CHICAGO, IL. – November 1, 2019. In an effort to warn unsuspecting consumers about the growing problem of fraudulent, illicit clinics performing hair restoration surgery, the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) is launching a multi-pronged public awareness campaign to educate potential patients with tips and tools to find qualified hair restoration physicians.
Fight The FIGHT, which stands for Fight the Fraudulent, Illicit & Global Hair Transplants, was started by the ISHRS to address the alarming problem of unlicensed non-physicians performing hair restoration surgery around the world. Patients are lured to these illicit clinics by misleading advertising claims promising low prices and guaranteed results, often with disastrous results and significant health risks with little to no recourse for correction. Specific problems ISHRS members report encountering in these patients include scarring, unnatural hairlines, poor hair growth, wrong hair direction, depleted donor area and infections.
For example, in Turkey, Iran and several countries throughout Europe, unscrupulous clinics are luring patients from around the world to travel to these countries for hair restoration procedures. However, the vast majority of patients are having their procedures performed by technicians who do not have medical licenses or surgical training.
In the United States and Canada, these illicit clinics operate in a more subtle way, most commonly using a “turn-key” approach. In this instance, a plastic surgeon, dermatologist, or other physician purchases a commercially marketable device that can help perform one step of the hair transplant procedure. Instead of performing the procedure themselves, these physicians hire technicians by the day to perform most, if not the entire, procedure — including surgery planning and surgery execution (e.g., graft removal, hairline design, and making scalp incisions to place the grafts)*. Patients are being led to believe either a doctor will be performing the procedure or assured by a doctor that the technicians are “experts and as good as any doctor in performing hair transplants”.
“With the proliferation of illicit hair restoration clinics in recent years, ISHRS members have seen firsthand the suffering of patients who have experienced botched hair restoration surgeries at the hands of unscrupulous clinic operators who have absolutely no business performing this highly specialized surgery,” said Ricardo Mejia, MD, FISHRS, chair of the ISHRS Committee on Issues Pertaining to the Unlicensed Practice of Medicine, and Fellow, American Academy of Dermatology. “Our goal with the Fight The FIGHT campaign is to not only warn consumers about this dangerous practice, but to educate them on how to recognize deceptive marketing techniques and how to find qualified physicians trained in the art and science of hair restoration surgery.”
The cornerstone of the ISHRS’s Fight The FIGHT public awareness campaign is a newly launched microsite — https://fightthefight.ishrs.org/ — featuring tips on identifying fraudulent clinics, FAQs on illicit surgery, patient case studies, and suggested questions potential patients should ask prior to undergoing hair restoration surgery, among other resources.
In addition, patients may find physicians who pledge to always perform hair transplant surgery themselves, and not delegate surgery to technicians. They will be recognized on the Fight The FIGHT website in the “Doctors Pledge” section.
To help ensure patients have the information needed to make informed decisions about who performs their hair restoration surgery, the ISHRS urges potential patients to ask the following questions, as well as questions regarding costs, risks, and short- and long-term benefits and planning:
- Who will evaluate my hair loss and recommend a course of treatment? What is their education, training, licensure, and experience in treating hair loss?
- Who will be involved in performing my surgery, what role will they play, and what is their education, training, licensure, and experience performing hair restoration surgery?
- Will anyone not licensed by the state (or country) be making incisions or harvesting grafts during my surgery? If so, please identify this person, explain his or her specific role and why this person is legally permitted to perform it.
- Is everyone involved in my surgery covered by malpractice insurance?
“Hair restoration is more popular than ever, which is due in large part to the advances and refinements in surgical techniques made by our physician members,” said Arthur Tykocinski, MD, FISHRS, ISHRS President. “The Fight The FIGHT campaign is another way that ISHRS is at the forefront of our industry, educating and protecting patients with high standards and shining a spotlight on this glaring problem that has the potential to do irreparable harm to patients affected by hair loss.”
About the ISHRS
The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) is a global non-profit medical association and the leading authority on hair loss treatment and restoration with more than 1,200 members throughout 70 countries worldwide. Above all, the ISHRS is dedicated to achieving excellence in patient outcomes by promoting the highest standards of medical practice, medical ethics, and research in the medical hair restoration industry. The ISHRS also provides continuing medical education to physicians specializing in hair transplant surgery and is committed to delivering the latest information on medical and surgical treatments to consumers suffering from hair loss, and most commonly from androgenetic alopecia–male pattern baldness and female pattern hair loss. It was founded in 1993 as the first international society to promote continuing quality improvement and education for professionals in the field of hair restoration surgery.
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Editor’s Note: The following provides further background and explanation on who can legally perform hair restoration surgical procedures in the United States:
*In most states this is illegal. The Medical Board of California and the Florida Board of Medicine have rules that FUE should not be delegated to unlicensed practitioners. This is in line with the policies of the American Medical Association. See recent notice from the Medical Board of California News on the following link, page 12: http://www.mbc.ca.gov/Download/Newsletters/newsletter2019summer.pdf
“Warning: Hair Restoration Surgery Requires a Medical License
Hair restoration surgery is the practice of medicine in California and may only be performed by properly-trained, licensed physicians and surgeons or licensed allied health care providers authorized to perform such procedures within their scope of practice.
Companies may be marketing surgical devices to physicians indicating that hair restoration surgery is a delegatable procedure, causing confusion about who may use such devices in California.
Physicians may not delegate hair restoration surgery to medical assistants, who are unlicensed individuals with a very limited scope of practice pursuant to Business and Professions Code sections 2069 and 2070 and Title 16 of the California Code of Regulations section 1366. Medical assistants may not perform invasive procedures such as creating holes or slits in a patient’s scalp with a needle, scalpel, or other device.
For more information about the role of medical assistants, please see Is Your Medical Assistant Practicing Beyond His or Her Scope of Training?
No unlicensed person may perform these procedures in California, including those using titles such as hair restoration technician, surgical technician, hair restoration assistant, or any other title. California’s Business and Professions Code section 2052 prohibits the practice of medicine by unlicensed individuals, as well as aiding and abetting the unlicensed practice of medicine. Violation can result in a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment, or imprisonment in county jail for up to a year or both the fine and either imprisonment.”