Give Online: Help shape patient care for generations to come.
Cleveland Clinic Logo

Cosmetic Surgery: Today and in the Future

Cosmetic surgery has increased dramatically in popularity over the past 10 years. With this increase in popularity, attitudes have changed as well. Fewer people are growing older gracefully, while more and more are accepting the cosmetic surgery alternative.

Like nearly all fields, cosmetic surgery has undergone significant technological and conceptual changes in recent years. The conceptual changes have altered the approaches to facial aging. These approaches relate to the forehead, eyelids and lower face. Technological changes include the increasing use of the laser for facial cosmetic surgery, and minimally invasive techniques for face, breast and body contouring surgery.

Finally, while any elective surgical procedure carries some risk, the advances noted above have translated into faster patient recovery, less morbidity and improved, more natural appearing results.

What is minimally invasive surgery?

For many surgical procedures, the method of choice has shifted from traditional open surgery to the use of less invasive means. Minimally invasive surgery is surgery done with the aid of a viewing scope and specially designed surgical instruments. The scope allows the surgeon to perform major surgery through several tiny openings without the need for a large incision.

These minimally invasive alternatives usually result in less pain, less scarring and a quicker recovery for the patient, as well as reduced health-care costs. Almost everything from open-heart operations to vasectomies are now being done with minimally invasive methods. In fact, operations and therapeutic procedures performed through smaller incisions are becoming standard in surgical medicine

What is minimally invasive plastic surgery?

For most people, the term minimally invasive surgery brings to mind abdominal procedures such as appendectomies and gall bladder removal. However, surgeons are discovering more uses for minimally invasive techniques, including heart surgery, hysterectomies and prostate cancer treatment.

In plastic surgery, the term minimally invasive refers to the use of newer technologies, such as a laser, to perform procedures that once required extensive surgery and recovery time. Today's plastic surgeons have available a variety of tools and techniques that make procedures such as face and eye lifts more accessible and affordable.

Laser surgery

Lasers are now available that can quickly remove the outer layer of the skin. The laser causes tightening of the skin, which leads to smoothening and clearing of brown spots and large pores. Lasers also can improve wrinkles, fine lines, forehead creasing and crow's feet

Laser skin resurfacing/facelift

Laser surgery can be used for skin resurfacing similar to the way chemical peeling and dermabrasion have been used in the past. When used for skin resurfacing, the result is equivalent to an intermediate depth chemical peel with less risk of complications. It is a particularly good technique in the eyelid, crow's feet and forehead region. It also is quite effective in the cheek area. When the lines around the mouth are particularly deep, the laser peel may require a second treatment.

Eyelift surgery

Eyelifts are among the most commonly requested procedures by both men and women. Drooping of the eyelids can make a person look tired and/or older.

Lower eyelid bagging usually is the result of protrusion of the fat that naturally cushions the eye. This fat is held in place by a membrane that weakens as we age, allowing the fat to become visible as a "bag." Lower eyelid bags can be corrected in most cases without any external incisions or visible scars by using the laser.

The skin folds of the upper eyelid tends to increase and droop with age. This problem also can be corrected with a laser-assisted upper eyelid lift. Laser eyelift surgery involves little bleeding and bruising, and usually requires a short recovery period.

"Lunchtime" procedures

Today's plastic surgeons also provide options for correcting certain signs of aging--such as crow's feet, frown lines and forehead wrinkles--in small steps, without surgery. Because these procedures are done over a period of one or more short office visits, these mini-treatments are sometimes referred to as "lunchtime" procedures.

  • Botox - Originally used to treat nervous twitching of the eyelid, botox now is used to treat wrinkles. Botox treatment involves injecting a small amount of botulism into the wrinkled area to flatten it. In high doses, botox is poisonous, but in small doses--like those used in treatment--it only affects the muscles being treated. Botox relaxes the muscles, thereby smoothing out the wrinkles. The effect usually lasts about six months, and the treatment can be repeated as needed.
  • Fat and Collagen - Creases from below the eyelids to the chin are best treated by filling them. The most popular compounds used for filling these creases are fat and collagen. When large amounts of fill material are required, fat can be harvested using a suction procedure and re-injected where needed, such as the lips or the nasolabial folds For small amounts, collagen--a cow protein--is quicker, easier and requires no donor site. Collagen injections require no anesthesia or recovery.
  • Laser hair removal - Laser hair removal is a painless procedure for removing unwanted hair. With laser hair removal, multiple treatments often are needed. Usually three to six treatments will result in long-term removal of about 85 percent to 90 percent of hair in the treated area.
  • Laser vein removal - Unsightly spider veins now can be removed with a flash of laser light. Usually, more than one session is required to achieve complete removal. While slight bruising or discoloration can occur after treatment, this usually clears up in a few days.

© Copyright 1995-2009 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

Can't find the health information you’re looking for?

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 11/24/2009...#9098