Body Contouring: Procedures in Perspective – Data and expert experience show non-surgical and body sculpting procedures on the rise

Every year, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery makes predictions for what the industry trends over the next year are likely to be, and last year (2011) was no exception. In fact, four out of the ten of those made by ASAPS related directly or indirectly to the body contouring specialty. They included:


  • As our population increasingly realizes the dangers and health consequences of obesity, the number of patients seeking plastic surgery procedures for body contouring after dramatic weight loss (abdominoplasty, lower body lift, upper arm lift, etc.) will rise in 2011.
  • While liposuction (lipoplasty) will continue to be the gold standard in fat reduction, there will be continued interest in experimental techniques for noninvasive fat removal (freezing, zapping, lasering, etc.) as a future alternative or adjunct to liposuction (lipoplasty) surgery.
  • As the popularity of nonsurgical and minimally invasive procedures continues to grow, surgeons and manufacturers will develop new techniques and products that advance the science, produce even better results and lessen recovery time.
  • Following the trend in increased consumer sophistication, patients will increasingly want to know if the latest procedure and devices being touted on the Internet and TV talk shows really works and if they are safe.

How close were their predictions to the data gathered and reported by the ASAPS?

Not far off, several industry experts told Cosmetic Surgery Times in an article published at the end of 2011 that looked back at predictions in the context of the overall year itself.

For the first time in three years, the ASAPS reported that liposuction was the most popular surgical procedure in 2011, beating out breast augmentation. Specifically, there were more than 300,000 liposuction procedures performed in 2011, approximately a 13% increase from 2010.

Nonsurgical procedures significantly outnumbered surgical procedures, making up 82% of all procedures, leaving a mere 18% in the surgical realm. Since 1997, the number of nonsurgical procedures has increased by a whopping 356%.

According to Michael S. Kluska, DO, a plastic surgeon in Greensburg, Pa., consumer preference for non-surgical treatments that require less downtime and are more financially manageable, in fact, drove the type and numbers of procedures that topped the charts.

"Actual trends have revealed that although more patients are seeking cosmetic surgery, they seem to be opting for surgeries with less downtime and/or surgeries that can be broken down into smaller, more price-manageable options, even though the economy has taken a slight upswing,” Dr. Kluska told CST. "An example of this can be seen in the MWL body contouring patient and the 'mommy makeover' patient. These patients seem to be trending to procedures that give them more financial flexibility as well as quicker recovery. Because of this mindset, patients are learning how to prioritize their body image concerns."

Specifically, he explained that in 2011, his practice had higher numbers of liposuction, arm lift and tummy tuck procedures, while other procedures that require longer recovery times, such as thigh lifts and lower body lifts, were performed in lower numbers.

Statistics released by the ASAPs agree. While the numbers for liposuction, tummy tuck and arm lift all increased compared with 2010, the number of thigh lifts decreased while body lifts stayed about the same.

Non-Surgical Safety
At the same time, Dr. Kluska told CST that the demand for quick treatments with little downtime has pushed both industry and surgeons to develop new and innovative treatment solutions. In that same vein, the ASAPS predicted that patient demand for safety and efficacy would grow. Another surgeon expert weighed in on this issue, pointing out the need for both consumers and physicians to approach the growing realm of less invasive procedures with minimal recovery.

Joe Niamtu III, DMD, in Richmond, Va., told CST, "Patients and industry are always seeking better ways to do any procedure with better results and less recovery."

The problem? According to Dr. Niamtu it’s media hype.

"…industry and media often get the cart before the horse, and although I anticipate new devices, I think there will continue to be a plethora of therapies that are merely hype and turn out to be disappointing", Dr. Niamtu told CST.

His advice is to be aware that just because something’s new, it doesn’t mean it’s a better treatment option. "Using common sense and clinical caution will help surgeons avoid poor treatment results from the latest miracle fat reducer or skin-tightening device," he concluded.