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Cosmetic surgery helping many look as young as they feel

Cosmetic or plastic surgery was once primarily the domain of movie stars. But today millions of Americans are undergoing cosmetic procedures that can range from face lifts to liposuction.

“Twenty years ago cosmetic surgery was not considered acceptable for everyone,” says Dr. Strawford Dees, Plastic Surgery Associates, Cedar Lake Surgery Center, Biloxi. “Today it is significantly more acceptable. Now pretty much everyone who has some disposable income can have something done if they want it. The primary benefit is psychological. It improves self esteem.”

The most common procedures that men request are eyelid lifts and liposuction. Women are most interested in some sort of breast enhancement, either lifts, enlargements or reductions.

The majority of people who have realistic expectations are pleased with the results. The clinic does a pre-operative evaluation to make sure that patients don’t have unrealistic ideas of the outcome.

“The results may be good, but expectations are too high,” Dees said.

Television programs about cosmetic surgery have been one factor in increasing demand. But Dees said the “Extreme Makeover” program on television doesn’t set a good example. The show featured people who have their entire body redone at one time, which Dees said is not safe.

“It is highly risky to do all of those at once,” Dees said. “If you have surgery on one area, everything else is going to be affected. My biggest problem is some people want to go back to work in 24 hours or two weeks, depending on the type of surgery. You can do some operations and be back to work in a week. But you can’t do any surgery and go back to work after 24 hours. The healing for an extreme body makeover would take six to 12 weeks.”

Dr. William Reno III, Plastic Surgery Center of Hattiesburg, agrees the television programs on cosmetic surgery have had an impact increasing demand.

“There are so many TV shows now about cosmetic procedures that it takes away a lot of the mystery,” Reno said. “People are generally more open to discussing the procedures than they used to be. People are less anxious about cosmetic surgery.”While men make up a small percentage of the surgeries, women patients are still dominant. Reno said the most common reason for the surgery is for women to feel better about themselves.

“It is a very big boost to their confidence,” Reno said. “Their clothes fit better. They feel like they look as good as they feel.”

Reno doesn’t think the trend for an increase in cosmetic surgeries has to do with an aging population. It is simply that more people are aware of the benefits of cosmetic procedures, and are willing to come forward to have changes made they feel will enhance their lives.

Reno said most patients are very happy with the results, and feeling better about themselves creates confidence that follows into other areas of their life such as their career or business.

In recent years, there has been a trend towards non-invasive or minimally-invasive procedures. Reno said that generally allows a faster recover; the downtime is generally a little bit less.

“Non-invasive procedures are popular, as are minimally invasive procedures with smaller incisions that include endoscopic brow lifts, mini tummy tucks and mini face lifts,” Reno said. “Endoscopic surgery uses an endoscope or camera to assist with the operation. People also tend to like injectibles such as Botox.”

Reno’s advice for people considering cosmetic or plastic surgery is to talk to friends, do some research, and then sit down and talk with a board certified plastic surgeon.

The effectiveness and safety of these cosmetic procedures is determined primarily by the surgeon’s skill and their use of skilled anesthesia providers in an outpatient facility accredited by a nationally recognized agency, such as AAAHC (Accreditation Association of Ambulatory Health Care), said Dr. Chuck Guice, Head and Neck Surgery Center, LLC, Hattiesburg. Through periodic reviews these agencies assure that basically the same quality of care and standards are applied to outpatient settings as are mandated for outpatient hospital surgery.

Guice recommends people considering an elective cosmetic procedure choose a physician who has a reputation for getting good results for the procedure. Seeing before and after photographs from several surgeons doing that procedure is also very helpful, as is a discussion with patients who have had it done.

“This should help achieve realistic expectations, which are critical in both the decision process and satisfaction with the results,” said Guice, who does facial plastic surgery but not general plastic surgery outside of the head and neck.

“My Web site, www.ent-fps.com, has a section on facial plastic surgery, which includes both articles on various procedures as well as some before and after photographs.
“As a surgeon and physician, my primary goal is to have happy, healthy patients who are happy with me and the results I get for them. I can predict and usually produce good and great results, but I cannot promise them. I can promise to be totally honest in my recommendations for what I think is best for them and do my best to accomplish that goal. Included with descriptions I have written on specific procedures are before and after photographs of some of my patients to illustrate results.”

Guice said cosmetic surgery has become as socially acceptable as makeup and hairstyling to improve one’s appearance. Procedures commonplace in Hollywood for years are now being enjoyed and accepted by mainstream America, including Mississippi.

“As people age and enjoy more disposable income, many have chosen this alternative to help them look as young as they still feel,” Guice said. “The injectables such as Botox and Restylane are by far the most common procedures. Both are extremely safe and can be done in the office without any recovery time.”

Guice said nose surgery (rhinoplasty), eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) and breast augmentation are by far more commonly done than many of the other surgical procedures available. He said these procedures have been proven over the years to be a safe and reliable way to obtain consistently good results in competent hands. Recent advances primarily include newer and better injectables, lasers for skin treatment and variations and innovations on older, proven surgical techniques.

Guice said while no one “needs” cosmetic surgery, an improved appearance often boosts the self-esteem and frequently one’s confidence in interacting with others. If you are happy with how you look and how you think others perceive you, you do not need cosmetic surgery.

“Some of us, however, feel that some aspect of our facial appearance distracts from what we and others see,” Guice said. “It is when that distraction can be significantly improved that cosmetic surgery should be considered. For younger people, it is usually protruding ears, a recessed chin or a large nose on an otherwise attractive face that can be brought into better harmony with the overall appearance.

Unfortunately, children and teenagers can be hypercritical and sometimes even cruel about appearances. Fortunately these are easily correctable with appropriate surgery and are often associated with improved self-esteem and self-confidence.”

Guice said eyelid surgery to remove the excess skin and bags around the eyes that can occur with aging is probably the best money spent, as people look one another in the eyes first.

“It also is relatively painless and has a fast recovery time,” he said. “Facelifts are a more expensive and bigger surgery with longer recovery, but are necessary for correcting jowls and excess fat and skin under the chin. Laser surgery (or a chemical peel) is best for correcting wrinkled skin, especially around the eyes and lips. Botox injection is wonderful for forehead frown lines and can literally be done on lunch break.”

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the most common cosmetic surgery was liposuction at 324,891. Even more popular was the cosmetic procedure for wrinkles, Botox injections. About 2.6 million injections of Botox were given to women, and 329,187 for men. Nose reshaping (109,971) was the second most common cosmetic procedure for men with about 109,971 procedures performed.
The majority of people undergoing plastic surgery are in the age group 35-50. Patients spent about $8.4 million on cosmetic procedures in 2004.

While cosmetic surgery is not covered by insurance plans, reconstructive surgery usually is.

Reconstructive surgery is performed on abnormal structures of the body caused by congenital defects, developmental abnormalities, trauma, infection, tumors or disease. “It is generally performed to improve function, but may also be done to approximate a normal appearance,” the ASPS says. “Reconstructive surgery is generally covered by most health insurance policies, although coverage for specific procedures and levels of coverage may vary greatly.

Procedures such as breast reconstruction, tumor removal and maxillofacial surgery are considered reconstructive procedures.

For more information visit the Web site www.plasticsurgery.org.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.

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