WSJ: Plastic Surgery decreased in 2009

Nice summary of 2009 plastic surgery trends in the Wall Street Journal, showing the effect of hard economic times on elective plastic surgery volume.

I’ve reproduced it, below. I’ve added some editorial comments in parentheses.

In addition, you can see the latest ASAPS statistics on plastic surgery, by clicking the link here.


By ANJALI ATHAVALEY, Wall Street Journal

The number of cosmetic-surgery procedures in the U.S. sagged for the second year in a row in 2009, according to an annual survey released Tuesday by a plastic surgeons’ association.

There were 10 million surgical and nonsurgical procedures last year, down 2% from 2008, according to a survey of 928 board-certified physicians by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, a Garden Grove, Calif., group of plastic surgeons specializing in cosmetic surgery. (ASAPS is the largest, most important group of cosmetically-oriented plastic surgeons.)

Driving the decline was a 17% drop in surgical procedures, to 1.5 million surgeries. “People just couldn’t go for the big items,” said Renato Saltz, the association’s president.

Tummy tucks, rhinosplasty and other surgical procedures can cost thousands of dollars more than nonsurgical measures, and they require a longer recovery. (But of course, the surgeries do much more than any non-surgical alternative.)

Indeed, fear of job loss is the main reason people are putting off their surgeries, says Phil Haeck, president-elect of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, a separate group that has yet to release its annual survey. Dr. Haeck, a plastic surgeon in Seattle, said that marks a shift from last year when consumers cited cost as a primary hurdle. This year, “job priority is number one, cosmetic surgery is number two,” he said.

Breast augmentation beat out liposuction as the most popular surgical procedure for the second year in a row. Dr. Saltz attributes renewed popularity of breast augmentation to the 2006 Food and Drug Administration decision to lift the ban on cosmetic use of silicone breast implants. Breast augmentations numbered 311,957 last year, down 12% from 2008; liposuctions numbered 283,735, down 17%.

Nonsurgical procedures, such as injections of Botox or hyaluronic acid to fill facial wrinkles, were flat, inching up 0.6% to 8.5 million.

Two surgeries are surging in popularity. Buttock lifts, which involve reshaping of the bottom, increased 25% to 3,024 procedures, and buttock augmentations increased 37%, to 4,996. Increasingly, people want to reshape their rears after losing weight, Dr. Saltz said.

The procedures, costing from $4,000 to $5,000, are fairly new, with both benefiting from recent technique improvements, he added. As the economy recovers, more baby boomers are expected to seek procedures, and more physicians will likely offer nonsurgical options. Surgical procedures have increased by 50% since 1997, while non-surgical procedures grew 231%. Places like health clubs and spas are already offering minimally invasive procedures. (Not recommended!) Cosmetic-surgery associations recommend that consumers seek out procedures that are conducted under the supervision of a board-certified physician.

They should also do research before going overseas for cheaper rates for surgical procedures, which physicians say is a growing trend. “Right now, there is not an association that verifies that the physician is appropriately trained to do what they are doing,” said Dr. Haeck. “Very few of the countries where these are being offered have anything that approximates the rigorous boards in the United States.” (Canada is one exception – their training standards are equivalent to the U.S.)

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