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Dangers and Trends in Plastic Surgery

Posted Sep 29 2009 9:30am

Cosmetic surgery has become a mainstream option for women in the United States and for too many of them the doctor’s office is a dream factory. The most important part of an interview between doctor and prospective patient covers the issue of expectations versus realities. It’s an important issue to the profession and also to the legions of patients who are devoting both financial resources and personal time to pursuit of an aesthetic goal.

In 2007 almost twelve million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were performed, up 9% from the previous year. That meant a commitment of $12.4 billion to cosmetic surgery by consumers – but it’s important to recognize that many of those dollars are going for relatively new procedures such as laser hair removal. Generally speaking, the growth area of the plastic surgery industry is in the less invasive – and safer – procedures.

The popularity of various cosmetic surgery procedures is shifting as well. The procedure that has enjoyed immense popular growth is  breast augmentation, with 347,524 procedures performed by board certified surgeons. That is a 64% increase over the year 2000 and puts breast augmentation at the top of the popularity list. The second most popular procedure is  liposuction, which actually declined in popularity over the past seven years.

All of these procedures have post-operative swelling, bleeding and the potential for infection. One figure hidden in these statistics is the percentage of breast augmentation surgeries, for example, that were revision surgeries correcting problems created by the original implant procedure. There can always be unforeseen difficulties, which is one reason why the increase in minimally invasive procedures is encouraging.

There were 4.5 million Botox procedures conducted in 2007. Botox injections are the most popular minimally invasive choice, with over ten times the occurrence rate of breast augmentation, the most popular surgical choice. Of course Botox requires repetition about every six months, which is part of the reason for the number of procedures.

Nevertheless, improving technology is reducing the physical dangers of some of these procedures and is making the less invasive procedures more productive. Laser assisted liposuction helps to reduce swelling and bleeding and also minimizes the destruction of tissue around the fat that is being removed. There were over a million chemical peels in 2007; some women are opting for a combination of Botox or other facial fillers along with chemical peels and laser skin treatments as an option to the traditional face lift.

There has also been recent improvement in one other worrisome area for cosmetic plastic surgery. The number of procedures conducted in 2007on adolescents between 13 and19 dropped seven percent. That is not true, unfortunately, for breast augmentation which increased 15% over the previous year. Outside of that category, however, it’s important to note that almost half the procedures were rhinoplasty, a nose correction that is a decision often made in adolescence.

The trends in the field are obvious. Minimally invasive procedures are up 81% over the period between 2000 and 2007. Cosmetic surgical procedures are down 3%. This trend is expected to continue, as technology has cannulas, light beams and formulated injections increasingly replacing the scalpel.

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