Nearly €6.8 million was spent on plastic and cosmetic surgery procedures such as facelifts, brow lifts, and breast augmentation in public hospitals in the past two years, new figures have revealed.

A total of 1,247 operations were carried out during that period, including nose reshaping, liposuction, eyelid excision, and breast reduction.

Both the number of procedures and the associated costs declined slightly last year compared to 2021 as non-essential operations are being deprioritised as the health service seeks to clear surgical waiting lists that accumulated during the pandemic.

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Some 91 breast augmentation operations took place during the 24-month period at a cost of €693,057, while a further €314,550 was spent on “application, insertion or removal” procedures on breasts.

Facelifts, neck lifts, and brow lifts were provided for 56 patients at a cost of €208,601, while €432,792 was spent on eyelid excisions in public hospitals for 197 people.

Liposuction, which the Health Service Executive (HSE) previously described on its website as “a cosmetic procedure carried out to improve a person’s appearance, rather than their health”, was provided for 158 patients at a cost of €1.14 million.

However, the number of liposuction and lipectomy procedures was reduced by more than one-third last year compared to 2021, and the associated cost fell proportionately from €707,692 to €431,794.

The most common plastic surgery procedures were breast reductions, which were provided for 342 patients over the two years at a cost of just over €2.8 million.

Rhinoplasty operations, which reshape the nose, increased by over 37 percent last year, as 60 people went under the knife for these procedures at a cost of €591,598 over the 24 months.

Ear-repair operations, including the correction of ‘bat ear’ or protruding ears, was provided for 183 people, costing a total of €590,961. The total spent providing plastic surgery in public hospitals during the period was €6.77 million.

It is not possible from the data to calculate what portion of the total costs was funded by the taxpayer, by private health insurance providers, or from patients’ private resources.

A spokesperson for the HSE said all of the procedures paid for by the agency for public patients relate to plastic, rather than “cosmetic”, surgery.

“In the case of public patients, procedures of this nature are carried out only for clinical, and not for cosmetic, reasons, and based on a clinical diagnosis by a medical consultant,” they said.

They also pointed out that liposuction and lipectomy procedures are not treatments for obesity.

“The HSE may provide surgery aimed at correcting disfigurement or restoring function lost as a result of accidents, birth defects, or treatment of disease, or in some cases due to psychological distress caused by such a condition, which would be diagnosed by a consultant,” they added.

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