The bottom line on plastic surgery and the economy

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. --Are flat stomachs or lifted brows signs of an economic recovery? Some plastic surgeons say yes, and are reporting big increases in business over the last year.

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery says 1.64 million cosmetic surgeries were performed in 2011. That is a slight increase from previous years, but still below what it was back in 2005 when the number of surgeries peaked at 2.13 million.

Still, Valley plastic surgeons are encouraged by the improvement in business.

"The majority of my friends and colleagues have seen an uptick in business," said Dr. Daniel Shapiro, a Paradise Valley plastic surgeon, who says his business took a hit in recent years.

"I think across the Valley we got hit really hard, but now we're seeing a much faster increase in business. I'd say business is probably up 20% since last summer," Shapiro said. "I think people have that frugality fatigue, people are tired of not doing for themselves."

Bianca Wick, a Valley mother, is one of those people. Wick says she was interested in plastic surgery for years, but put it off when the economy collapsed.

"When it started the recession, things were a little bit different from what they used to be," Wick said. "I said, no I'll hold off, it's not really that urgent"

But last winter with the signs of the recession fading, she decided she was ready to go under the knife.

"The economy got better and I said, it's time."

Wick got breast implants and hi-def vaser -- a high-tech kind of liposuction -- and in doing so helped give a lift to the cosmetic surgery industry.

Liposuction was the most popular cosmetic surgery performed in 2011, followed by breast augmentation.