Is Cosmetic Surgery More Dangerous as You Get Older?

Aging is hard on us in many ways. We get wrinkles. Our skin is less supple. It sags. Our hearing may not be as good as it used to be. Our sight may also be blurred. We can’t get around as well or as fast. Our hair turns gray. We lose bone mass. We don’t heal as quickly. We are more likely to suffer illness and disease. Some of these changes can indeed make it harder to heal after any medical procedure. In some cases, that could mean that it’s a higher risk to have surgery. But does that mean it’s less safe to get cosmetic surgery when we are older? It’s important to know the answer to this because more and more people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s are having plastic surgery. We need to confirm it is still safe. One measure of the safety of a procedure is the rate of complication after it is done. Let’s take a look.


Are There More Complications As We Age?

Complication rates are one way to measure how safe a cosmetic procedure is. So, if we look at the rate of complications for patients of different ages, we can see whether or not there are more problems for older patients. In fact, a recent study did exactly that. The results were presented at the annual scientific meeting of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) last month. They found there are not any more complications for older patients than for younger ones. The rates were actually quite similar. There was just one type of procedure that resulted in a higher rate of complication for the older group: abdominoplasty. (It had a 5.4% complication rate for the older group, versus 3.9% for the younger group).

The older patients were more likely to have infections and problems with wound healing in those cases. That said, the older patients did not always have the same procedures as their younger counterparts either. They were more likely to have facial procedures by quite a large margin. This may mean more study is needed. Study Details To assess whether plastic surgery was safe for older patients, the study looked at past data and did comparisons. The study looked at a database of procedures over a period of 5 years. It separated all procedures for people 65 and older. The complication rate was compared for the older group versus the younger group. The difference was so small, it was not statistically significant. (1.94% versus 1.84%).

This was perhaps surprising because, as expected, the older population had more health concerns prior to their procedures. For example, a greater percentage of the older population were overweight and/or diabetic before their surgeries. Yet the issue of complications was not a concern. Even when you further segment the group and test whether those in their 80s had more complications, the answer was still no. The number was again ever-so-slightly higher: 2.2%. This is again not statistically significant. This study is good news. It implies that it’s still safe to get cosmetic surgery as we age. I’ll be watching for more info if more studies are done in the future.



Dr. Michael J. Brown is a board-certified plastic surgeon who offers innovative aesthetic procedures for the face, breast, and body.


The Loudoun Center for Plastic Surgery 

45155 Research Pl
Ste 125
Ashburn, VA 20147

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