Compliance of plastic surgeons with advertising guidelines

Main Article Content

Anthony Penna
Queenie Chan
Damian D Marucci


Advertising, Cosmetic Surgery, Guidelines, Plastic Surgery, Website


Background: Changes in the marketing of plastic surgery services in Australia has resulted in more plastic surgeons advertising on personal professional websites. In May 2014 the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) published ‘Guidelines for advertising regulated health services’. This study evaluates the compliance of plastic surgeons with these advertising standards.

Method: The professional websites for all members of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) were analysed using the AHPRA guidelines. Each website was assessed by two independent medical reviewers noting the use of deceptive advertising, gifts/discounts, comparison with other surgeons, website photos, inappropriate marketing phraseology to encourage surgery and the creation of unreasonable expectations.

Results: Over 80 per cent of ASPS members are fully compliant with the AHPRA guidelines. Less than one per cent of surgeons listed information considered to be misleading, deceptive, or creating unreasonable expectations. Gifts or discounts were offered by 5.8 per cent, 5.5 per cent used inappropriate marketing phraseology, 4.9 per cent made comparisons with other surgeons and 1.3 per cent had website photos that did not comply with recommended guidelines. Thirty-four per cent of surgeons were on Facebook, 20.4 per cent on Twitter and 19.4 per cent on Instagram. Of NSW surgeons, 13.8 per cent of had inappropriate website photos. Approximately 19 per cent of surgeons in WA and SA used inappropriate marketing to encourage surgery.

Conclusion: The majority of ASPS members are compliant with the national advertising guidelines. Regional non-compliance with specific areas was noted suggesting targeted education may be of benefit.


Metrics Loading ...
Abstract 1104 | pdf Downloads 324 HTML Downloads 341


1. Cornwall, A. Facing up to it: a review of the NSW cosmetic surgery inquiry. 9th IIR medico-legal congress, 28 February 2000; Sydney: Public Interest Advocacy Centre; 2000.
2. Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council. Cosmetic medical and surgical procedures-a national framework [web report]. 22 February 2016. South Australia: COAG Health Council [Cited 15 January 2018] Available from:
3. New South Wales Government Health. Cosmetic surgery [web page]. Sydney: New South Wales Government. [Cited 15 February 2018] Available from: http://www.
4. The Queensland Cabinet and Ministerial Directory. Review of cosmetic surgery regulation underway [media release]. Brisbane: Queensland Government. 9 Apr 2017 [Cited 15 February 2018]. Available from:
5. Delivering for all Victorians. Tough new laws passed to strengthen hospital safety [media release]. Melbourne: Victorian Government. 18 Oct 2017 [Cited 15 February 2018]. Available from:
6. Hennessy, A. Concerns about safety of Sydney's booming cosmetic surgery industry [newspaper on the Internet]. Sydney: The Daily Telegraph. 23 Sep 2017 [Cited 20 January 2018]. Available from:
7. Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons. Plastic surgeons condemn cosmetic surgery Apps targeting young girls [media release]. Sydney: Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons. 29 Aug 2016 [Cited 20 January 2018]. Available from:
8. Dorfman R, Vaca E, Mahmood E, Fine NA, Schierle CF. Plastic surgery-related hashtag utilization on Instagram: implications for education and marketing. Aesthet Surg J. 2018;38(3):332-38. PMid:29040378
9. Forster K. Britain's unregulated plastic surgery industry 'targeting children and causing mental health problems' [newspaper on the Internet]. United Kingdom: Independent. 21 June 2017 [Cited 19 January 2018]. Available from: html.
10. Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency. Guidelines for advertising regulated health services [PDF on the Internet]. Melbourne, Australia: AHPRA. May 2014 [Updated 22 August 2018
11. Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons. Find a surgeon [directory on the Internet] Sydney: ASPS. 2017 [Cited September 2017]. Available from:
12. Taber S. Should all advertising of cosmetic surgery be banned? No. BMJ. 2012;345:e7508. PMid:23135202
13. Fatah Fazel. Should all advertising of cosmetic surgery be banned? Yes. BMJ. 2012;345:e7489. PMid:23135201
14. Girlguiding. Girls' attitudes survey [web page]. United Kingdom: Girlguiding. 2018 [Cited 20 January 2018]. Available from:
15. Scott K. Under the knife: an analysis of the Medical Council of New Zealand's statement on cosmetic procedures. J Law Med. 2009;16(4):625-52. PMid:19297871
16. Wong WW, Camp MC, Camp JS, Gupta SC. The quality of internet advertising in aesthetic surgery: an in-depth analysis. Aesthet Surg J. 2010;30(5):735-43. PMid:20884905
17. Spilson SV, Chung KC, Greenfield ML, Walters M. Are plastic surgery advertisements conforming to the ethical codes of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons? Plast Reconstr Surg. 2002;109(3):1181-186. PMid:11884856
18. Fogli, A. France sets standards for practice of aesthetic surgery. Clin Risk. 2009;15:224-26.
19. The Japan Times. Japan plans to ban before-and-after photos in ads for cosmetic surgery [newspaper on the Internet]. Japan. 27 October 2017 [Cited 2 February 2018]. Available from: