Chapter 4 Page 2 | Cosmetic Surgeries and Procedures

There are new cosmetic techniques and new variations of old ones being tested and tried all the time by creative and innovative surgeons around the world. Below are some of the most common ones, with their general definitions, some tips and advice gleaned from patients and surgeons, and some general price comparison information. Price ranges are rough measures; the figures I use here represent approximations based on a number of sources. You can almost certainly find surgeons in both the United States and abroad who charge less than the lowest figures I cite, and you can absolutely find surgeons who charge and get higher prices for their work.

There is far more information available online, of course. How to go about researching surgical information on the Internet is covered in Chapter 5.

Liposuction/Lipoplasty

Liposuction is a procedure that can help sculpt the body by removing unwanted fat from specific areas, including the abdomen, hips, buttocks, thighs, knees, upper arms, chin, cheeks, and neck. Good plastic surgeons are generally fastidious about reminding patients that cosmetic surgery is “real surgery,” and this is particularly true of liposuction. “Getting a little lipo” should not be trivialized. Experienced cosmetic surgeons wince at the suggestion that liposuction is easy and cringe at the thought of a cannula (the fat-suctioning tool) in unpracticed hands. Liposuction is both physically demanding work and an art, according to its leading practitioners.

Improvements in technique over the past decade have brought into use the term liposculpture, emphasizing both that the procedure is an art and that surgeons can be remarkably precise, even restoring fat to some areas to achieve the desired result. Patients often ask about “aggressive” liposuction; in general, liposuction is for removal of relatively small volumes of fat that resist dieting and exercise. Some surgeons — including experienced ones both in the United States and abroad — will go beyond that, but one should not assume that more is better. More can be riskier; more will also involve a lengthier convalescence and recovery.

Liposuction is generally priced by the number of areas from which a patient wants fat removed in a session, with discounts offered for additional areas beyond the first. Prices in the United States can range from around $2,500 to $5,000 for a single area on up to more than $10,000 for five areas. The range is much lower overseas but again depends on the need of the individual patient. My guesstimate, looking at prices in Central and South America and Asia, is that median prices are 40 to 75 percent less than in the United States, or about $1,000 to $3,000 and more for up to five areas.

Facelift (Rhytidectomy)

A facelift is a highly individualized procedure and is often done in conjunction with other facial procedures. Surgeons these days strive for a natural appearance. Gone is the pulled-back, stretched look more common a generation ago. A basic facelift does not eliminate wrinkles. It does not directly address the forehead area or upper eyes. It does generally address the neck area. A neck lift is usually part of a facelift but some surgeons will do it separately.

Surgeons can recommend newer, less-invasive or noninvasive (and less expensive) alternatives to a full facelift. My feeling about new facial surgical techniques is that there is an increased amount of uncertainty as to results and that patients should be extra-cautious until the techniques are proven.

The average cost of a facelift in the United States is in the range of $7,000 to $10,000, but adding in other facial procedures can easily double the bill. Again, the price overseas is generally 40 to 75 percent less. A facelift in Brazil or Costa Rica can run in the $2,500 to $3,500 range.

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