Plastic Surgery-Related Hashtag Utilization on Instagram: Implications for Education and Marketing

Robert G. Dorfman, Elbert E. Vaca, Eitezaz Mahmood, Neil A. Fine, Clark F. Schierle*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Background: Recent data suggest patients are seeking aesthetic surgery to improve their appearance on Instagram and other social media. Despite the rising influence of Instagram in plastic surgery, few academic publications address Instagram, let alone evaluate its utilization in plastic surgery. Objectives: We set out to answer the following three questions: 1) what plastic surgery-related content is being posted to Instagram; 2) who is posting this content; and 3) what specific hashtags are they using? Methods: Our study queried 21 Instagram plastic surgery-related hashtags. Content analysis was used to qualitatively evaluate each of the nine "top" posts associated with each hashtag (189 posts). Duplicate posts and those not relevant to plastic surgery were excluded. Results: A total of 1,789,270 posts utilized the 21 hashtags sampled in this study. Of the top 189 posts for these 21 queried hashtags, 163 posts met inclusion criteria. Plastic surgeons eligible for membership in American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) accounted for only 17.8% of top posts, whereas noneligible physicians accounted for 26.4%. All nonplastic surgery trained physicians marketed themselves as "cosmetic surgeons." Nine top posts (5.5%) were by nonphysicians, including dentists, spas with no associated physician, and a hair salon. The majority of these posts were self-promotional (67.1%) as opposed to educational (32.9%). Board-certified plastic surgeons were significantly more likely to post educational content to Instagram as compared to nonplastic surgeons (62.1% vs 38.1%, P = 0.02). Conclusions: ASAPS eligible board-certified plastic surgeons are underrepresented amongst physicians posting top plastic surgery-related content to Instagram.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)332-338
Number of pages7
JournalAesthetic surgery journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 15 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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