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Does Plastic Surgery Work? Study Reports Not Really

Update Date: Aug 02, 2013 10:17 AM EDT

The majority of people will not willingly choose to get cut up by a surgeon unless their lives depended on it. Although surgeries are a lot safer today than they were decades ago, the risk of infections and other complications still exist. Despite this, there is a select group of people that will go under the knife and not for any health reasons other than to appear younger and more attractive. Plastic surgery is a growing medical field with more and more customers lining up everyday. 

The biggest question that has not been answered is, does plastic surgery work? A new study is reporting that plastic surgery, which people believe adds several years to one's face, only adds around three years and does not make people any more attractive.

For this study, a research team headed by Dr. A. Joshua Zimm from the Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City recruited 49 plastic surgery patients from a Toronto private-practice center who had "facial rejuvenation" surgery anytime between 2006 and 2010. Facial rejuvenation surgery includes a face lift, neck lift, upper or lower eyelid lift and a brow lift. The participants had an average age of 57 with the range of 42 to 73. The researchers photographed them before and after their facial rejuvenation surgery after a six-month follow up. They did not wear any make up or jewelry in the photographs.

The researchers then showed the pictures to 50 raters, who were made up of hospital employees and local people in the area. For each photograph, the raters had to guess the age of the person and give them an attractive score ranging from one to 10. Individual raters only saw either the before or after pictures but not both to prevent bias.

The researchers calculated the scores and found that the raters tend to underestimate the participants' real ages in both before and after surgery photographs. When it came to the pictures of people post surgery, the raters believed that the participants were an average of 3.1 years younger. Despite looking younger, the raters did not find them any more attractive. According to the scores, the raters ranked them from four to six before and after the procedure.

"When we're doing this kind of surgery I'm telling patients that they'll look fresher, more energetic and less tired, and we have some data in the literature that indicates you will look younger, as we found," Zimm said according to HealthDay. "But clearly I cannot say that they will look more attractive."

The researchers, however, stated that a study done solely on attractiveness might yield other results. They believe that by asking raters to guess the age of the people in the photographs, they might not have been as objective as the researchers would have liked. The study was published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery.

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