With more than 2 years of pandemic experience behind us, it can be carefully assumed that covid-19 (in one form or another) will remain with us also throughout 2022. While the pandemic has presented many professional and personal challenges, demand for breast aesthetic procedures has never been higher.
But how did the pandemic impact the world of plastic surgery and breast aesthetics? In this blog post we will review some of the information published to date by the professional medical associations as well as in clinical papers and other sources.
The pandemic impact on plastic surgery
While the official statistics for 2021 are yet to be published, some industry sources estimate that 2021 was a highly busy year in breast aesthetics, with an estimated 25% growth over 2020.
Furthermore, surgeons report a change in the traditional ‘seasonality’ of aesthetic surgery procedures (peaking before the summer holidays and towards the winter holiday season). It seems that during 2021 the ‘peak’ followed the pandemic fluctuations, with a decrease in the summertime, when the low levels of the pandemic allowed for family vacation and travel.
The beginning of the pandemic was more challenging, with an overall 10% decrease in aesthetic plastic surgery procedures and more than 75% of the surgeons globally experienced temporary practice shut down. The decrease ‘notch’ was especially significant in the 1st half of 2020 with the lockdown experienced during that time in many global regions.1,2
Breast augmentation remained the most common surgical procedure worldwide in 2020, making a total of 16% of all plastic surgery procedures. 84% of breast augmentation procedures were with silicone implants and 90% of breast augmentation patients were women between the ages 20 and 50 years old.2
What can Google tell us?
Reviewing Google Trends for plastic surgery and breast aesthetics search terms, we see that after an initial drop in search engine traffic in early 2020, the public’s interest in plastic surgery related terms rapidly recovered, with rapid return to baseline or, in some cases (including for breast augmentation), new peaks.5
Google Trends based analyses have previously been shown to correlate with the actual number of procedures performed.5
Breast Reconstruction – a safe haven
Breast reconstruction holds a special importance both medically and emotionally in the patient journey towards recovery. Today there is an overall agreement not to delay reconstruction procedures due to any covid related concerns.3
The field of breast reconstruction was initially affected by the pandemic as well, with a drop in reconstruction surgeries – but after a few months centers around the world reported resuming their normal schedules for breast reconstruction.4
There are different methods of breast reconstruction, mainly immediate reconstruction (where the reconstructive procedure is performed within the same surgery and immediately after the tumour removal), and delayed reconstruction (where the reconstructive procedure is performed at a later date and in a separate surgery).
In Italy for example, a country that was highly impacted by Covid initially, immediate reconstruction showed a slighter decrease in the number of procedures compared with delayed reconstruction procedures. The reason was the general directive to postpone elective procedures, to avoid exposure to risks at the time.6
Globally and within implant-based reconstruction, direct-to-implant was favored over serial tissue expansion. Several protocols were developed, with many emphasizing multidisciplinary collaborations for patient selection, use of specialized measures to reduce risk of Covid transmission, and optimization of same-day discharge.7
How will 2022 look like?
2022 may be as unpredictable as the pandemic. However, several trends that are predicted to remain with us in the coming years, may have a longer lasting impact on the field of plastic surgery:
- The Hybrid work model which enables patients to schedule short times indoors and potentially undergo procedures that require little downtime, may further impact the traditional ‘seasonality’ of plastic surgery procedures.
- The traditional seasonality of plastic surgery may be further impacted by people choosing to opt-in for procedures based on when the pandemic is at a low point.
- Global supply chain challenges coupled with record demand for breast implants may also impact the field of breast aesthetics and in some cases may even cause delay in procedure scheduling.
- Long term economic considerations that are yet to be revealed may impact the funds available for elective plastic surgery.
Trust in your plastic surgeon
Now more than ever, it is important to choose a plastic surgeon that you are comfortable with, one who is updated with the latest recommendations and that can take all of the necessary measures to ensure a safe procedure for you.