Plastic surgeons cash in as cosmetic operations soar

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Bigger breasts were top of the shopping list for women seeking cosmetic surgery last year, which saw overall demand soar by one-third.

The growing acceptability of nip and tuck as a means to cosmetic enhancement has fuelled a booming industry and turned plastic surgeons into millionaires.

Breast augmentations, costing £4,000, were up by more than 50 per cent to 5,655 operations - the commonest procedure in the cosmetic surgery pantheon. Breast reductions were less than half as popular with 2,700 procedures, up less than 10 per cent on 2004.

Anti-ageing procedures - facelifts, eyelid surgery and brow lifts - also boomed with increases of between a third and a half.

Men are also going under the knife in search of aesthetic perfection with the number of cosmetic operations up 80 per cent from 1,348 to 2,440. But they still account for just 11 per cent of the total. The most popular operation on men is rhinoplasty - the nose job.

The figures are published today by the 170-member British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), which represents the top surgeons in the business. They carried out 22,041 operations last year, up from 16,367 in 2004.

More than 100,000 cosmetic procedures are carried out in Britain each year, including treatments such as Botox for wrinkles and laser peels to rejuvenate skin, performed by doctors, who have had no specialist training in cosmetic surgery.

The rising trend is driven by celebrities who spend thousands of pounds remodelling themselves, making young people anxious about their appearance and older ones distressed at the signs of ageing. The growth has been fuelled by television programmes such as Nip and Tuck and magazine promotions which have extolled the benefits of the surgical makeover.

The trend has been welcomed by some surgeons but has alarmed others. Douglas McGeorge, the president-elect of BAAPS, said: "When performed under the right circumstances aesthetic surgery can have a very positive psychological impact and improve a patient's quality of life." Adrian Searle, the current president of the association, warned: "With the increasing media coverage that provides the public with ever more information on what surgical procedures might achieve, it is essential our members promote responsible practices."

Mr Searle, a consultant plastic surgeon at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London who treats cancer patients, has been at the forefront of campaigns by the association in the past year to prevent commercial companies from "trivialising and degrading" the specialty.

BAAPS criticised two of the leading providers of cosmetic surgery in Britain last autumn for using high-pressure sales techniques. Magazines came under fire for offering "extreme makeovers" as prizes in competitions and reality television programmes were attacked for their "sensationalist coverage" of the issue.

Mr Searle said: "The trivialisation and commoditisation of medical procedures is appalling. It seems to have come down to the level of loyalty cards, money-off vouchers, competition prizes and even a raffle prize of a procedure of your choice. This belittling of the seriousness of undertaking a medical procedure degrades not only our specialty but also the medical profession as a whole."

A clampdown on cosmetic surgery clinics was announced by the Government's chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson in January 2005. In future, all clinics will be subject to regular inspection by the Healthcare Commission, the NHS watchdog, and specific information will have to be made available to every patient before an operation.

'Before I had children I was a 34B,' Michelle Grace. 30

For her 30th birthday Michelle Grace, a sales assistant from Bristol who has three children, had a breast augmentation as a present from her husband, Sandy.

Like many women, childbirth had altered her body and she had longed to recover her earlier shape. "It got to the point where I hated my breasts as they were droopy and covered in stretch marks.

"Before having children I had been a 34B but after three babies they were practically non-existent."

She had thought about surgery but knew that with a young family she couldn't afford the £4,000 cost. Then her husband, Sandy, 33, told her that if she wanted it he would give it to her as a birthday present.

"I thought he was joking at first but he was insistent and said he had looked into it and would remortgage the house to pay for it."

She booked the procedure with Transform, the cosmetic surgery chain, and had the operation last June at a private hospital in London. She was nervous about it but delighted with the results. "It was certainly worth it when I looked down at my new boobs - they were a 36DD. I was swollen for four weeks afterwards but they soon settled down. I love my new curvy shape. For the first time in my life I have had the courage to buy low cut tops.

"I never wore dresses before ... but I went out to a party and I felt brilliant when people complimented me on how good I looked.

"I think a lot of people really want it done but won't admit it. I have had no problems at all. My new breasts feel perfectly natural."