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Should you go under the knife

As more and more of us shun diet and exercise and turn instead to the operating table to get that body beautiful, we take an in-depth look at cosmetic surgery in the UK. What are the latest techniques, how much does it cost, what are the risks – and, most importantly, is it for you?

Cosmetic surgery was once the preserve of the rich and famous. How things have changed. With the advent of television programmes like Extreme Makeover UK, Ten years younger and The Swan, not to mention our obsession with looking as good as our favourite celebs, it has found its way into many ‘ordinary’ homes.

Instant fixes
While having a makeover meant a new hairdo, trendier outfit and a brighter lipstick a few years ago, it can now mean a perkier set of boobs, a tummy tuck and wrinkle-busting collagen treatment.

The UK appears to be following the lead of the United States, where buying your kids a new nose for their 16th birthday is commonplace. More than 22,000 of us went under the knife in 2006 in a bid to improve ourselves – an increase of over 35% on the previous year. The most popular ops were boob jobs, eyelid surgery and face, brow and neck lifts. And hundreds of thousands more non-surgical cosmetic procedures, such as peels and fillers, are carried out each year.

Is it for you?
Cosmetic surgery should not be taken lightly. Knowing what to expect, fully understanding the risks and procedures involved, and finding the right surgeon are important considerations.

According to the Medical Defence Union, £7 million has been paid out for claims over poor cosmetic surgery in the UK over the past 13 years. Breast and facial surgery accounted for the most claims.

To prevent statistics of substandard surgery from escalating, a clampdown on clinics was announced by the Government last year, which means that from now on, clinics will be regulated by the NHS watchdog, the Healthcare Commission. The Department of Health has a website offering people independent information about cosmetic surgery procedures and the things to look out for.

Don’t ignore the risks
There are general risks with any type of surgery – risks associated with anaesthetics, infection and scarring – but each procedure has its own unique risks and you should discuss them with your surgeon.

You should also be aware that all surgery will leave permanent scars. Just how visible they are, and how quickly they fade, will depend on the location and extent of the cuts. That, once again, is something you need to talk through.

Your at-a-glance guide to cosmetic surgery

Here, we give a rundown of some of the most popular ops, but it is only a guide. Exact procedures and costs differ enormously from clinic to clinic. That’s why it is crucial that you do plenty of research before deciding to go ahead with surgery and choosing a surgeon. Make sure you know exactly what their procedures are and what the cost includes.

Cost? £4,500

Boob job

What?
An operation to increase (or reduce) the size of your breasts, or change their shape.

How?
For breast enlargement, a surgeon makes a small cut in your armpit, below the breast or around your areola, and creates a pocket in the breast to insert an implant – a silicone bag filled with silicone or saline (salt water). For a reduction, a cut will be made around the areola, down the breast and along the crease. Excess tissue, fat and skin is removed, the nipple and areola repositioned, and the skin sewn back into place.

How long?
An enlargement takes about an hour and usually involves a general anaesthetic. Reduction can take up to four hours and is done under a general anaesthetic.

Is it for you?
It may be worth considering if you’d like to go up a cup size or two. The larger the implant, the more difficult the procedure and the higher the risk of complications. A reduction can work well for women who experience health problems due to breast size and who can’t alter the size by diet alone.
Risks to discuss: Hardening or splitting of implant, causing pain and unnatural-looking breasts, Infection, Blood loss, Loss of sensation, Inability to breastfeed.

Jordan: ’Bigger boobs make me feel more womanly’
Sharon O: ‘Ozzy likes my new boobs. I feel more attractive for him’
Drew Barrymore: ‘My breast reduction at age 16 was the most wonderful choice I’ve ever made’

Cost? £6,000

FACE LIFT

What?
It eliminates excess fat, tightens muscles and removes sagging skin.

How?
There are many different procedures but essentially, cuts are made along your hairline and the skin pulled tighter over your face after excess fat has been removed. Scars are usually hidden by your hair, but endoscopic techniques – which require smaller cuts – can leave less obvious scarring.

How long?
The operation can take up to six hours, usually under general anaesthetic, and recovery can be several months. Your face will be bruised, swollen and numb for about three weeks.

Is it for you?
Best for those in their 40s, 50s or 60s, with good bone structure and skin with sound elasticity.
Risks to discuss: Paralysis of facial muscles, Hairloss, Scarring, Rough skin, Features, particularly eyes, may look lopsided.

Babs Windsor: ‘I’m thrilled with the results – I feel 10 years younger’

Cost? £4,000

BROW LIFT

What?
Smoothes the forehead and reduces saggy skin around the eyes

How?
There are two techniques – open and endoscopic. In an open lift, one long cut is made across the forehead. For an endoscopic lift, several smaller cuts are made in order to insert an endoscope, so the surgeon can see the tissues beneath the skin on a TV screen without having to open the forehead fully. This will leave smaller scars. Fatty tissue and excess skin is removed from the forehead, and the skin replaced.

