Getting to the Bottom of Patient Experiences with Genital Gender Affirmation Surgery: A Qualitative Analysis of Online Reviews

Aesthetic Plast Surg. 2021 Dec;45(6):2990-2995. doi: 10.1007/s00266-021-02150-5. Epub 2021 Feb 4.


Background: Patients undergoing gender-affirming surgery seek information from online sources including online reviews written by peers. We aimed to conduct a qualitative analysis of the information discussed in online reviews related to genital gender-affirming surgery and evaluate the topics driving positive/negative reviews.

Methods: Reviews for genital gender-affirming surgery (vaginoplasty, metoidioplasty, and phalloplasty) were identified on three popular review platforms: Google, Yelp, and RealSelf. Content was analyzed line by line using a conventional inductive content analysis to identify recurring themes. Individual statements were marked as either having a positive or negative sentiment. Median rating was calculated and compared across platforms (max score 5). Associations between theme/subthemes and sentiment were also analyzed using Chi-squared test.

Results: A total of 129 reviews were analyzed and 433 codes were identified, the majority of which were positive (n=372; 85.9%). Three overarching themes described factors important to patient experience: surgeon medical, surgeon non-medical, and non-surgeon; with surgeon medical being the most popular. Fifteen subthemes comprised these themes, the most popular being interactions with supporting staff, surgeon bedside manner, and overall postoperative result. There was no difference in median review ratings between platforms (5 across all platforms; p=0.452). There was no association between sentiment and themes or subthemes (p=0.187 and p=0.578, respectively).

Conclusions: This study is the first to analyze online reviews of genital gender-affirming surgery. The majority of patients gave positive ratings and the qualitative content had mostly positive sentiment. Salient themes not only include surgeon medical care and outcome, but other nonsurgical elements that formulate the patient's experience as a whole.

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Keywords: Gender-affirming surgery; Online reviews; Qualitative analysis; Transgender persons.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Genitalia
  • Gynecologic Surgical Procedures
  • Humans
  • Patient Outcome Assessment
  • Sex Reassignment Surgery*
  • Surgeons*