A 2009 systematic review demonstrated that ethical discourse was underrepresented in the plastic surgery literature; approximately one in 1000 articles contained ethical discussions. In the decade since, advances in plastic surgery and continued social progress have created new ethical dilemmas. However, it is unclear whether these developments have augmented the representation of ethics in the plastic surgery literature. A review of publications over the past decade can assess whether progress has been made and identify where deficits persist.
The authors searched eight bibliographic databases to identify peer-reviewed articles discussing ethical issues in plastic surgery over the past decade. Independent reviewers extracted characteristics and ethical principles from included articles.
A total of 7097 articles were identified from the initial search and 531 articles were included for analysis. The principle of autonomy, present in 87.9 percent of articles, had the greatest representation, followed by beneficence (74.4 percent), nonmaleficence (72.3 percent), and justice (51.2 percent). Informed consent and face transplantation were the most prevalent topics discussed. Aesthetic surgery was the subdiscipline of plastic surgery with the greatest ethical discourse, representing 29.8 percent of all included articles.
In the past decade, there was approximately a five-fold increase in plastic surgery publications that include ethical discourse, indicating a growing awareness of ethical implications by the plastic surgery community. However, representation of ethical principles remained uneven, and specific subdisciplines of plastic surgery were substantially underrepresented. Plastic surgeons should adopt a more comprehensive approach when framing ethical implications in clinical and research settings.

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