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    A question of age and abdominoplasty

    With proper patient selection, abdominoplasty can be safely performed in patients 60 years and older, according to a study in Aesthetic Surgery Journal that compared the safety and complication rates of the procedure in a younger patient cohort to an older population group.

    “Recent studies suggest that age may independently increase the risk of complications following abdominoplasty,” says co-author James Zins, M.D., a plastic surgeon and chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery at Cleveland Clinic Foundation. “However, these studies lack comprehensive information about the procedure.”

    Given that older individuals are seeking cosmetic surgery in growing numbers, and that abdominoplasty carries a greater risk than other cosmetic procedures, “we felt this topic deserved further evaluation,” Dr. Zins tells The Aesthetic Channel.

    This is not the first time that the Clinic’s plastic surgery department has assessed the safety of a cosmetic procedure in the elderly. “We previously published a study that demonstrated that with proper selection, patients 65 years and older could undergo facelift surgery, with a risk similar to that of a younger patient population,” Dr. Zins says.

    The current study retrospectively reviewed abdominoplasty performed between 2010 and 2015. The 129 patients were divided into two groups: 59 years of age and younger (n = 86) or at least 60 years old (n = 43).

    “We examined major, minor, local and systemic complications occurring before and after 30 days of surgery,” Dr. Zins says. “The main findings of our study were that with careful patient selection, abdominoplasty can be safely performed on older age patients, with a complication rate that approaches the younger age population.”

    The study found there were no meaningful differences in the occurrence of major local/systemic and minor local/systemic complications in the two age groups.

    Related: Screening tool for tummy tuck patients

    Furthermore, there was no difference in short-term (within 30 days from surgery) and long-term (30 days or more after surgery) complications.

     “In other words, our study suggests that physiological age is the determinant of that patient outcome, not chronological age,” Dr. Zins says.

    Dr. Zins says that proper patient selection plays an essential role in a safe practice. “Plastic surgery is one of the few specialties that have the luxury of deferring surgery for those individuals in poor health,” he says. “The ability to preselect our patients, may explain the difference in findings between our review and other studies investigating the effect of age on complication rates.”

    A full 80% of the patients in the current study had an American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) score between 1 and 2, and no individual had an ASA score greater than 3. 

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