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Nearly Two-Thirds Of Plastic Surgeons Use YouTube To Bone Up On New Techniques

Plastic surgeons
Iranian surgeon Javad Amirizad operates on a nose job at his private clinic in the capital Tehran, on October 21, 2015. Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

It seems YouTube isn’t just the easiest place to find new movie trailers and videos of cats falling down things — it’s also becoming a study aid for plastic surgeons looking to acquire new techniques. That's the surprising conclusion made by a new, if small, survey published last Thursday in JAMA Plastic Surgery.

The authors asked 202 members of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) "about their sources for learning new technical and nontechnical skills." While the most popular ways to stay on top of their post-school education remained professional meetings, academic journals, and reaching out to fellow colleagues, 64 percent of respondents said they turned to online streaming media, such as YouTube, as a means of education at least once. Of these participants, 83 percent reported applying the lessons learned from the videos they watched to good use in their day-to-day practice, with the most commonly studied techniques including rhinoplasties (as seen here) and injectable procedures.  

"While there is literature on the use of YouTube for trainee and patient education, there is little focus on its value for practicing surgeons," the authors wrote. "In our study, we found that most AAFPRS members have previously used online streaming media, especially those less than 10 years out of training who may be more familiar with online information technology."

They also found wide support for a greater emphasis on streamable education, even among non-YouTube viewers. Ninety percent of the sample expressed interest in using an online video library of surgical techniques, with 60 percent willing to pay for such a service.

While YouTube videos might be useful, though, they can dramatically vary in quality, the authors noted. Indeed, a number of studies have analyzed YouTube educational videos on procedures ranging from colonoscopy preparations to pediatric surgeries, finding the same mixed grab bag of accuracy.

The solution then might be to offer a "'living document' of surgical videos open only to paying members" of the AAFPRS, they concluded. "This library would provide surgeons with an accessible but also reliable mine of information to enhance future education."

Of course, for the non-medical professionals among us, there are plenty of freely available videos to chew on, from Vines of a brain surgery to your conventional YouTube'd knee replacement. Just don't ever think to click on the countless videos depicting ingrown hair removal — at least not while eating lunch.   

Source: Schmidt R, Shi L, Sethna A. Use of Streaming Media (YouTube) as an Educational Tool for Surgeons—A Survey of AAFPRS Members. JAMA Plastic Surgery. 2016.

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