Most tweets linked to plastic surgery involve celebrity gossip and marketing by uncertified practitioners, according to a new study which found very little information being posted by credentialed surgeons. Twitter has become an important resource for people seeking information about plastic surgery, researchers said. "Twitter provides a great opportunity to engage with and educate patients and the public about plastic surgery," said Olivier Alexandre Branford of The Royal Marsden Hospital in the UK. "But all too often, the conversation is dominated by celebrity gossip and marketing by practitioners who aren't Board-certified plastic surgeons," said Branford. The researchers analysed the sources and types of information about plastic surgery available on Twitter. About 70 per cent of nearly 2,900 tweets including the words "plastic surgery were posted by members of the public. Just six per cent of plastic surgery tweets were actually made by plastic surgeons. A large majority of the Twitter posts were about either celebrity plastic surgery (50 per cent) or aesthetic surgery (44 per cent). Few provided information about the basic science of plastic surgery, patient safety issues or topics related to reconstructive surgery. More than 60 per cent of tweets by plastic surgeons also mentioned aesthetic surgery, while 7.5 per cent mentioned celebrity plastic surgery. Posts by plastic surgeons were more likely to mention basic science - 14 per cent. Several tweets by plastic surgeons mentioned scientific articles, although only a few included a link to the journal where the article was published. About five per cent of tweets included the #PlasticSurgery hashtag, nearly half of which were posted by plastic surgeons.
A disappointingly high percentage of these posts (37 per cent) were self-promotional, however. "Social media sites are a potentially powerful vehicle of integrating and enhancing education, leading to a useful role in e-learning within plastic surgery," researchers said. They believe that Twitter "may be the best-suited platform to fulfill the role of public education and engagement." In a series of Twitter surveys, Branford found that the public wanted plastic surgeons to post about education, patient safety and new research - not celebrities and self-promotion. "Board-certified plastic surgeons have a great opportunity to promote evidence-based plastic surgery practice via the hashtag #PlasticSurgery in the interests of supporting patients and the profession," researchers said. "As the only real plastic surgeons, we need to reclaim plastic surgery from the tabloid press, celebrity gossip and cosmetic quackery, in the interests of public safety and quality outcomes," they said. The research was published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
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