Patient Interest Unabated as Plastic Surgery Prices Soar Amid Pandemic

by Surgical Times

Your hard-won dollars destined for personal cosmetic care went nearly 12 percent further just one year ago.

The average national cost of elective cosmetic surgery procedures increased by 11.89 percent in 2020.

The average physician’s fee for breast augmentation, ever the most popular procedure in America, increased by 14.42 percent year over year, from $3,947 in 2019 to $4,516 in 2020.

Other cosmetic surgeries rose by as much as 37 percent, with all but one of 27 separate procedures increasing in cost.

Costs increase. That’s nature. That’s Economics 101.

But the increases appear higher than warranted even for this turbulent time.

By way of reference, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that from 2019 to 2020, “consumer prices for all items rose 1.4 percent.”

Plastic surgery procedures rose an average of 8.5X that amount.

Looking good has never been so expensive.

Eyelid Work 25% More Expensive; Breast Work 14%

All five of the most popular procedures of the year increased in cost, with eyelid surgery being 25 percent more expensive than it was just a year ago.

Top Procedure20192020% Change
Eyelid Surgery$3,282$4,12025.53%
Breast Augmentation$3,947$4,51614.42%

And this in a year where unending virtual video calls gave rise to the “Zoom Boom” in plastic surgery.

Three of the top five plastic surgery procedures of 2020 are facial plastic surgeries.

For the first time in 15 years, a facial plastic surgery procedure (rhinoplasty) overtook and unseated breast augmentation as the most performed plastic surgery in the U.S.

Plastic Surgery Patients Unaware But Impacted

Given the nature of plastic surgery, patients are extremely unlikely to undergo the same surgery back-to-back one year to the next, leaving 2020’s plastic surgery patients unaware of just how high prices had become.

These figures, which are averages only, reflect the national average surgeon’s fee, on top of which a patient would need to add the cost of anesthesia, operating room facilities, and other related expenses—costs the Society says aren’t included in the financial figures used throughout its report.

Procedures Down 14%, Fees Up 20%

In fact, costs were evidently so high that despite the total number of cosmetic surgical procedures being down -14%, and the total number of cosmetic minimally-invasive procedures being down -16%, total 2020 expenditures increased by $3.432 billion dollars or 20.5 percent.

Class20192020% Change
Total Expenditure $16.74B $20.17B+20.5%

Change in Statistical Methodology

Unfortunately, poor projections may also be to blame.

In 2020, the ASPS significantly expanded the number of physicians included in their annual statistics report.

For many years prior to 2020, statistics represented, “procedures performed by ASPS Member Surgeons certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery as well as other physicians certified by American Board of Medical Specialties-recognized boards.”

For the first time ever, the 2020 report includes a footnote to the effect that even beyond the already extensive roster of physicians performing plastic surgery, they now report on a “more comprehensive” group of physicians who are “likely to perform” plastic surgery procedures.

The 2020 report includes this statement: “Projections have been updated to reflect a more comprehensive set of Board-Certified physicians performing these procedures.”

And the official 2019 report is no longer available online for comparison.

Comparing the 2019 report published in 2020 with the revised and reprojected 2019 figures published in the 2021 report reveals significant differences.

For instance, the ASPS reported 299,715 breast augmentations for 2019. The 2020 report now lists that number as 287,085, while the 2019 figures for eyelid surgery were adjusted from 211,005 to 354,105. 

Expanding Report’s Scope Should Reduce, Not Increase, Average Fees

Expanding the scope of physicians represented in the report is likely to influence costs in the opposite direction, down not up, as board-certified plastic surgeons typically charge higher rates than do dermatologists and other licensed MDs who perform some plastic surgery procedures, and with good reason.

Despite rising fees, interest in plastic surgery is unabated and the two are soaring in tandem. Virtual video conferencing and near-perfect at-home recovery setups have contributed.

Surgical Times provides objective public interest reporting on the practice of plastic surgery and is not affiliated with or funded by any surgeon or practice.