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Cosmetic Surgery in the U.S.

More than 1.8 million cosmetic procedures were performed surgically. The top five most popular surgical cosmetic procedures in 2005 were liposuction, nose reshaping, breast augmentation, eyelid surgery and tummy tuck.

Minimally invasive procedures are becoming very popular. The number of these reached 8.4 million in 2005, an increase of about 13 percent over the previous year. Plastic surgeons say there are several possible reasons for the rising popularity. Minimally invasive procedures can be done in an outpatient facility without the need for general anesthesia. Recovery time is fast and the treatments are often much less expensive than surgical options. The top five minimally-invasive cosmetic procedures are BOTOX injections, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, laser hair removal and sclerotherapy (removal of spider veins).
In the past, many Americans weren't willing to admit to having cosmetic surgery. Today however, cosmetic procedures are much more accepted. A recent report from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery found 79 percent of men and 82 percent of women would not be embarrassed if anyone beyond their close network of friends and family found out they had undergone cosmetic plastic surgery.

Looks can play an important role in self-esteem. For thousands of years, humans have used various methods (make-up, dress, hair-style and clothing) to change their looks. At one point, only the very wealthy could afford to have cosmetic surgery. But as cosmetic procedures have become safer and more accessible, people from all walks of life are seeking better ways to improve their looks. A recent survey by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery found women who underwent cosmetic surgery not only improved their self-image, but their sex life as well.

Some recent television shows have popularized drastic makeovers using cosmetic surgery. However, some experts say the shows may give consumers a false sense of expectations. Plastic surgeons, Valeria Ablaza, M.D. and Allen Rosen, M.D. have co-authored a book, called Beauty in Balance, to remind the public that balance and safety are key factors in satisfaction with cosmetic procedures.

Television shows sometimes sensationalize results to gain viewer interest, profiling subjects who've had several major surgeries to dramatically change their appearance. Those patients endure a long recovery time and face an increased risk of infection, bleeding and other complications due to the sheer volume of surgical manipulation.

Ablaza and Rosen say patients should make sure they choose a board certified physician when seeking a consultation for cosmetic procedures. Board certification means the doctor has received adequate training and experience in the field. A good physician will carefully explain the anticipated outcome of a procedure as well as the risks. While some procedures can be combined (like a facelift and eyelift, or liposuction on the hips and thighs), others are best done in separate stages. A board-certified physician can help a patient determine which procedures are safely done in combination and which should be done separately (and in what order). In general, the authors say patients should be able to get out of bed and walk around within a few hours after surgery and return to public activity in seven to ten days.

Ablaza and Rosen also say "ultimate" makeovers sometimes portrayed on television are often so dramatic that patients don't look like themselves any more. While the "shock" factor may look good for the television audience, in reality, it's too much of a drastic change for most people. The plastic surgeons recommend smaller, more subtle changes - and a healthy lifestyle - for a balanced, more natural look.