The Internet as a source of information on breast augmentation

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2001 Jan;107(1):171-6. doi: 10.1097/00006534-200101000-00028.


The Internet was evaluated as a source of information for the layperson on the topic of breast augmentation. Three commonly used search engines (Excite, AOL, and Yahoo) were employed using the term "breast augmentation." These sites were then evaluated by each of three experienced plastic surgeons for their quality and content. Separately, 17 health Web sites were identified as authoritative by means of recommendation in lay publications. Each "supersite" was accessed, and its search engine was used. The top 10 hits for "breast augmentation" on each site were then evaluated by the senior author for content (Matthews). We found the majority of sites identified by the general search engines (AOL, Excite, Yahoo) to be physician Web sites. Forty-one unique sites were found that applied to the topic. Four of the "hits" did not actually apply to the topic. In general, the applicable Web sites contained limited but accurate procedural details and offered an interactive forum, most commonly email responses. Photographic documentation was given in less than half the sites reviewed, and most of the results shown were only "good" outcomes. Most sites did not discuss any complications of surgical procedures, but those that did were usually accurate. Eighty-three percent of the sites were biased toward a particular surgical technique. The reviewers believe that only about 15 percent of the sites were acceptable to recommend to their patients. The senior author accessed 17 Web sites that are considered authoritative health information Web sites. Each of these sites was searched for information on breast augmentation by means of its internal search engine. Only 29 percent (5 of 17) had any information in their top 10 hits. Three sites had only chat transcripts. One site had limited but accurate information with a link to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and one site had scientific information on product safety. No site met the criteria of accurate, complete information on the surgical procedure of breast augmentation. This study demonstrates that it is difficult for the average layperson to get authoritative information quickly and easily on at least one aspect of cosmetic surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet* / statistics & numerical data
  • Mammaplasty*
  • Patient Education as Topic*