Where does art meet aesthetics?

Published 04th Jul 2024 by Anna Dobbie

Plastic surgeon Mr Alex Karidis discusses the importance of artistic precision.

Mr Alex Karidis is a registered plastic surgeon with the General Medical Council, having dedicated the last 27 years to cosmetic surgery. Practising privately since 1997, he has performed thousands of operations, ranging from routine enhancements to complex reconstructions, honing his surgical skills while deepening his understanding of aesthetic nuances to provide tailored advice and achieve optimal patient outcomes. 

Aesthetic Medicine (AM): Why is artistry important to plastic surgery?
Mr Alex Karidis (AK): Artistry in plastic surgery is crucial because we are often making permanent changes that need to harmonise with a patient’s overall appearance. In surgery, patients must rely entirely on their surgeon's aesthetic judgment, as it’s impossible to solicit their input during the procedure. This reliance underscores the importance of choosing a surgeon whose aesthetic sensibilities align with your own.

AM: How crucial is it for practitioners to have an artistic eye, in addition to technical skills?
AK: The interplay between technical skill and artistic vision is essential in plastic surgery. Unlike artists like Picasso or Michelangelo, who create standalone sculptures, plastic surgeons must consider the overall context of their work. A successful outcome isn’t just about achieving aesthetic isolation; it must harmonise with the patient's overall appearance. This requires a deep understanding of the patient's desires and physical characteristics.
Plastic surgeons cannot simply impose their vision; they must integrate the patient's expectations, the unique limitations of their anatomy, and the desired aesthetic outcome. Each patient's tissue varies, making it impossible to apply a one-size-fits-all approach. Ultimately, the goal of plastic surgery is not to fulfil the surgeon's satisfaction but to ensure the happiness and satisfaction of the patient, adapting each procedure to their unique needs and desires.

AM: How do you think practitioners develop and improve their artistry?
AK: The primary way practitioners enhance their artistry and improve outcomes is through experience, much like any discipline, whether in sculpture or surgery. As time progresses, just as an artist's early work matures into a more refined output, a surgeon's skills evolve similarly. Experience allows a surgeon to mature in both vision and capability, leading to better results. For instance, in my career, with 27 years of practice and over 20,000 surgeries, I've seen substantial growth in my proficiency.
There's a common saying among athletes that to reach an elite level, one must dedicate at least 10,000 hours to their craft. This concept applies equally to surgeons. It takes at least 10,000 hours of operating to develop a level of automaticity where actions become almost instinctive. For instance, when a seasoned footballer like Ronaldo plays, he doesn’t consciously think about his movements; his body automatically responds. This phenomenon, known as muscle memory, is crucial in surgery as well. Mastery in surgery, like in sports, comes with repeated practice and dedication to the craft.

AM: Should a practitioner’s artistic vision be influenced by current trends?
AK: In my view, a practitioner's artistic vision should not be dictated by current trends. Instead, it should closely align with the patient's desires and expectations, as each person's perception of what constitutes an excellent result can vary significantly. The key is to engage in thorough consultations where patients express what they are looking for or, often just as revealing, what they dislike. From this feedback, a surgeon can deduce and perhaps suggest alternatives that might better suit the patient’s needs while respecting their unique individuality. Ultimately, you're serving the patient, not a transient trend.

AM: How does a practitioner’s artistic vision intersect with crafting personalised treatments following consultation?
AK: The relationship between a practitioner's artistic vision and the customisation of treatments is critical. When a surgeon's aesthetic preferences differ from those of the patient, it's important to find a balance. While I aim to ensure patient satisfaction, I also need to be content with the outcomes I produce, adhering to a broad, yet definite, range of acceptable results. If a patient requests a change that drastically deviates from my professional judgment or is realistically unfeasible, I have a responsibility to counsel against it, maintaining ethical standards without compromising my professional integrity. I strive to accommodate individual preferences to a considerable extent, but there are boundaries. If a proposed procedure falls outside my tolerance range I must express my concerns, prioritising the patient's safety and the overall aesthetic result over simply fulfilling a request.

AM: What do you foresee for the future of cosmetic surgery?
AK: The future of cosmetic surgery, particularly in the near term, appears to be stable with a trend towards increasing acceptance. Over the past two decades, cosmetic procedures have gradually become more mainstream and less stigmatised. Society now more commonly embraces the philosophy that individuals should pursue what makes them happy, especially when such pursuits are safe and accessible. As such, cosmetic surgery is likely to remain prevalent as it continues to be integrated into common health and beauty routines.
In terms of technological advancements, while there is growing interest in the integration of AI and robotics in surgery, these innovations have not yet significantly penetrated the field of cosmetic surgery. Currently, robotics and AI are more prominent in other surgical areas, but it's plausible that we could see more of these technologies in cosmetic procedures in the future, perhaps 20 to 30 years down the line. These advancements could potentially enhance the precision and efficiency of procedures, but for now, their impact remains minimal. The future of cosmetic surgery will likely see a blend of increased societal acceptance and gradual technological integration, all while maintaining a focus on safety and patient satisfaction.

Anna Dobbie

Anna Dobbie

Published 04th Jul 2024


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