How long?
The op takes about two hours under either local or general anaesthetic.

Is it for you?
It could work well if your general skin tone is good and you’re in your 40s to 60s.

Risks to discuss:
Inability to raise eyebrows or wrinkle forehead because of nerve damage, Eyebrows out of line.

Cost? £4,000

NECK LIFT

What?
Resculpts a softening jawline and removes jowls and wattles (fleshy bits on the neck).

How?
Cuts are made behind, or under, the ear, and excess fat, muscle and skin removed from the neck. Face and neck lifts are often done together.

How long?
The op takes around two hours and usually requires a general anaesthetic. Swelling and pain takes about a fortnight to disappear

Is it for you?
Best results are achieved if you have a well-defined bone structure and skin high in elasticity.

Risks to discuss:
Neck may look corded, Skin can appear mottled or lumpy, skin may become loose again.

Cost? £3,000

LIPOSUCTION

What?
Reshaping of your body by the removal of fat.

How?
Body fat is broken down and sucked out through small cuts in the skin by using a syringe or fine catheter attached to a strong vacuum pump.

How long?
The length of the op, and type of anaesthetic, depends on the area and fat levels. It can take up to five hours and is done under either local or general anaesthetic. You’ll need to wear a special elastic garment for support for about a week.

Is it for you?
It’s great for healthy, young or middle-aged women with good skin tone who aren’t more than a stone overweight. It’s a tightening procedure, not a way to lose a lot of weight.

Risks to discuss:
Numbness and nerve damage, Uneven skin, Internal or external burning (for ultrasound-assisted procedures).

Tara Reid: ‘I got lipo because, even though I was skinny, I wanted a six-pack!’

Cost? £4,,500

TUMMY TUCK

What?
Surgery to tighten the abdominal wall muscle and remove excess fat and skin. It’s often done in conjunction with liposuction.

How?
There are two main types – partial and full. For a partial tummy tuck, you’ll have a large cut across the base of your belly, and the skin and the abdominal wall will be separated and any excess fat and skin removed. The flap of skin is then pulled down and sewn back. A full tummy tuck involves more removal of fat and skin, so incisions are made around your belly button so it remains in position while the fat and skin is trimmed around it. The skin is then replaced and a new hole cut for your belly button.

How long?
It depends on the extent of work needed, but the op may take up to five hours and usually requires a general anaesthetic.

Is it for you?
It works best for women whose pregnancies, or large weight loss, have left them with an apron of skin around their bellies.

Risks to discuss:
Numbness, Puckering of skin around the scar.

Demi Moore: ‘I have no problem with enhancing one’s looks or fixing something that’s changed. For some things, cosmetic surgery is a godsend’

Cost? £3,000

EYELID SURGERY

What?
Removes eyebags or hooded eyelids.

How?
In upper eyelid surgery, a cut is made along the eyelid crease, and excess skin, fat and muscle is removed. For lower eyelid surgery, a cut is made below the lashes or inside the lower eyelid, and the fat from the eyebag is removed.

How long?
The op takes about an hour. General anaesthetic is usually needed for lower eyelid surgery, and local anaesthetic for upper.

Is it for you?
An eye specialist (ophthalmologist) will need to assess your suitability because certain conditions, such as glaucoma and dry eyes, increase your risk of problems after surgery.

Risks to discuss:
Blindness, caused by bleeding behind the eye, Temporary blurred vision, Inability to close eyes, Uneven eyes, Lower eyelid sagging, Dry eyes.

Angela Lansbury: ‘My eyelift gave me a more youthful look and enabled me to get work into my seventies’

Cost? £4,000

Nose JOB

What?
Reshapes the nose

How?
There are several procedures, but two main techniques – open or closed. With open surgery, some or all the cuts are made outside the nose. With closed, all cuts are made inside. The op normally involves separating the soft tissue from the bone and cartilage, and then the bone is broken and reset, and the cartilage reshaped.

How long?
The op will take around two hours under general or local anaesthetic. Irregularities in nose shape can take up to a year to settle down.

Is it for you?
It’s best if you need a slight reshaping or reduction of your nose. If you’re looking for a completely different shape or size nose, forget it.

Risks to discuss:
Removing too much cartilage or bone from the nose can create an unnatural look and isn’t advisable as it may interfere with breathing. Swelling and a minor risk of infection are also possible.

Tara PT: ‘I was so scared before I had it done. But now I wish I’d had it fixed years ago’
Jennifer Grey: ‘I went into the operating theatre a celebrity and came out anonymous’

The UK Top Ten

The top ten surgical procedures for men & women in 2005 were, in order of popularity:

Breast augmentation
Blepharoplasty (eyelids)
Breast Reduction
Face/Neck Lift
Rhinoplasty
Abdominoplasty
Liposuction (major)
Otoplasty (ears)
Liposuction (minor)
Brow lifts
[Source: The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons]

 

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