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Plastic surgery on the rise for Americans

Friday - 2/28/2014, 1:37am  ET

WASHINGTON -- A lot of Americans are shelling out big money for a little -- or not so little -- nip and tuck.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons says 15.1 million cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were performed in 2013. That's a 3 percent increase over 2012.

There were substantial increases in big ticket items such as face lifts, due perhaps to an improving economy. Breast augmentation was the single most popular procedure. But the biggest category of "work" in 2013 was facial rejuvenation.

Blame it all on the baby boomers. Dr. Joseph Michaels, a plastic surgeon based in Bethesda, says they're lining up for procedures to help them look younger longer.

"The biggest trends and increases are really in patients that are undergoing facial rejuvenation," says Michaels, who cites a big jump in eye, neck and face lifts.

He says younger patients are coming in for breast and buttocks augmentation, with a surge of interest in procedures that use the patient's own fat - harvested from other parts of the body - instead of an implant.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeon's annual statistics also show non-invasive procedures, such as Botox, are continuing to grow at a faster pace than surgery.

Michaels says the injectables are popular for two reasons: They result in less down time and they're more economical.

"For each of these procedures, you are talking potentially hundreds of dollars as opposed to thousands of dollars," he explains.

Michaels has performed many types of plastic surgery procedures. But these days, he says he sees a surge in one particular type of patient - a man or woman who has lost significant weight following a gastric bypass.

They're coming in for tummy tucks, arm lifts and other operations to remove loose skin. Sometimes, insurance covers them as medical necessities; other times they're considered cosmetic and the patient has to bear the cost alone.

But no matter who pays, these operations are on the rise. Michaels says over the last 10 years, "procedures that are related to patients that have undergone significant weight loss have shown the most dramatic increase in our specialty."

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