Plastic surgery in seniors creates a tempest
August 19, 2011
Marie Kolstad, an 83-year-old widowed property manager, created quite a buzz when she underwent a three-hour breast lift with implants to the tune of $8,000. The New York Times features her photo in “Golden Years, Polished With Surgery,” August 8, 2011. Kolstad’s comment, “I want my children to be proud of what I look like,” has set off a tempest among readers who claim that children should love you for what you are, including every wrinkle and age spot.
According to the New York Times, “Ms. Kolstad is one of many septuagenarians, octogenarians and even nonagenarians who are burnishing their golden years with help from the plastic surgeon. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, in 2010 there were 84,685 surgical procedures among patients age 65 and older. They included 26,635 face-lifts; 24,783 cosmetic eyelid operations; 6,469 liposuctions; 5,874 breast reductions; 3,875 forehead lifts; 3,339 breast lifts and 2,414 breast augmentations.”
With this trend increasing now that baby boomers are over 65, there are concerns about the safety of performing invasive elective surgery on older patients. Also, judging from reader’s responses to the Times article there is also a judgmental attitude and plain old (pardon the pun) skittishness about grandma getting breast implants.
Few studies have focused on older patients and cosmetic enhancements. One report, published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in June 2011, found that the hazards in people over age 65 are no greater than in the younger population.
When researchers from the Cleveland Clinic reviewed the medical records of 216 facelift patients over three years, they found no significant difference in the instances of minor or major complications among patients whose average age was 70 from those whose average age was 57. Dr. James E. Zins, senior author of the study, says it’s not chronologic age that’s important but physiologic. However, Zins acknowledges that he has insufficient numbers to claim that patients in their 70s can undergo facelift and have a complication rate similar to younger patients.
While facelifts can be performed under conscious sedation, other reconstructive procedures typically require general anesthesia, which may be risky for an elderly patient.
But if you wonder what the real fuss about seniors going under the knife is about, Nancy Etcoff, assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School, hits the nail on the head. “Part of our stereotype of old people is that they are social, warm and likable, but powerless and sexless. Here we are in the age of Viagra, but suddenly the idea of older people, mostly women, wanting to be sexually attractive at that age makes us uncomfortable.”
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world's leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body. ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; Active Members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and nonsurgical aesthetic procedures. International Active Members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.
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