With several specializations in surgery, Dr. Alexander E. Handschin shares his practice style changes in Germany.
Name: Dr. Alexander E. Handschin
Location: Hamburg, Germany
That's interesting: Dr. Handschin belongs to the following professional organizations: International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), German Society of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aeshetic Surgery (DGPRAC), International Confederation for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (IPRAS), German Society of Senology, Board of General Surgery in Switzerland and Germany.
What is it like practicing cosmetic plastic surgery in Germany?
Plastic Surgery in Germany has gained significant importance over the past decades. In general, the field of Plastic Surgery in Germany oversees four main complexes, which include a) Reconstructive Surgery e.g. following tumor resection or trauma b) Aesthetic surgery c) Hand Surgery including Microsurgery and d) Burn Surgery.
In our clinic in Hamburg, we specialize on aesthetic and reconstructive procedures, such as breast augmentation/breast reduction, breast reconstruction, and face lifts. We also treat many patients with tumor resections in the face, requiring plastic reconstruction with local, axial pattern or free microvascular flaps.
Another focus of the clinic lays in the field of hand surgery, where new methods such as endoscopic decompression of ulnar nerve entrapment have been established.
Similar to other western countries, aesthetic plastic surgery has gained significant popularity in Germany in the past. Among the most popular procedures are breast augmentation, liposuction and aesthetic surgery in the face. The increased popularity of aesthetic surgery may be influenced by a larger coverage in the media, which has also changed patients awareness of complications and patients expectations of postoperative results.
Where do you think that US physicians could learn from physicians outside the US?
I believe that traveling to other countries to visit and learn from other colleagues may greatly improve a surgeons experience and enhance plastic surgery skills. I have gained a lot of experience visiting Plastic Surgeons in the United States, the Netherlands and also by visiting colleagues here in Germany. As a member of an international society for Plastic Surgeons (e.g. ISAPS), US physicians can easily make contact with colleagues world wide and get in touch to exchange ones experience by visiting each other.
How has cosmetic medicine in general, and plastic surgery in particular, changed in Germany in the last ten years?
In my view, there have been significant improvement in the quality of plastic surgery over the past years. This is mainly due to an increased awareness of patient's safety and also due to an improve in more tissue preserving techniques. For example, face lift procedures underwent a radical change over the past twenty years. Patients today ask for a result that does not leave them branded as “lifted” but rather require subtle work and changes in their appearance.
Unfortunately, another trend in plastic surgery has become that physicians, who do not qualify as plastic and aesthetic surgeons, try to provide plastic surgery under such names as “Beauty Doc” or “Aesthetic surgeon”. German laws have not yet banned this practice, which may leave patients unclear on the true qualification of their physician.
Are your patients inquiring about nonsurgical options?
With the advent of Botox therapy and hyaluronic acid fillers, non-surgical options have certainly increased over the past years. I believe that these tools are adding to the possibilities of a plastic surgeon, since their indications do not necessarily interfere with surgical options.
The use of autologous fat-transplants has certainly seen a significant rise, and I believe that additional knowledge will emerge from this technique. Also, the use of stem cells, such as adipose-derived stem cells poses a great potential for plastic surgeons.
What's the best advice you've ever received as a physician?
First of all, it is important as a physician to listen to the patients demands, wishes and expectations. I once received a good advice by one of my teachers, who was a professor in trauma surgery. He used to tell the residents, that as a physician the main principle of treatment should be patient's safety. This is certainly true and must be considered in all operations, no matter how big or small they may appear.
About:Dr. Alexander E. Handschin is the Head of the Department of Plastic and Aesthetic Surgery, Hand Surgery at the Clinic Dr. Guth. The Clinic Group Dr. Guth is a composite of four renowned hospitals in northern Germany.
Dr. Handschin went to Medical School at the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) Aachen, Germany. This included study visits to the University of South Florida, Tampa (USA) and University of Zürich (Schweiz). He completed his Specialisation in Plastic and Hand Surgery at the University of Bern, University of Zurich, Switzerland and the Medical School of Hannover, Germany.
This interview is part of a series of interviews of physicians running medical spas, laser clinics and cosmetic surgery centers. If you'd like to be interviewed, just contact us.