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The terms “mini” and “micro” appear frequently in plastic surgery today, and have a variety of meanings. The words may imply easier, less complicated, and less demanding procedures. To be more accurate, in plastic surgery, “mini” and “micro” mean that a smaller imperfection is to be treated, with a smaller incision. For example, a mini-facelift would treat a smaller facial imperfection with smaller incisions than a traditional facelift. A mini-facelift can also serve as a “touchup” procedure after a traditional facelift.
The benefits of mini or micro procedures may include reduced surgical time, less recovery time, and possibly less pain. But the approach to mini or micro procedures varies among doctors. It is important to understand what mini and micro can mean for you.
Can Mini and Micro Procedures Work for Me?
The key to successful mini and micro procedures in plastic surgery is in the treatment plan, which is a coordinated combination of procedures to achieve optimal results. A combination of less invasive procedures may serve well for a patient with slight aging imperfections. Although results are temporary, such procedures may be all that is necessary to satisfy a patient for five or more years. Likewise, patients who have already had plastic surgery procedures may want touchups, which may be considered mini or micro, in the form of smaller secondary surgeries throughout their lifetime.
Touchups can provide ongoing or periodic improvements to keep up with aging as it resurfaces. For example, a full facelift can last ten to 15 years. A mini-facelift touchup, which lasts about five years, can be performed after an initial procedure to maintain optimal results. These less invasive treatments, however, are still plastic surgery procedures, and should be considered serious, no matter how mini or micro it may be.
Good candidates may be, for example, baby boomers who want to take five years off their face with a mini-facelift. These patients may benefit from smaller incisions and the use of tiny barb sutures, instead of a large incision that requires heavier stitching. However, many of these techniques are new and long-term results have not been proven. Furthermore, mini-facelift patients may not be fully satisfied with the slight skin tightening offered by smaller incisions and barb sutures.
The treatment plan for a mini-facelift patient often includes regular facial-filler treatments to add volume to hollowed facial areas or fill in deep wrinkles. Alternatively, a candidate who consults with a qualified doctor might be surprised to learn that they don’t need a mini-facelift after all. Facial fillers may be enough in some cases.
For more extensive cases, patients with deeper wrinkles may not be satisfied with a mini-facelift. They may need a full facelift or neck-lift (or both) to achieve desired results.
Thermage treatment (also known as radiothermoplasty) may also be part of a mini or micro treatment plan. Thermage is a nonsurgical skin-tightening treatment for the face. It uses radio frequency energy to heat deeper layers of skin, which tightens the skin. The technology used in a Thermage procedure may replace what a brow-lift candidate may think they need.
The Thermage procedure is considered less invasive than a brow-lift and may work best for patients who require 1-2 millimeters of tightening compared with 1 or more centimeters offered in a brow-lift. Thermage lasts about two years, longer than injectables and fillers but not as long as a facelift. Aging plays a role in the long-term effects of Thermage.
Candidates who fear the implications of a neck-lift for their “turkey waddle” appearance may be surprised to learn that some qualified doctors can perform a direct excision of excessive neck muscle or skin through a small incision under the chin and at the back of the neck, which may be considered a micro procedure. This technique is also new and requires significant expertise on the part of the doctor.
Liposuction candidates may be surprised to learn that the micro-lipo technique used by many plastic surgeons today offers a smaller incision and less recovery time and pain. Micro-lipo is also known as tumescent liposuction.
Mini tummy tucks use a smaller incision so there is no need to remove the tissue connecting the navel. The belly button is either left in place or repositioned as with other techniques. Mini tummy tuck is done when there is a very localized fullness in the lower abdomen, so that less muscle repair and skin removal is needed. The partial abdominoplasty (mini tummy tuck) requires one to two hours in surgery.
Consult a Qualified Doctor
Before deciding on any cosmetic medical procedure, discuss your options with a board-certified plastic surgeon.
Here are some tips to consider when consulting a plastic surgeon:
- Review the doctor’s credentials, education, training, type of certification held, and number of times that the procedure has been performed in the practice.
- View before-and-after photos of patients who received different types of cosmetic plastic surgery to help you arrive at reasonable expectations (keeping in mind that photos may show only the best results and not represent all the possible outcomes).
- Bring a photo of your desired result to discuss with your doctor.
- Ask about the type of equipment to be used, where the procedure will be performed, the approach to the procedure, and the extent of the procedure.
- Discuss the short-term and long-term impact of the procedure, including the estimated time before the results will be evident as well as additional procedures necessary in the future to maintain the benefit.
- Talk about possible complications and side effects with your doctor.
- Find out if the physician has privileges to perform the procedure in a local hospital.
- Ask how you may be able to check references. You may also ask the doctor if you can speak with other patients who are pictured in the before-and-after photos.
During your consultation, the doctor will complete a medical evaluation. Each case is individual and your treatment plan may change after consultations. There are pros and cons with every medical procedure. This is particularly true for mini and micro procedures, which are newer and less conventional. Because they are new and not well defined, their longevity and possible complications are not yet substantiated. A qualified doctor can give you a better idea of the best approach to treatment and likely results.
It is best to choose a surgeon who has extensive surgical training and experience in all plastic surgery procedures, especially the one you are having performed. Board certification does not always guarantee the best results; however, board certification does require specific and rigorous surgical education and training. The type of certification is also important. There are more than 150 self-designated boards, but only a handful that are designated by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), such as the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
Mini and Micro Procedure Costs
Factors that influence cost include the doctor’s skill and training, the geographic location, facility fees, and anesthesia fees.
It is difficult to establish an average cost for mini and micro procedures because they are new, there are so many different types, and every case is unique. The approach to a procedure varies among doctors and patients, and the extent of the procedure can vary between patients. To establish costs, a treatment plan must be developed by the doctor. You can, however, get an idea of cosmetic surgery fees in general from our table of average surgeon fees.
Since mini or micro procedures may be performed during another procedure, anesthesia and facility fees can be combined with the other procedures. The total fees for mini or micro procedures are typically less than the costs for full plastic surgery procedures. This is because mini and micro procedures often require less time in surgery, a smaller incision, and less invasiveness.
The geographic region is also important. Costs for plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures are highest in the Northeast and the West Coast. The central and southern states are less expensive, because the surgeon’s overhead is lower and the cost of living is generally lower.
If you have a flexible spending account through your employer or if your doctor’s office has financing plans available, this can reduce your financial burden. If the cost of a mini or micro is difficult for you, ask your surgeon about payment plans and medical finance options. Most cosmetic plastic surgery offices provide consumer-friendly payment plans that allow you to make monthly payments. You can also research medical finance companies online. There are several medical finance companies, many of which offer flexible payment options and a variety of plans.
About the Reviewer of This Article
James Wells, MD, FACS, is a board-certified plastic surgeon and a member and past president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Dr. Wells received his medical degree at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, and has completed residencies in general and plastic surgery at Ochsner Foundation Hospital, New Orleans, and the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville.