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Doctors warn addiction of ‘human Ken doll’ has gotten dangerous

INSIDER logoINSIDER 10/9/2019 Gabby Landsverk
Stacey Donovan wearing a suit and tie © Franco Origlia/Getty Images
  • Rodrigo Alves, known as "the human Ken doll," has spent more than $750,000 on 72 cosmetic surgeries to achieve a distinctive appearance.
  • He's now dealing with persistent health issues related to the surgeries, included his nose collapsing from infections.
  • Although doctors have warned him against additional surgeries, he said seeking out more cosmetic procedures has become "a need" despite the health risks.
  • Surgical addiction, or the urge to continue going under the knife for aesthetic reasons, is one of several rare but dangerous risks of cosmetic surgery.

Rodrigo Alves is known as "the human Ken doll" due to his surreal, plastic-like resemblance to Barbie's beau. But he's now in danger of losing his carefully crafted nose after dozens of surgeries have left him with infections and scar tissue so extensive he can barely breathe.

Alves' 72 surgeries have cost more than $750,000 so far, and doctors have warned him that his surgical obsession may also cost him his health if he doesn't stop undergoing additional cosmetic procedures, according to the Daily Mail.

As a result of tissue damage from multiple rhinoplasties, Avles' nose is reportedly "sinking" and may collapse completely, leaving a hole in his face.

"I am scared, to be honest ... Each time is riskier than the last," he told the Daily Mail, explaining that additional procedures were required to fix complications of previous botched surgeries. "It used to be a want, now it is a need," he said.

Cosmetic surgery is common and generally safe

Cosmetic surgery, which is a specialization of plastic surgery, can have benefits for many people, including boosting self-esteem, said Dr. Alan Matarasso, former president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. There are about 23 million cosmetic surgeries every year worldwide, and it's generally considered safe.

But like all surgeries, the procedures have risks including scarring, nerve damage, infection, and complications from surgical anesthesia. And, multiple procedures can also compound the risk - one doctor said having three surgeries in one year had "destroyed [the] tissue ... the skin is no good," according to E Online

"Ideally, you want to do the least amount of surgery that will make a patient happy," Matarasso told Insider. "Plastic surgery is safe; it's effective; it's ubiquitous, but it's not a haircut. All of these procedures have risks."

 One risk of cosmetic surgery is surgical addiction

Many people have unrealistic expectations for cosmetic surgery, Dr. Dirk Kramer, a plastic surgeon in London, told Insider. But some patients can develop a psychological obsession with getting repeated surgical procedures, often for aesthetic reasons. This is rare, according to Massaratto.

The obsession can happen if the first surgery opens a "Pandora's box" of patients seeking additional procedures because they're never fully happy with the results, Kramer said.

That's why it's important to address the underlying issue of low self-esteem before considering cosmetic surgery, according to psychologist Charlotte Markey. "Self-acceptance is not just about how we look," Markey previously told Insider. "Data suggests that cosmetic procedures don't have a lasting effect on people's positive body images nor their general well-being."

If you have symptoms of body dysmorphic disorder, a persistent feeling that one's appearance is flawed, you may be at higher risk of surgical addiction, according to Matarasso. He added that he works with psychiatrists to refer his patients to in some cases. "Good plastic surgeons are psychiatrists with scalpels," he said. 

Red flags you should see a psychiatrist can include strong, obsessive concern over a minor perceived flaw, a history of other psychiatric issues, getting multiple procedures in a short period of time, and "doctor-shopping," or jumping from surgeon to surgeon for different procedures.

"The thing about plastic surgery is, as physicians, we shouldn't be operating on people unless they have realistic expectations coming in and a healthy and positive self-image," Dr. David Cangello, a plastic surgeon in New York City, told Insider.

 A good surgeon knows when to say "no" to a patient

If you're considering a procedure, start by finding a board-certified plastic surgeon who's certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery or American Board of Facial Plastic Surgery, surgeons told Insider, and avoid people who won't list their specific certification or have another specialty.

Word-of-mouth is also a good way to find a good doctor, Matarasso added. He suggested asking a plastic surgeon in another city where he or she would go for a cosmetic procedure. The internet, by contrast, isn't so reliable since "everybody says they're board-certified in something" whether or not that's true or their certification qualifies them for the procedure you want, Cangello said.

At an initial consultation, a good surgeon should listen closely to why you want the procedures and what you're expecting from the results to help you decide what, if anything, best fits your unique needs, Matarasso said.

"If you're ethically doing your job well as a plastic surgeon, you're saying no to a number of patients when the risk isn't worth the outcome," Matarasso said. "The way I learned it is, I make my living on the people I operate on, and my reputation on the people I don't."

Ultimately, Mattarasso said, the decision to undergo cosmetic surgery should not be taken lightly. "Yes, plastic surgery can have emotional benefits or even physical benefits," he said. "But because it's an elective, unnecessary surgery, there are risks, and patients should be very rigorous about doing their homework."

Related Video: 'Human Ken Doll' Heads to Iran for 69th Plastic Surgery (from January, provided by The Daily Mail)

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