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Health Canada Issues New Warnings For Botox Users
Thursday October 9, 2011
CityNews.ca Staff

A new report has uncovered 13 cases of people suffering adverse effects-including five deaths-after receiving Botox.

The release of the report's findings by Health Canada coincides with new warnings to be issued to doctors using the product.

The precautions stipulate that Botox should only be administered by qualified and experienced physicians at the recommended dosage and frequency. They also mention muscle weakness and other serious adverse effects have been reported.

The toxin Botulinum, when administered, causes muscles to relax by blocking nerve impulses. In rare cases, it will spread beyond the injection site, sometimes paralyzing respiratory muscles and making swallowing difficult.

But although a link was made in the report, Caroline Van Hove, vice president of corporate communications for Botox-maker Allergan Canada, noted, "What's important here is that the newsletter itself acknowledges that none of these are actually medically confirmed to be distant toxin spread."

She stressed the episodes occurred mainly in children with pre-existing conditions, such as severe cerebral palsy, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), aspiration pneumonia or lung disease. Only one patient took the injection for cosmetic reasons.

The pre-existing conditions make it difficult to say for sure Botox was the cause, Van Hove noted, also pointing out the patients were treated with high doses.

Of the 13 adversely affected, only one was receiving Botox for cosmetic purposes, a distinction that dermatologist Dr. Lisa Kellett thinks is worth making.

"When people say Botox ... there are a number of different types of that worldwide," she explains. "The number of units used for cosmetic use are relatively low compared to other uses."

Still, if you're thinking of getting Botox injections for cosmetic reasons, be very careful where you turn.

Here's how to find a Royal College certified physician for a cosmetic procedure and what you should ask them before you go under the knife.

Find out if your prospective surgeon is a member of the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons. To be a member of this society guarantees that your surgeon has the proper training required to perform Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
Check with your provincial college of physicians and surgeons to see whether the surgeon is licensed and whether disciplinary action has been taken against him/her.
Verify credentials and training. Many cosmetic surgeons advertise they are "board-certified." But requirements vary greatly depending on which professional board is cited. In Canada, only the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons certifies physicians and surgeons in medical specialties. Click here for more information.
Ask the surgeon how often he or she performs the procedure you want and what the complication rates are.
Ask surgeons whether they have hospital admitting privileges in case of complications after surgery. Call the hospital to verify the information. If the doctor has an in-office operating suite, ask if it is certified.
Ask family physicians or other doctors knowledgeable about the local medical community what their opinion of your prospective surgeon is. Also, get a checkup from your family doctor to see if you have any health problems that might make cosmetic surgery risky.
Don't feel pressured to agree to more procedures than you want, regardless of the price.
Be wary of the surgeon who "guarantees" satisfaction or minimizes the risks or recovery time involved.
Ask if the person giving the anesthesia is properly certified.
Read the patient consent form carefully before signing it. Ask what steps the surgeon will take if complications occur or further surgery is needed and what type of follow-up care will be given. Be thorough when discussing your expectations with your doctor. Proper communication before surgery tends to result in greater satisfaction.
Most importantly, feel comfortable with the surgeon you have selected. Should you have any complications, you want to know that this surgeon will pay close attention to you to see you through it. You might want to ask your prospective surgeon what he/she would do if you suffered one of the complications they describe when they talk about the surgery. If they do not even mention complications, you might want to take a closer look.

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