It’s the subject of caterpillar-into-butterfly reality television or gruesome news items on botched jobs.
Looking at the most popular procedures in Vancouver, compiled by talking to local clinics and comparing that to U.S. data (similar stats are not available in Canada) consumers are faced with choosing the right doctor for surgery or making sure they have a qualified technician for others.
That’s because a dentist can offer a facelift, Botox need only be injected under a doctor’s supervision and the laser hair removal industry is wide open.
More than 2,000 plastic surgeons from around the world are now at the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre for the annual meeting of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery which ends Tuesday.
Vancouver’s Dr. Benjamin Gelfant, who has practised here for 23 years and is the owner of the Broadway Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Centre, says reducing risk is a key focus for his colleagues.
“The most important thrust has been safety, safety, safety … Plastic surgeons have been very concerned about not having disasters that besmirch the feelings of the general population. We have a tremendous emphasis on quality care and on prevention of major complications.”
The 2007 death of a 32-year-old Toronto woman who had liposuction by a doctor who was not a qualified surgeon reminded Canadians that when it comes to cosmetic procedures it’s buyer beware. B.C., however, has the strictest rules in the country for “major, invasive” cosmetic surgery.
Perhaps because of its popularization — and cute names such as “tummy tuck” and “mommy makeover” for serious operations conducted under general anesthetic — the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons has prepared a checklist for people considering cosmetic treatments and Health Canada also offers advice.
Angie Kozina, director of 8 West Cosmetic Surgery, says there is a growing demand among Asian patients for both eyelid surgery and implants to make their noses more prominent, which her clinic has turned into specialties.
Regional tastes also affect the industry, notes dermatologist and University of B.C. instructor Dr. Shannon Humphrey. She says she’s seeing growth in non-surgical treatments, a combination of risk-aversion and individual concepts of beauty.
“I’m quite happy to be a cosmetic dermatologist in West Coast Canada because 95 per cent of the patients that I see want a natural look.”
Most popular non-surgical cosmetic procedures in Vancouver:
WHAT: Botulinum Toxin type A. Brand names: Botox, Xeomin.
WHAT IT DOES: Paralyzes muscles under the skin, most commonly used to prevent frown lines, crow’s feet and keep foreheads smooth.
WHO CAN DO IT: Injected by a doctor or someone under the direction of a doctor.
HEALING TIME: None.
EFFECTIVENESS: Three to four months.
RISKS: Pain and bruising at injection site. Can lead to drooping eyelids if injected improperly. Some reports of allergic reactions.
COST: $300 to more than $1,000 per session depending on amount injected.
WHAT: Temporary fillers using hyaluronic acid. Brand names: Juvederm, Restylane.
WHAT IT DOES: Plumps out lips, creases and wrinkles.
WHO CAN DO IT: Injected by a doctor or under the direction of a doctor.
HEALING TIME: Pain, bruising, redness and swelling in the injection area for up to two days.
EFFECTIVENESS: Lasts four months to a year.
RISKS: Few risks because the results fade with time. Permanent fillers are also on the market but are less popular because surgery may be required if the microparticles injected are improperly placed.
COST: Starting from $200 to more than $2,000 per session depending on amount injected.
WHAT: Laser hair removal.
WHAT IT DOES: Permanently stops hair growth by destroying individual roots with a laser.
WHO CAN DO IT: A trained technician.
HEALING TIME: Redness and sensitivity in treated area for a day or two.
EFFECTIVENESS: Works best on fair skinned people with dark hair. Thirty to 80 per cent chance of working the first time. Several sessions required over a year as hair regrows at different times and the hair follicle may not be destroyed the first time.
RISKS: Pain during treatment. Burns and scarring in the hands of poorly trained technicians.
COST: Priced per session, per body part. The number of sessions it takes to get rid of all hair varies. For example, one 90-minute session on a man’s back will cost from about $450 to $700, but two to four sessions may be needed. A single half-hour session on a bikini line will run around $200.
WHAT: Breast augmentation.
WHAT IT DOES: Silicon pouches filled with saline solution or silicon gel are surgically implanted under the skin or chest muscles to create larger or more symmetrical breasts
WHO CAN DO IT: Plastic surgeon.
HEALING TIME: Two weeks off work with no lifting and only light activity, six weeks before resuming strenuous activities.
EFFECTIVENESS: Health Canada says implants are not a lifelong medical device and may have to be surgically removed at a later date.
RISKS: Reaction to anesthetic, pain, infection, misshapen breasts, leakage from implants, further surgery.
COST: $7,500 to $8,600.
WHAT: Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck)
WHAT IT DOES: Excess skin is cut away to tighten lower stomach area, usually after childbirth or weight loss. Depending on the type of operation, it could include liposuction and tightening of the underlying muscles using sutures.
WHO CAN DO IT: Plastic surgeon.
HEALING TIME: At least overnight in the clinic, two to three weeks off work, four weeks before resuming strenuous activities.
EFFECTIVENESS: A successful operation generally flattens the lower stomach area as long as the patient doesn’t gain a lot of weight. Scars from the operation are hidden by underwear.
RISKS: Reaction to anesthetic, pain, infection, numbness, embolism (blocked blood vessel), death.
COST: $10,000 to $13,000.