November 16, 2009
Dr. Michael Burgdorf
Despite domestic concerns like inflation and a home lending crisis, average Americans continue to spend money on plastic surgery. According to the latest procedural statistics report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than 12 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were performed in 2008—an increase from 2007.
What is the difference between cosmetic and reconstructive surgery?
Cosmetic surgery is performed to reshape normal structures of the body in order to improve the patient’s appearance and self-esteem. Cosmetic surgery is usually not covered by health insurance because it is elective.
Reconstructive surgery is performed on abnormal structures of the body, caused by congenital defects, developmental abnormalities, trauma, infection, tumors or disease. It generally is performed to improve function, but also may be done to approximate a normal appearance. Reconstructive surgery is generally covered by most health insurance policies although coverage for specific procedures and levels of coverage may vary greatly.
There are a number of “gray areas” in coverage for plastic surgery that sometimes require special consideration by an insurance carrier. These areas usually involved surgical operations which may be reconstructive or cosmetic, depending on each patient’s situation. For example, eyelid surgery - a procedure normally performed to achieve cosmetic improvement may be covered if the eyelids are drooping severely and obscuring a patient’s vision.
Choosing a surgeon
Before you decide to pursue cosmetic surgery, seek the balanced opinion of a plastic surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Obtain as much information as you can about the procedure, discuss your questions and expectations with your surgeon and carefully evaluate the credentials of the physician and hospital (or outpatient surgical center) before you proceed.
This planning will help make you comfortable with your decision. Talk to friends or family members who may have undergone similar cosmetic surgery. If you don’t have friends or family members who have undergone similar procedures, ask your surgeon to recommend some of his or her patients who have had the same procedure.
Talking to former or current patients also is a good idea to get a gauge on your surgeon’s personality and methods.
Follow these tips when making your selection:
There are many treatment options to improve or change your face and body. When you talk to your surgeon, be open about what you want, but be willing to listen to their recommendations. They may recommend a different procedure to achieve a similar result.
Often a less invasive or more isolated procedure will do as well as a more involved surgery. And in some cases, your doctor may recommend one of a number of skin care products or non-surgical cosmetic procedures to treat your problem. Below is a summary of some of the newer options available.
Minimally Invasive Cosmetic Surgery
For many surgical procedures, including cosmetic surgery, the method of choice has shifted from traditional open surgery to the use of less invasive techniques. Minimally invasive surgery is done with the aid of a viewing scope and specially designed surgical instruments. The scope allows the surgeon to perform major surgery through several tiny openings without the need for a large incision.
These minimally invasive alternatives usually result in less pain, less scarring, and a quicker recovery for the patient, as well as reduced health care costs. In cosmetic surgery, minimally invasive procedures use newer technologies, such as a laser, to perform procedures that once required extensive surgery and recovery time. Today’s plastic surgeons have available a variety of tools and techniques that make procedures such as facelifts and eye lifts more accessible and affordable.
In fact, most cosmetic procedures are performed on an outpatient basis in fully equipped operating rooms under either local or general anesthesia.