DRHOOK- Lift me: But leave my 'man boobs' alone

the handsome doctor John Hong of Charlottesville

Joan Rivers says she's had so much plastic surgery that when she dies, she'll donate her body to Tupperware. You can laugh at her, as well as at her book, Men Are Stupid...And They Like Big Boobs: A Woman's Guide to Beauty Through Plastic Surgery.

However, she has a point: people are cruel when it comes to looks. As people age, especially women, many are damned for looking old but also for having plastic surgery to look younger. What is an aging queen to do? Wear a burka?

But can plastic surgery be taken too far?

For the sake of this article about plastic surgery, I'm going to focus on cosmetic, not reconstructive, procedures. Reconstructive procedures are meant to fix a damaged body, such as breast reconstruction after breast cancer surgery, third-degree burn care, birth defect reconstruction, and hand surgery. Cosmetic procedures– both surgical and minimally invasive procedures– are meant to improve the aesthetic looks of a person (e.g. face lifts, nose jobs, butt lifts). 

With the economic recession, you would think plastic surgery procedures would have dropped (like aging breasts) in 2008 as compared to 2007. But as with breasts lifts and breast augmentation, there was an increase in plastic surgery in 2008: 12.1 million Americans underwent surgical or minimally invasive cosmetic procedures.

Guess who had most of it? Women! Of course: 91 percent women vs. 9 percent men. (Fascinating info: 17,902 men had their "man boobs" reduced, and 13,000 had hair transplants.) Ethnically in 2008, there was an increase in Hispanics, Asians, and African Americans having procedures, but a drop in the number of Caucasians. 

The #1 plastic surgery procedure was not facelifts, as I had thought. Sorry, Joan Rivers and Bruce Jenner, both whom kind of look like they're sky-diving all the time, it was breast augmentation. 

Remember in Seinfeld when Elaine was in the sauna and suspected that a fellow steaming woman had "fake" boobs? She had good reason to be suspicious because in 2008 there were 307,230 breast augmentations and 92,461 breast lifts. 

Nose reshaping was #2 with 279,000. (That's nothing to sniff at!) Liposuction in 245,000 Americans made this procedure a fat #3. Eyelid surgery was #4 at 221,000 folks, and tummy tucks came in #5 with 122,000 Americans in 2008. Note tummy tucks are not always a cosmetic issue for those with significant excess skin (especially those who have lost a ton of weight). 

Rhytidectomy (aka "face lift") decreased by five percent in 2008 (112,933 face lifts) while the less invasive procedures increased: Botox was #1 with a whopping 5 million dead-pan faces; 1,109,373 Hyaluronic Acid injections (like Juvederm), and 1,048,577 Chemical peels. 

Someone throw me a life line: what are the complication rates of plastic surgery? I could not find numbers on this, but I kept reading there is a "low rate" of problems like death from anesthesia or infection. Face lifts can cause nerve damage to turn that smiley face upside down  due to facial paralysis. Besides facial asymmetry after a face lift, numbness or tingling pain in the neck and ears can occur. Scarring and pigmentation problems at the suture line, hair loss at the incision line, and ear lobe changes all are possible. 

The main problem in some folks with a face lift and/or other things like an eye lift, forehead lift, chin augmentation, are like the Emperor in The Emperor's New Clothes: everyone thinks you look a little freaky– except you. 

I swear that when I saw Kenny Rogers on American Idol, I didn't recognize him. I thought someone had kidnapped the real Kenny Rogers and there was an imposter on the stage. "You gotta know when to hold ‘em. Know when to fold ‘em." I don't think he listened to his own lyrics.

In Asia, it's important not to lose face. But then again, we respect our elders, so face lifts shouldn't be needed to save face. 


 Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with a local practice. Email him with your questions.