Background: Patients use the Internet to educate themselves about health-related topics, and learning about plastic surgery is a common activity for enthusiastic consumers in the United States. How to educate consumers regarding plastic surgical procedures is a continued concern for plastic surgeons when faced with the growing portion of the American population having relatively low health care literacy. The usefulness of health-related education materials on the Internet depends largely on their comprehensibility and understandability for all who visit the Web sites. Methods: The authors studied the readability of patient education materials related to common plastic surgery procedures from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) Web sites and compared them with materials on similar topics from 10 popular health information-providing sites. Results: The authors found that all analyzed documents on the ASPS and ASAPS Web sites targeted to the consumers were rated to be more difficult than the recommended reading grade level for most American adults, and these documents were consistently among the most difficult to read when compared with the other health information Web sites. Conclusions: The Internet is an increasingly popular avenue for patients to educate themselves about plastic surgery procedures. Patient education material provided on ASPS and ASAPS Web sites should be written at recommended reading grade levels to ensure that it is readable and comprehensible to the targeted audience.
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