Feb. 21, 2012 at 5:41 PM ETBy Karen Rowan
Plastic surgery will likely make you look nine years younger than you really are, a new study suggests.
Researchers showed 40 medical students before and after pictures of 60 plastic-surgery patients.
When shown the "before" pictures, the medical students estimated the patients to be 1.7 years younger than their actual ages, on average. When looking at the pictures taken six months after surgery, the students estimated the patients to be 8.9 years younger than their actual ages — in other words, surgery took an average of 7.2 years off the patients' perceived ages.
Plastic surgeons face "the delicate task" of telling patients what they can realistically expect to see after surgery, the researchers from the University of Toronto in Canada and NorthShore University Health System in Evanston, Ill., wrote in their study.
Patients' satisfaction with their surgery often depends on their expectations, so clear communication is important. But surgeons generally have had to use somewhat vague terms, telling patients they will look " less tired " or "more youthful." The new findings may offer a more specific way to explain to patients what they might expect, the authors wrote in the Feb. 20 issue of the journal Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery.
The 60 plastic-surgery patients, who were predominantly women, fell into three groups: 22 had undergone a face and neck lift only; 17 had undergone a face and neck lift along with an eyelid lift; and 21 had those procedures, plus a forehead lift.
The youthfulness granted by the surgeries differed depending on the group. After surgery, those who'd had only a face and neck lift were estimated to look 5.7 years younger than before surgery; those who'd also had an eyelid lift were estimated to look 7.5 years younger; and those who'd had face, neck and eyelid lifts along with a forehead lift were estimated to be 8.4 years younger after surgery.
The patients in the study were between 45 and 72 years old when they had their surgery; their age at the time of their surgery did not affect how much younger they looked afterwards, according to the study.
"There stems an innate desire to be as young and attractive as possible, which has been documented throughout much of the history of our species," the researchers wrote. But experienced surgeons know to temper what they say to patients, because of limitations in surgery's abilities to reverse the signs of aging, a complex process.
The researchers noted some limitations of their study, including the fact that one surgeon completed all of the plastic surgeries, and the study included only a limited number of plastic-surgery techniques. Future work should compare results among patients undergoing different surgical techniques, and also look at the combined effect of laser skin resurfacing, and other interventions.
They also noted that most patients don't want to look as young as surgically possible — most say they "want to look good for their age," rather than looking artificial, the researchers wrote.
One of the researchers is a medical consultant for the company Allergan, which produces Botox injections, among other products.
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