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Cosmetic surgery rates show signs of rebounding

Separate surveys have different statistics on the number of procedures, but both say a recovering economy is attracting more patients.

By Bob Cook — Posted April 1, 2010

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Independent surveys on cosmetic surgery and treatments in the United States, by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, reached similar conclusions: Despite the recession, demand for cosmetic procedures is strong and poised to grow stronger.

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, in a survey released March 9, said an estimated 10 million procedures were performed in the U.S. in 2009, down 2% from 2008. The society said surgical procedures declined 17%, but nonsurgical procedures grew 1%.

Injections of botulinum toxin type A (commonly known as Botox) accounted for 2.5 million procedures, about a quarter of all cosmetic procedures. Botox injections alone beat all surgical procedures combined by more than 1 million.

Overall, nonsurgical procedures outnumbered surgical procedures by a ratio of 85-to-15. Breast augmentation led all surgical procedures at more than 311,000, but that was down from 355,000 in 2008.

"Plastic surgery is feeling the effects of the recession, just like many other sectors of the marketplace," Renato Saltz, MD, a Salt Lake City plastic surgeon and president of the aesthetic society, said in a statement.

Many patients have put off surgery in favor of nonsurgical procedures. The slight growth in nonsurgical cosmetic procedures likely comes from repeat patients. "Growth in demand will likely return as the recession eases and baby boomers' offspring begin to explore surgical options," Dr. Saltz said.

Results were extrapolated from the 925 responses received to the 21,000 surveys mailed to society members.

Meanwhile, the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery's survey put the number of procedures performed at 17 million; up 8% from 2008. The most common nonsurgical procedure among respondents to the AACS survey was Botox injection. The most common surgical procedure: eyelid surgery. Among AACS members, the ratio of invasive to noninvasive procedures was 25-to-75.

"The cosmetic surgery industry continues to grow at a rate many people never thought it would reach," AACS President Mark Berman, MD, a Los Angeles cosmetic surgeon, said in a statement. "With the aging of the baby boomer generation, I don't think we've come close to hitting the ceiling yet. That 17 million is only going to expand."

Dr. Berman, like Dr. Saltz, said signs of economic recovery are starting to increase the number of patients seeking cosmetic procedures.

"As the economy recovers, slowly but surely, we are seeing patients come back and feel better about doing some things for themselves that maybe they'd been putting off for a while," Dr. Berman said.

The AACS survey, released on March 9, was based on 254 responses from members, a 16% response rate.

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