Patients, parents, and carers are increasingly using social media to access and contribute to health information. There are currently 3.484 billion active social media users. Instagram is a primarily visual social media platform for sharing photographs and videos with currently over one billion monthly active users. Limited research has investigated the use of Instagram in healthcare contexts including plastic surgery, and in the treatment of specific conditions, such as fibromyalgia and scoliosis. This study aimed to investigate the use of Instagram in relation to craniofacial surgery.
The authors investigated the use of 12 Instagram craniofacial surgery-related hashtags. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected for each of the “top” nine posts associated with each hashtag. Duplicate posts, posts not in English and those not relevant to craniofacial surgery were excluded.Thematic analysis was then used to qualitatively evaluate the captions and comments of each of the nine “top” posts associated with each hashtag.
A total number of 151,738 posts were identified using the 12 hashtags queried in the present study, with #craniofacial being the most popular hashtag (87% of posts). Parents (n = 25, 33%) and surgeons (n = 25, 33%) were responsible for the majority of posts. A heterogenous group were responsible for the remaining 34% of posts.Results indicated that parents and surgeons posted significantly different images (chi-squared with Yates correlation is 25.0519, P  < 0.00001). Parents' posts were predominantly images of their child/patients (n = 24) compared to posts about patients by surgeons (n = 6). Posts by surgeons were predominantly images of professionals (n = 14) compared to images of professionals posted by parents (n = 1).Results of qualitative analysis of captions of posts indicated a significant difference in themes that emerged between parents and surgeons; with surgeons largely using Instagram for information giving, and parents for sharing of experiences (chi-square (n = 108) = 40.83, P  < 0.00001).There was a significant difference (two-tailed t test, P  = 0.002) in engagement (measured by the number of likes on posts) on posts by parents (mean = 3778) compared to posts by surgeons (mean = 135.4).
Results indicate that craniofacial-surgery related posts on Instagram provide a medium to allow individuals and families with rare disorders to connect and share their experiences. The use of Instagram to share information about craniofacial abnormalities via Instagram has the potential to be used by healthcare professionals to educate and support patients and families.

Copyright © 2021 by Mutaz B. Habal, MD.