Most people who consider cosmetic surgery do so to eliminate wrinkles, puffiness, sagging, and other signs of aging on their face. During plastic surgery consultations doctors are often asked: How much younger will this procedure make me look? Although, many clinics now carry digital imaging software designed to give patients a calculated glimpse at post-surgery results, doctors have been unable to answer these questions with any confidence.
Nitin Chauhan, M.D., a facial plastic surgeon from Toronto, noticed this difficulty and designed an experiment around such a question. “Some of our patients like to have concrete numbers to look at, and the more information you can provide, the more it facilitates decision-making,” she told Time magazine. Now the estimates from Chauhan’s study are available in an online edition of the medical journal Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery.
The study took before and after photos from facial surgeries performed on 54 women and 6 men between the ages of 45 and 72. They then presented the pictures to 40 medical school students who were asked to determine the age of each person in the photo. The average age difference estimated for all types of procedures? A respectable 7.2 years. Also, the students estimated the general age of the “after” pictures an average of 9 years below the actual age of the patients.
Patients who had face lifts and neck lifts looked an average of 5.7 years younger. That number climbed an additional year with a forehead lift , or 2 years with eyelid surgery. Those who had a face lift, neck lift, forehead lift, and eyelid work combined shaved 8.4 years off their perceived age.
The study confirms that procedures on their own as well as in combination can reduce the signs of aging; it also gives consumers a rough guide for what they can achieve through different treatments. Perhaps more importantly, it tells patients what not to expect. “Nothing we do is magical,” says Chaun. “We do certainly get 60-year-old patients who want to look 40, and this will help us when we discuss expectations.”
While the study is in many ways innovative and valuable, there are issues surrounding its reliability for a larger context. First, men sampled in the study were out numbered 9 to 1 making it difficult to speculate whether men considering plastic surgery can expect the same range of results. Second, the study’s age estimations are judged by a small group of medical students probably in their mid to late twenties. If the same snapshots of 45 to 72 year olds were evaluated by their peers instead, the perceived ages may’ve changed. Third and perhaps most damning, is the fact that all surgeries were performed by the same surgeon, Dr. Peter Adamson, who teaches at the University of Toronto and was a co-author of the study. Under this light the study’s results read more like Dr. Adamson’s personal batting average than a trustable approximation for people considering these surgeries outside of his care.
The research represents an interesting approach toward informing patients about feasible cosmetic results, but a much larger, gender specific, and perhaps age specific approach may be necessary to yield workable data. That said, the question of age and beauty will probably always be mired in subjectivity. Those pursuing cosmetic treatments should be aware that the aesthetic outcomes of plastic surgery will be different for everyone, and that your personal cosmetic surgeon will be the best predictor of your results.
If you’re interested in more information on cosmetic surgery, contact us today. Our Plastic Surgery Portal representatives will schedule you a free and confidential appointment with one of our certified plastic surgeons in your area!