Senior citizens are at no higher risk for complications from cosmetic surgery than younger patients, according to a recent study by plastic surgeons at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
The doctors analyzed data from more than 129,000 patients during a five-year period and found no significant difference in the rate of complications for individuals older or younger than 65.
"An increasing number of elderly patients are undergoing cosmetic surgeries every year," said Max Yezhelyev, M.D., Ph.D., the author of the study and a plastic surgery resident at Vanderbilt. "Our study demonstrated that patients over 65 can safely undergo cosmetic procedures with a complications rate similar to younger patients when surgery is performed by a board-certified plastic surgeon."
The study was conducted in collaboration with CosmetAssure insurance company, which collects information on cosmetic surgery complications based on claims from across the country. The rate of major postoperative complications after cosmetic procedures among elderly patients was 1.94 percent, compared to 1.84 percent for the younger group.
The goal of the study was to identify whether there were any significant differences in outcomes of cosmetic procedures between older patients and younger ones, Yezhelyev said.
Elderly patients accounted for more than 6,700 of the patients included in the database and had an average age of 69. The younger patients in the study had an average age of 39.
The comparable complication rates were observed despite the older population having higher rates of other health factors such as diabetes and higher average body mass index.
"Similar outcomes of cosmetic surgery in younger and older patients have never been shown before on such a large scale," Yezhelyev said.
Among the procedures studied, which ranged from facelift to liposuction, just one — abdominoplasty — showed a statistically significant higher rate of complications among the elderly patients. The rate was 5.4 percent for older patients, compared with 3.9 percent for the younger group.
Yezhelyev presented the findings of the study earlier this month in Chicago at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons' annual scientific meeting.
The doctors also looked at data from patients of more advanced age, specifically octogenarians, and found that there was no difference in complications in patients over the age of 80 undergoing cosmetic surgery when compared to younger patients.
Patients over 80 had complications at a rate of 2.2 percent, compared to 1.9 percent for younger patients. Of the 180 octogenarian patients, the average age was 82.
The number of older patients undergoing cosmetic surgery is likely to rise even more as the population ages, Yezhelyev said. The data from the study underlines the safety of such procedures in the old and the young, he said.
Other findings also emerged from the doctors' analysis of the data. Among the older patients, facial procedures were the most common while breast procedures were the most common among the younger set.
The older population also had a higher rate of males — 11.3 percent compared to 6.2 percent for the younger group.
The study was a collaboration of several Vanderbilt plastic surgery staff and residents, including Varun Gupta, M.D., and Julian Winocour, M.D., under supervision of Kye Higdon, M.D. There are more studies underway at Vanderbilt exploring different aspects of safety in cosmetic surgery, Yezhelyev said.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center