Education Campaign to raise awareness and promote patient safety in their states and localities.”

ASPS acknowledges Dr. Brzowski, Dr. Jones and the Utah Plastic Surgery Society for their efforts to both bring the ASPS “Do Your Homework” campaign to their state, and for defending patient-education efforts.

Thanks for reading!  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Patient Beware, Patient Safety, Plastic Surgery

It’s Tank Top Season

June 9th, 2015 — 2:00pm

These arms are NOT the result of plastic surgery!

Seattle Plastic Surgeon discusses options for upper arms.

The thermometer in Seattle is finally hitting 70 degrees after the most wretched sping in recorded weather history and I’m getting a lot of questions about upper arm enhancement.

The First Lady’s arms are the result of good arm genes and a great personal trainer.  Also, she has not yet entered the menopausal years (more about that in a future post).  For those without Mrs. Obama’s genes or trainer, there are a few procedures that can be done to improve the upper arm.  Which procedure is the most appropriate is dictated by several factors:

  • Skin tone
  • Thickness of the fat layer
  • Condition of the underlying muscles
  • Scar history

Patients with a thin layer of fat and poor skin tone are usually older and thin.  The only procedure that will improve the upper arm is a brachioplasty.  This procedure involves removing the excess skin of the upper and inner arm.  This always leaves a scar from the axilla (arm pit) to the elbow.  I strive to keep this scar on the surface that is hidden against the side when the arms are down.  The question patients must ask them selves is: “Am I willing to trade these bat wings for a scar?”  In patients who heal well and the scar is narrow and light, the answer is usually “yes” but I do have one brachioplasty patient who has a lovely arm shape and excellent scars who is still too self-conscious to go sleeveless.  I may have hit a surgical home run with her but I don’t consider the case a complete success.

Patients with chubby upper arms and good skin tone are great candidates for the CAST procedure.  This procedure involves circumferential treatment of the arm with very careful tumescense power- assisted liposuction.  The fat removal is limited to the outer arm where the excess fat resides but the inner arm is also treated with undermining the skin with the blunt liposuction cannula off of suction to stimulate shrinkage and tightening of the skin.  Patients wear a compression bolero to help the skin tighten postoperatively.

Patients who are “in between” are often candidates for a combination procedure where the incision and resultant scar can be confined to the axilla and the very, very upper inner arm where the sun hardly ever shines.

So if you want perfect Mrs. Obabma’s arms, sorry it’s not likely to happen.   But is you want better arms, there is likely something I can do to get you to your personal best.

Thanks for reading!

Seattle Plastic Surgeon, Lisa Lynn Sowder, M.D.

Body Contouring, Liposuction, Plastic Surgery

Lifestyle Lift – demise of a plastic surgery franchise

March 4th, 2015 — 7:50pm

Maybe the Franchise Model Just Doesn’t Work for Something as Personal as Plastic Surgery?

I got word yesterday of the closure and pending bankruptcy of “Lifestyle Lift”.   You have to be living in a cave not to recognize this name and their pitch for a “one hour face lift under local anesthesia” and their very pretty spokeswoman, Debby Boone.

Years ago, I was approached by the Seattle Lifestyle Lift with the offer of a part time job which I graciously turned down.  I cannot do a decent facelift in anything under three hours and I seriously doubt that even the speediest of surgeons can do much of anything in just an hour with the patient squirming away with only local anesthesia on board.  Also, I was turned off by their one facelift fits everyone approach.  Facelift, like just about every surgery a plastic surgeon does, is highly individualized.  That’s one of the many things I love about my work.  I never do exactly the same operation twice.  (Well, I take that back.  I did do breast implant surgery on a lovely set of identical twins about ten years ago.)

I just don’t think a franchise is a great business model for surgery in general and plastic surgery in particular.

I will not miss seeing their ads and I am sure Ms. Boone will find another gig.

Thanks for reading!  Dr. Lisa Lynn Sowder

Facial Rejuvenation, Plastic Surgery

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