In this day and age of "Nip/Tuck," when the mantra of self-improvement is a constant drumbeat over the airwaves and cyberspace, the overarching practice of cosmetic surgery is a multi-billion-dollar industry. And that industry is showing strong signs of recovery following the recent economic downturn.
Two major associations oversee and track plastic surgical procedures in the United States: the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). However, patients should know that the ASAPS does not have board certification or residency requirements, says Dr. Amelia Paré, who owns and operates a plastic and reconstructive surgery practice in Pittsburgh.
"The American Society of Plastic Surgery Web site should be a patient's starting point," Paré said. "These doctors have spent the time and training to get board certification, are listed according to zip code."
The two groups also split on the number of procedures performed. According to figures compiled by the ASPS and ASAPS, the most common cosmetic procedure is the minimally invasive Botulinum Toxin injections (Botox), with more than 5 million performed in 2010 [source: ASPS]. The ASPS also reports that surgical procedures increased 2 percent (to just over 1.5 million total), and minimally invasive procedures increased 5 percent (to just above 11.5 million total). The ASAPS, however, claimed that the demand for plastic surgeries has increased 9 percent since 2009, and the overall number of cosmetic procedures has jumped 155 percent since 1997, when the group started tracking statistics.
This article will focus on more invasive, or surgical, cosmetic procedures (not to be confused with reconstruction procedures, such as tumor removal, laceration repair, breast reconstruction and birth-defect reconstruction). The variety of procedures available run the gamut -- from facelifts, dermabrasion and hair transplantation to buttock implants and chin augmentation. And it's expensive. According to the ASAPS, more than 1.6 million cosmetic surgical procedures were performed in 2010. Those surgical procedures accounted for 17 percent of the total numbers of procedures performed, representing 61 percent of total expenditures [source: ASAPS]. Translation? Plastic surgery is a premium procedure.
So how much did Americans spend on plastic surgery in 2010? According to the ASPS, the grand total was more than $10.135 billion -- almost $1 billion ($992 million) on breast augmentation alone. Much of that $10 billion, it should be noted, isn't covered by insurance.
Next up: Reigning in your waistline.