The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) is the world’s largest specialty association for facial plastic surgery. It represents over 2700 facial plastic and reconstructive surgeons worldwide, and members are board certified surgeons focused on surgery of the face, head, and neck. Each year the academy publishes statistics on trends in facial plastic surgery, and this year I was fortunate enough to talk to Dr Robert M. Kellman, President of the AAFPRS, about some of the findings.

The data for the latest set of statistics  was collected via an online survey sent out to academy members and provides an insight into popular procedures, rising trends, and changing patient perceptions in the world’s largest facial plastic surgery market.


Rhinoplasty continues to be the most popular facial plastic surgery procedure for the third consecutive year. It was found to be the most common surgical procedure for women under 35 years of age and the most popular for men of any age. Its popularity is further highlighted by the  annual conference dedicated to the latest techniques and technology for this procedure. Organised by the AAFPRS for its members and other facial plastic surgeons from around the world, the Advances in Rhinoplasty Conference, held this year in Chicago, was described by Dr Kellman as a resounding success.

‘It was a fabulous meeting. The best attended meeting ever. The highest quality faculty and the highest quality of presentations I’ve seen,’ he said.

Social media

The survey of the organisation’s 752 board-certified facial plastic surgeons also revealed the use of social media was leading to an increased interest in plastic surgery.

‘Where social media is having a huge positive impact is people are now sharing much more information with friends,’ Dr Kellman explains.

‘People are sharing more and now when someone takes a photo they can share it instantly; this was not possible in the past. What you then have is a greater ability for people to comment on these photos. People become more aware of things regarding their appearance they may not have noticed in the past because they are seeing themselves a lot more and can also ask their friends for their opinions,’ he continues.

Those familiar with social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and more recently, Instagram, would not be surprised to hear people are casting an ever-more critical eye over themselves and their friends. But all this self-analysis becomes very important to plastic surgeons when it ultimately leads people to influence one another by sharing their own experiences of plastic surgery and explaining how they resolved their own issues.

Despite the increased use of social media, the survey found that just 7% of prospective patients used social media to research doctors and procedures. Dr Kellman believes this gives an insight into how people view social media.

‘The data in the survey reveals the use of social media is influencing the public’s interest in surgery, rather than people using social media to make their final decision. It may seem like a fine distinction, but it is important,’ he says.

Public attitude

‘The impact of social media on people’s attitude toward surgery is huge,’ says Dr Kellman in no uncertain terms.

While mainstream media will always be credited with influencing public opinion. Social media and the internet has been the key factor in the growing acceptance of plastic surgery over the last decade. This can be explained by social media’s ability to draw attention to the individual and away from the celebrities or models who are often the focus of mainstream media. Now with each picture posted to their social media accounts, every individual becomes a cover model for their friends and family to analyse and comment on.

Dr Kellman has witnessed this change in the patients visiting his practice.

‘If you went back 15 or 20 years ago people seemed a little embarrassed about having surgery,’ he says.

‘People would keep it a secret from their friends or family. Now people are very pleased to share their experiences. It is becoming a very acceptable set of procedures. People are coming in together and encouraging one another to have surgery,’ he continues.

Not only is the embarassment felt from having a procedure a thing of the past, people are now using plastic surgery as a bonding experience. The survey found a 16% increase in mother–daughter procedures and a 12% increase in sister–sister procedures. These figures, and the rising number of procedures carried out each year, highlight increasing public acceptance of plastic surgery.

Reconstructive surgery

The survey also revealed that a growing number of procedures are cosmetic rather than reconstructive in nature, accounting for a total of 73% of all procedures in 2012. However, Dr Kellman, who has a background in reconstructive surgery,  believes there is no danger of the ‘R’ in AAFPRS being sidelined for the more popular cosmetic procedures: ‘I actually believe reconstructive surgery is receiving more attention than before.’

‘There are two very good reasons for this. The first is the huge increase in the number of skin cancers. As we have more cases of skin cancer on the face, the concern for proper reconstruction becomes greater from the surgeons, as they feel they have to be more familiar with the different reconstructive techniques,’ he explains.

‘The second is the tremendous amount of publicity for facial transplants. This is a large amount of publicity given the small number of patients and surgeons involved  in this work.’

Dr Kellman feels that the academy should make use of this increased public attention on reconstructive surgery.

‘Reconstructive surgeons are to some extent in the limelight right now and that is helping us with awareness among the public and even among our own members. We have to ensure that component of our membership is given as much attention and opportunity to educate and be educated as those performing ageing face procedures.’

To ensure the increased involvement of reconstructive surgeons in the academy, Dr Kellman has made it one of his main goals during his tenure as president.

‘One of the key focuses I had when elected was to enhance the involvement of reconstructive surgeons within the organisation. We have always had reconstructive surgeons among our membership and we’ve had courses and committees that focus on that work. But there are many facial reconstructive surgeons who have not been very involved in the academy and I have been working diligently to increase their involvement and make them feel more appreciated by the academy,’ he explains.


As well as being President of the AAFPRS, Dr Kellman is also Vice President of the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, has held Professor and Chairman positions at SUNY Upstate Medical University, New York, for the past 19 years, and manages his own practice in craniomaxillofacial surgery. Despite his busy workload, Dr Kellman has not lost sight of his main duty at the academy.

‘My single most important responsibility is to always be aware that we are a membership organisation and to be responsive to the needs of the membership. I take that responsibility very seriously. I want to make sure the academy is always doing as much as it can for its members and I think as an organisation we really do respond to the needs of our members.

‘What our members really want is to have our specialty well represented in national political and medical organisations — which we are — and to be active and always maintaining the opportunities for our members, and we are of course doing that as well,’ he explains.

That is not to say that Dr Kellman doesn’t have his own ideas for the academy. In fact, he believes the academy could do more to make better use of its senior leadership and former officers once they are out of office. He proposes, if nothing else, a senior council could be established to provide guidance and support to the academy and help avoid its senior members becoming less visible just because they no longer have  formal roles.

Dr Kellman could find himself on such a council as he intends to continue his work for the academy after his tenure as president has come to an end, and to serve and educate its members long into the future.