More than Skin Deep

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , April 13, 2012
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Success key No. 2: Growing interest among elderly
Increasing numbers of geriatric patients are becoming the focus of primary care physicians. And now plastic surgeons.

Indeed, health systems are seeing people with healthier lifestyles who seek to maintain a youthful appearance, says Zins, chairman of the department of plastic surgery at Cleveland Clinic.

About 40% of the population over the age of 65—which amounts to more than 12 million Americans—is likely to undergo plastic surgery, and their numbers may increase. Zins says he carried out a plastic surgery study that shows physical condition rather than chronological age impacts circumstances of people over 65 years old. Older Americans are seeking plastic surgery, in part, to appear younger for personal or professional reasons.

"Patients 65 and older represent an increase in percentage of patients seeking cosmetic surgery and represent a source of increase in patient volume," Zins says.

In 2010, there were 54,885 surgical procedures among patients aged 65 and older. That included facelifts, cosmetic eyelid operations, liposuction, breast reductions, forehead lifts, breast lifts, and breast augmentations. Those numbers represented a 352% increase over 1997 levels, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Zins says that age lone isn’t a risk factor for plastic surgery.

Zins found that patients who undergo a facelift after age 65 are at no higher risk of complications compared to younger adults, depending on proper screenings. In a review of facelifts of more than 200 people over a three-year period, Zins found no statistical difference in complications between the older and younger patients. One group had an average age of 70; the other was 57.6.

It is important that elderly patients are thoroughly screened, he says. In the study, the patients were screened for problems such as lung and heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, as well as use of medications such as anticoagulants, he says.

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