Label gets to know one of the Gold Coast’s most celebrated surgeons, Dr John Flynn

What drew you initially to cosmetic surgery?

My first surgical job was the burns unit at Royal Brisbane Hospital, where I saw firsthand the trauma of injury and scarring and I learned the first principles of wound care.

As much as primary healing was important, so too was attention to the appearance of the scarring of burns victims and the effect that had on their life.

I then became interested in skin cancer management, and of course we see a lot of this in Queensland. Most skin cancer occurs on the face and so attention to detail and an aesthetic eye for the best outcome reinforced what I had learned in burns management. From there it was a natural progression into aesthetic or cosmetic surgery.

What are some of the greatest advancements you have seen in your years as a cosmetic surgeon?

New surgical techniques and better anaesthetic options have changed totally the way we undertake cosmetic surgery. Such improvements have meant that the overwhelming majority of procedures are day cases and even complex surgery can be done safely as a day case. This means better access for patients and a lower cost because a prolonged hospital stay is no longer required.

Of course, the really dramatic changes have come in the realm of lasers and in skin care. We can now offer our patients less invasive options to help against ageing. This trend to less invasive procedures will only continue, which is a good thing.

What is the most personally rewarding aspect of your role as a surgeon?

It is most rewarding when we can make a significant improvement to patients’ lives and have them looking and feeling better about themselves. The changes in patient’s self-confidence is often dramatic to see. Of course, things don’t always go as well as we plan or as well as we would like and so it is very important to have realistic expectations as to what can be achieved and always very important to have a good relationship with your cosmetic surgeon so that if things do need a touch up or a redo then it can be facilitated more easily.

Tell us about the role you play helping develop products for private companies?

I have always had a strong focus on being able to address adverse outcomes and complications. Much of my practice is referrals of patients from other practices who have had a complication or poor outcome and need some assistance. Most commonly this is not necessarily because someone did something wrong but it is part of the real world. I have often assisted companies and analysed problems which may have occurred with their products or certain procedures and to try to develop preventative strategies or treatment protocols. Some of this work is now featured internationally in product information.

I have assisted with the development of treatments using stem cells and plasma injections. This is a new and exciting area of practice. Although there is way too much hype about some of these things, when utilised appropriately good results are usually forthcoming.

Because this is a new and developing area it is important to educate patients and colleagues as much as possible. There are a number of good cosmetic applications for stem cells and plasma especially combined with good skin care and lasers.

Could you tell us about some of the exciting new techniques or procedures in surgery?

Well, one would be the stem cell field as mentioned above and in particular with regard to bladder problems, urinary stress incontinence. Nobody wants to be forced into an incontinence pad, so the ability to treat this effectively seriously changes people’s lives in a very practical way.

Another new concept is using special threads to achieve a less invasive face lift. Naturally a Thread Lift will not last as long as a surgical face lift and the result will not be as good: but it is far less invasive, so lower risk profile and much lower cost and it has become very popular.

With injectables advancing so much, have they impacted on cosmetic surgery? We can do so much more with injectables now; fillers, wrinkle toxins, plasma, stem cells. Also, people are starting to have these options at a younger age and so this improves the ageing profile and reduces and delays the need for surgery.

So, we are seeing a trend away from surgery. However, when surgery is needed then that is what should take place. It is a matter of what is appropriate for achievable results in any given patient.

Overseas surgical ‘holidays’ are gaining a lot of publicity and popularity. Do you have any thoughts on these?

There is no doubt that there are good doctors overseas as well as there are good hospitals. But how to you access these? Do you really want your choice of surgeon or hospital to be determined by an agent who gets a commission for sending you there? It is illegal in Australia for doctors to receive or pay commissions for referral, for good reason. What makes it OK for this overseas?

Complications may occur wherever surgery is performed. If you get a complication and you are several thousand kilometres away from your surgeon, what happens then? Everyone has heard about DVT (blood clots) caused or contributed to by flying. Did you know that in the post-operative period the risk of DVT is much, much higher?

Do you realise that 30 percent of people who get a blood clot will die from it? Do you realise that sometimes the first symptom of a DVT is a sudden death?

What is your advice in general to someone considering cosmetic surgery?

Think about it fully and decide whether this is something you really want, and make sure you do it for yourself, not because someone else wants you to. Don’t be talked into it by anyone. You are a person, a person with worth and there is much more to each of use than the wrong shape of nose or too big or too small breasts. Doing cosmetic surgery for the right reasons, when you are well informed and have done your research is the best way to have a successful outcome, provided you have realistic expectations.