What Do Higher Price Tags Mean in the World of Cosmetic Surgery?

Woman with Dollar Sign Penciled on Face

If you are considering plastic surgery in Denver, CO, you may wonder if higher-priced cosmetic surgeries really give better results or if this is just a social perception? Furthermore, why is cosmetic surgery so expensive in the first place? Why are there large price disparities between practices even within the same city?

According to our very own Dr. Paul Steinwald, many different aspects determine the price of cosmetic surgery in Denver and throughout the United States, including:

  • Overhead, such as rent. In areas where the commercial real estate costs are higher, you will see higher prices for the procedures. (We can all believe that the cost of a facelift will be more expensive in New York City compared to Salt Lake City, right?)
  • Salaries for a well-trained medical and administrative staff.
  • Cost of technology, such as liposuction machines and lasers.
  • Cost of maintaining all operating room equipment (anesthesia machines, operating tables, lights, etc.).
  • Amount of time a surgeon has been practicing (the surgeon’s experience).

Which factor affects price the most?

Generally, the factor that causes the most variation in procedure pricing is the surgeon’s age or the amount of time the surgeon has been practicing. Dr. Steinwald explains, “I tend to look at how difficult the surgery is and price according to that. Others look at how much they think they’re worth per hour. Surgeons who are at a point in their careers where they have built a name for themselves, which in their minds demands more money for each surgery, may be able to work less.” But, how much more money does the surgeon charge before we call them “greedy”? Most competitively priced surgeons argue that inflated egos can get in the way of determining fair pricing to patients.

Does a higher price mean better results?

The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery actually keeps track of national averages as well as average cost of surgery procedures within your zip code. Learn more.

However, I found the cost disparity in my Denver, CO, zip code to range between $5,000 and $18,000 for a facelift. This radical finding circles us back to the first question. Do higher-priced procedures really give better results? Or, is this just a social perception? We looked to our own Dr. Steven Vath for answers to these questions.

Dr. Vath states that you can have both good and not-so-good results with a higher-priced surgery. He argues, however, that double or triple the national average is exorbitant. So, how do surgeons with outrageous prices stay busy? Dr. Vath theorizes that oftentimes patients get caught up in a “placebo effect,” thinking that more money equals better results.

What about free consultations?

Recently, we had a patient in for a consultation who was quite surprised that we do not charge a consultation fee. She was almost put off by it, asking, “Isn’t the surgeon’s time worth something?” While yes, it is true that a potential patient is taking a surgeon’s time in this process, the patient is also using his or her own valuable time to meet with the surgeon. At CCS, we don’t charge for consultations because Dr. Wolfe, Dr. Vath, and Dr. Steinwald urge patients not to go price shopping, but rather, go surgeon shopping. We understand that a patient will meet with an average of 3 surgeons before deciding who will ultimately perform the procedure. By charging for a consultation, we feel that it is just putting up a roadblock for a potential patient to find the surgeon who is the best fit.

Is a cosmetic surgeon the same as a board-certified plastic surgeon?

Of course, when comparing surgeons, you want to make sure you are comparing apples to apples. There is a HUGE difference between a “cosmetic surgeon” and a board-certified plastic surgeon.

The financial investment to become a board-certified plastic surgeon is steep. Plastic surgeons must invest a huge amount of time and money not only at the beginning of their careers but also after their education is complete. After surgeons complete all educational and residency hurdles, they move onto deciding whether they can open their own surgery practice, which definitely leads to more debt. Once surgeons decide to go into practice for themselves, they must take out loans to pay for equipment, rent, staff, supplies, malpractice insurance, heating, etc.

What are important considerations when choosing a surgeon?

No matter what income level you are at, cosmetic surgery is a big investment. Go into this process knowing that spending more money doesn’t necessarily mean getting a better result. If you are considering cosmetic surgery, do not allow price, whether it be low, middle range, or high, to be your number 1 determining factor. Make sure you consider the following factors:

  • Surgeon’s training
  • Average cost of cosmetic surgery procedures within your zip code
  • Surgeon’s before-and-after pictures online
  • Surgeon’s unsolicited patient reviews
  • Overall feelings you experience when meeting with the surgeon

Do not be afraid to ask questions related to price. At the Center for Cosmetic Surgery, we believe that fairness and transparency always lead to a happier patient/surgeon relationship.

Kari Roland, Patient Counselor

[email protected]

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