Over the last decade modern technology has literally changed the face of plastic surgery. Today, patients can undergo a variety of procedures for less money than they might expect to pay without the inconvenience of a lengthy hospital stay. Many cosmetic surgeries can be done as same day surgery on an outpatient basis and some procedures can be done with only a local anesthesia.
“First thing to realize is that plastic surgery encompasses two main areas,” says Dr. Edward Riccardelli. “One is cosmetic and the other is reconstructive. Part of the patient population we see will have either a functional deficit or deformity from traumatic accident, cancer surgery, a burn, or congenital deformities such as a cleft palate.
“The other group of patients we see are what would be classified as cosmetic patients. Those people we typically think of as being patients who are seeking to look younger, to appear more vibrant or energetic or to change some aspect of their appearance.”
Dr. Ricciardelli says newer techniques which are available today have advanced the practice of plastic surgery and dramatically improved the overall results, while minimizing the risks.
He cites laser re-surfacing as one such example. “It removes the outer layers of the skin with a laser beam and stimulates the skin to regrow and reorganize into a more youthful pattern of collagen deposition,” Dr. Ricciardelli explains. “That results in smoother, tighter skin and it is also effective in removing blemishes and deep wrinkles. While individual results will vary, most patients can expect to see up to an 85‰ improvement in facial wrinkles.”
Dr. Ricciardelli says that besides being a relatively short procedure, laser re-surfacing can also be used in conjunction with other cosmetic surgeries. “Overall it’s a very precise and effective alternative to chemical peels and dermabrasion.”
Face lift surgery is another area of advancement in the field of plastic surgery. According to Dr. Ricciardelli, there are new techniques which use smaller incisions and elevate the deeper tissues in the face rather than just tightening the skin. “Many of those procedures are applicable to younger patients now, those in their thirties and forties, because they may have longer lasting results with fewer visible incisions. We’re definitely seeing a greater number of patients seeking out cosmetic surgery than we used to.”
Today there are also options to surgery that will still give a patient the results that they are looking for. “There are a variety of newer techniques in plastic surgery which allow the plastic surgeon to individualize his treatment for a particular patient and to give longer lasting and more favorable results that what was true ten years ago,” Dr. Ricciardelli said.
The aforementioned laser skin resurfacing, he says, can frequently provide a rejuvenation of the face and skin “which would obviate the need for incisions or major surgery. Deep chemical peels or the newer physician-directed mini peels could also be options for skin rejuvenation.” And, he adds, “tumescent liposuction, which is done under a local anesthesia, allows for the removal of large amounts of fat with less bleeding and less bruising generally.”
Dr. Ricciardelli says liposuction has become one of the most common procedures performed today. While we may laugh at the mention of “love handles” or “saddle bags”, for some people this problem is not always solved with a good workout routine. “Often times these people are very active. They exercise, they eat well but they have a genetic predisposition for having localized deposits of fat that they can’t get rid of,” he says. In that case, liposuction might be what they’re looking for.
Facial rejuvenation is another procedure Dr. Ricciardelli says is quite common today. “A patient may say, ‘Everyone’s always asking me why I’m so tired even though I feel great. It’s from these bags under my eyes.’ Or someone else may say ‘I feel better than I have in my whole life but I look 20 years older than I am.’ People want to look as well as they feel.” And while facial rejuvenation may help, the decision to have any kind of cosmetic surgery is not one to be taken lightly.
Before a patient is even considered for cosmetic surgery, Dr. Ricciardelli wants to make sure that the individual has made their decision for the right reasons. “The relationship the plastic surgeon develops with his/her patient is an extremely personal one. There’s an amazing amount of trust that develops. I want to know if this is the right time in their life to undertake a cosmetic operation. Patients that I perceive as being well motivated are the ones that have realistic expectations.”
Most operations will result in some swelling and possibly some bruising that can persist for days, even weeks after surgery. Most operations also require removal of sutures. “There’s a healing period, where the patient will feel slightly fatigued,” explains Dr. Ricciardelli. “And depending on what they have done, it can take a couple days or a few weeks to heal. There’s always a recovery period. For any given procedure, the healing is different for every patient.”
What can you expect to spend on some of these surgical procedures? “If a person sees a surgeon who is well versed in a variety of plastic surgical techniques, often they can get the results they are looking for without spending huge amounts of money.” Dr. Ricciardelli says a person can generally expect to spend anywhere from $1500 to $3500 for the eyes alone, depending on the specific procedure (i.e. bags under the eyes, upper or lower lids). Laser surgery on the face can range from $500 to $3000. With the mini peels, a patient may spend as little as $150 and they may spend anywhere up to $10,000 for multiple cosmetic surgeries. Liposuction can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, again depending on what the patient is having done.
How do you know if you are choosing the right surgeon? The American Board of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery is the only board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialists to certify physicians in plastic surgery. Dr. Ricciardelli suggests that patients may want to ask if their surgeon is board certified by the American Board of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (or board eligible) and, he adds, “At the very least a person should make sure their surgeon has privileges at area hospitals to perform those procedures. What out for surgeons who don’t have privileges at major hospitals in the area or it they become defensive or evasive when asked about their certification.” Patients can check if their surgeon is board certified or eligible by calling the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
“As long as people have realistic expectations, they trust their surgeon, and are treated by a qualified plastic surgeon, the potential for them to achieve good results is high,” Dr. Ricciardelli said.