The Truth About Plastic Surgery

By Jennifer LoConte

Whether performed as medical re-constructive surgery or an elected cosmetic procedure, plastic surgery continues to be one of the most popular services performed in the United States. Men and women of all ages, ethnicities and income levels seek to make changes to their bodies in some capacity and if not covered by insurance, continue to spend large amounts of money to do so. With an abundance of plastic surgery offices located throughout the country, it can be overwhelming and often confusing for the basic consumer. It’s imperative and possibly lifesaving to thoroughly research not only the plastic surgeon but also the potential procedure before going “under the knife.”

Plastic surgery includes a broad array of services and is defined by  two specific categories:  reconstructive and cosmetic. In reconstructive plastic surgery, a patient seeks to improve oneself from a medical standpoint. Examples include a person requiring facial or hand reconstruction either from an accident or as a birth defect, a breast cancer survivor needing breast reconstruction or someone seeking a breast reduction for medical reasons. Fortunately, insurance almost always covers these types of surgeries. In contrast, cosmetic plastic surgery is usually not covered by insurance and can include procedures like breast augmentation, liposuction, tummy tuck and varying degrees of facelifts. There are also cosmetic procedures such as Botox, laser hair removals and soft tissue fillers that do not require surgery.

Dr. Samina Wahhab, whose office is located in Allentown, recommends finding a board-certified plastic surgeon. She says, “Not all cosmetic surgeons are plastic surgeons and it’s important to know the difference. There is no board governing cosmetic surgery and no certification.” Wahhab is the only board-certified female plastic surgeon in the Lehigh Valley and offers both reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. She explains that certified plastic surgeons undergo a minimum six-year, rigorous training program in order to graduate and an intensive re-certification every 10 years. All certified plastic surgeons are listed with The American Society of Plastic Surgeons ( The ASPS is the largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons in the world.  It was founded in 1931 and represents more than 7,000 members. It is also the leading authority and information source on reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery.

Dr. Jaime Bastidas, of Amin Bastidis Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery Center, is also board-certified, and stresses the importance of where surgeries and procedures are performed. He says, “Any procedure requiring an IV sedation or general anesthesia should be performed at a surgical center or hospital where there is also access to seasoned anesthesiologists.” Amin Plastic Surgery operates out of its own fully accredited and state-of-the-art surgical center. Wahhab’s surgeries are performed at Lehigh Valley Hospital, The Fairgrounds Surgical Center and Westfield Hospital. Both surgeons maintain privileges to work in several area hospitals, an important factor for reconstructive surgeries.

A shocking truth that both Bastidas and Wahhab agree upon is that any physician can take a weekend course in a specific type of plastic surgery, for example liposuction, and immediately begin performing it on patients. Bastidas says, “Cosmetic plastic surgery is a cash business and there are people performing procedures that clearly should not. You can be assured that a certified plastic surgeon is dedicated and serious about their work.” As with any type of surgery, there is the risk of complication. Both state that a good plastic surgeon is one whose safety of the patient is the highest priority.

The benefits of undergoing either reconstructive or cosmetic surgery can be life-changing. The outcome of reconstructive surgery is obvious. Bastidas says, “Helping someone who has a facial deformity, whether from an accident or birth defect as well as a patient in need of hand reconstruction is very rewarding for both the patient and surgeon.” Wahhab has a special interest in breast reconstruction for breast cancer survivors. She says, “These women are fighters and I feel compelled to help them.” Wahhab focused on breast cancer research in particular during her residency.

In terms of cosmetic surgery, an improved appearance can boost people’s self-esteem and self-confidence, both of which can have an enormous psychological benefit. The key appears to be finding that balance. Bastidas stressed that there are those individuals who can become addicted to plastic surgery. He says, “A good plastic surgeon will be honest with their patients’ sometimes unrealistic expectations, especially those who continue to come back for procedure after procedure. I tell those individuals that I don’t feel comfortable with performing surgeries that are unnecessary.”

Now for some eye-opening statistics: According to The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in 2010, there were a total of 13.1 million cosmetic surgeries and more than 5.3 million reconstructive surgeries performed, both of which increased from the prior year. An astounding $10.1 billion was spent last year on cosmetic procedures alone, an amount that increased by 1.2% from 2009. Repeat business also increased by 13%. In 2010, 40 to 54 year-olds made up the majority of those getting plastic surgery, with approximately 48% or 6 million total cosmetic procedures and 349,000 surgical procedures. In terms of gender, 91% were female but surprisingly, plastic surgery among males is quickly on the rise. According to new statistics released by ASPS, facelifts among males rose 14% in 2010 while male liposuction increased 7%. That year, men underwent more than 1.1 million cosmetic procedures, both minimally-invasive and surgical. Dr. Stephen Baker, an ASPS Member Surgeon based in Washington, DC says, “Baby boomers who are now reaching retirement age are the new face of the male plastic surgery trend.”

Melissa Kline, Patient Care Coordinator for Amin Plastic Surgery, explains that procedures are seasonal.  She says that in early spring, breast augmentation, tummy tucks and liposuction are popular as people are getting ready for summer. In winter, there are more laser treatments for vein or hair removal and injectable fillers. Scheduling procedures is also dependent on patients’  vacation schedules as they see more people during the holiday season as well as teachers during summer months. Recovery rates for all types of plastic surgery are fairly short. Kline says, “Patients can expect to resume all activities between four and six weeks.” She explains that if there is an incision, it takes approximately two weeks for the swelling to go down and bruising to heal. She says, “Some people are resuming their activities after two weeks. It really depends on each individual.”

In terms of new cosmetic procedures that are becoming popular, Dr. Wahhab says a newer version of liposuction, called SLIM Lipo (selective, laser-induced melting), is popular. She explains, “A laser is used inside the fatty tissue to dissolve fat cells and cause tightening of the skin. It’s much less traumatic than regular liposuction.” Natural breast augmentation is another new procedure that is an alternative to traditional implants. Kline explains that fatty areas from one part of your body are extracted and injected into the breast area. She says, “This type of procedure is more involved and requires several visits. It can also be more expensive and the patient must be a candidate for this type of surgery.”

What about cost? Plastic surgery is costly and because each individual is different, it’s important to be evaluated by the surgeon before prices are determined. At Amin, breast augmentation ranges from $5,900 to $6,800. Eyelid surgery costs approximately $5,000, while a full facelift costs around $8,600. Abdominoplasty runs approximately $8,900. Liposuction is more difficult to price depending on the individual and the amount of surgical time. Kline explained that their office, like most others, offers affordable financing plans.

Samina Wahhab, M.D., Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
1255 S. Cedar Crest Blvd., Suite 1100
Allentown, PA 18103

Amin Bastidis Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery Center
3729 Easton Nazareth Highway, Suite 201
Easton, PA 18045

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