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Too Old for Plastic Surgery?

By Brian Kobienia, MD, FACS on September 07, 2011


Last week a 75 year old lady came to my office wanting a breast augmentation.  She was healthy and spry.  She had normal concerns with regards to her motivations.  She felt that her blouse did not fit her frame correctly and she was tired of wearing padding bras.  If a lady came in with concerns like this at age 35 no one would think twice.  But at age 75 should we think differently?

Cosmetic surgery is done to increase the emotional as well a physical well being of the patient.  But are there age limits?  Who says yes you can or no you can't?  Is it society that shuns the the idea or do the older clientele simply find it unimportant?

MIND & BODY

Part of what I do as a plastic surgeon is to not only look at the physical aspects of their concern but also the psychological aspects.  What are the motivations behind their visit?  Are they doing a breast augmentation because their marriage is failing or because their breasts have involuted and become empty after nursing her third child?  These are two very different situations.

In dealing with situations like this I like the patient to voice their concerns and expectations.  I like to share with them what is realistically possible and what they can expect in terms of recovery.  Very often I have to teach with them that skin tone does not change with surgery.  That is the one thing that surgery cannot restore.  To my knowledge there is no operation that restores lost elasticity.  This is why a face lift is done - extra skin is removed.  Despite creams and lasers and good intentions we all develop extra skin with time.

RISK vs BENEFIT

So is advanced age alone a disqualifier for eligibility for surgery?  No!  Unfortunately, many surgeries require anesthesia.  The real risk with surgery comes from anesthesia.  Many of the medicines administered have affects on the heart.  The critical test to tell if someone is eligible for surgery is whether they are deemed healthy enough to make the risks of anesthesia worthwhile.  Unfortunately, not all senior citizens make the grade on that account.  If I feel the patient has a good idea what they are getting into, their motivations are reasonable and they have been given clearance by their family doctor or cardiologist then by all means yes they can have cosmetic surgery!

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