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  health > men > story page AIDSAlternative MedicineCancerDiet & FitnessHeartMenSeniorsWomen

Look who's going under the knife: Men and plastic surgery

Body image

October 25, 1999
Web posted at: 4:13 PM EDT (2013 GMT)

In this story:

Why the increase?

What's number one?

Minimizing risks


By Glenn Michael Gordon

(WebMD) -- When a grateful client offered John Johnson, a corporate communications specialist in New York City, a merit bonus gift of his choosing in the $5,000 range, he knew exactly what he wanted: liposuction of his love handles.

For Johnson, it was the obvious choice. Four years later, he remains thrilled with his decision. "I would diet, work out, but no matter how thin I got, clothes still didn't fit me right," he says. Was Johnson's client shocked by his request? Not at all, says Johnson. In fact, he was referred to the client's "plastic surgeon of choice for the department."

Despite the fact that nearly all elective cosmetic procedures are not covered by medical insurance, men are turning to plastic surgery in record numbers. The most recent statistics available from the American Society of Plastic and Reconstruction Surgeons (ASPRS) in Arlington Heights, Illinois, show that more than 99,000 men undergo cosmetic surgery annually, up dramatically from approximately 55,000 in 1992.

Why the increase?

Doctors say there are many factors, including the simple reason that plastic surgery is not the dirty little secret it once was. "Cosmetic surgery has come out of the closet," says Dr. James H. Wells, a plastic surgeon in private practice in Long Beach, California. "It's on talk shows, in magazines, celebrities are discussing it, plus women are getting more plastic surgery than ever, and they're encouraging their boyfriends and husbands to do so as well." It's no wonder then that men account for a quarter of nasal reshapings ("nose jobs") performed annually, according to the ASPRS.

For many men, opting to get cosmetic surgery is a career decision. "Today's job market emphasizes youth more than ever before. Men don't want to look prematurely old or tired," says Wells. To achieve a more rested look, more men, especially those in their 40s, 50s and 60s, are now opting for eyelid surgery -- 75 percent more than in 1992 --making it the second most popular procedure performed on men. Surgery corrects drooping skin that forms either above or below the eyes as a man ages. (In some cases, sagging eyelid skin can impair eyesight; surgery may improve peripheral vision. Medical insurance may cover some or all of the expense in such instances.)

Gynecomastia, a feminine-seeming trait in which men develop excess fat in their breast, also brings in a good amount of men -- approximately 9,000 a year -- for cosmetic surgery, according to the ASPRS. The corrective procedure is also at least partially covered by the majority of insurance companies.

What's number one?

The most popular cosmetic procedure among all men is liposuction, the well-known technique of removing fat deposits from specific parts of the body. By ASPRS counts, a total of 19,789 male liposuctions were performed in 1998, more than triple the number performed six years earlier. With countless men's magazines promising to help "flatten your gut," it's no surprise that liposuction is performed most often on men's abdominal area and flanks (the "love handles").

Clearly "this procedure is not being sought out for career advancement by men, since these areas are hidden in their suit," says Dr. George Lefkovits, a New York City-based plastic surgeon, who reports that, unlike eyelid surgery and facelifts, the men who opt for liposuction are primarily younger, in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Lefkovits says his clients are going for abdominal or jaw-area liposuction to look better -- a result they can't always achieve from going to the gym alone.

Nearly half of Lefkovits patients are men (an usually high percentage, since men account for 11 percent of all procedures performed annually, according to the ASPRS), partially because he goes out of his way to seek them out and make them feel welcome by setting aside "men-only" office hours. "When men see other men in the waiting room -- and only men -- the sense of camaraderie makes them more comfortable. After all, most of this is about vanity which is traditionally perceived as a feminine trait."

Minimizing risks

Following your doctor's post-surgery instructions is essential for attaining the desired outcome and for safe and proper healing. A few days to a week of work are generally missed. This can be especially difficult for men to follow. "Men don't want to have downtime from work," says Wells. "This makes postoperative healing more challenging."

As with all medical procedures, plastic surgery is not without risks. While anesthesia makes it possible to perform these procedures, it can cause side effects ranging from nausea to life-threatening changes in heart rhythm. Since bleeding can occur during surgery, occasionally there is accumulation of blood in the tissue, requiring a second surgery for drainage. The chances of infection vary depending on procedure, but patients who smoke or have vascular disease are at greater risk.

Copyright 1999 webmed, Inc. All rights reserved.

Cosmetic surgery
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American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons and Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation
American Medical Association: Men's Health
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