Interest in Plastic Surgery during COVID-19 Pandemic: A Google Trends Analysis : Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery – Global Open

Journal Logo


Interest in Plastic Surgery during COVID-19 Pandemic: A Google Trends Analysis

Duggan, Robert P. BS*; Tran, Jacquelynn P. MD; Phillips, Linda G. MD

Author Information
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery - Global Open 8(10):p e3268, October 2020. | DOI: 10.1097/GOX.0000000000003268
  • Open
  • United States

The coronavirus pandemic emerged in the United States in Spring 2020. The resulting economic upheaval was substantial, demonstrated by a 1072% increase in unemployment claims over a single week.1 In efforts to maximize hospital bed capacity, elective surgical procedures were either formally suspended or discouraged in many jurisdictions.2 Stay-at-home orders and social distancing efforts have spurred the rapid adoption of telemedicine alternatives for patient care.3 This combination has laid a foundation which many plastic surgeons worry may decrease patient interest in surgical and nonsurgical procedures. However, limited information is available to quantify these concerns. Here, we present for the first time an analysis of Google Trends data focused on popular plastic-surgery–related search terms following the emergence of COVID-19 in the United States.

Google Trends search filters were designed to collect data related to common plastic surgery procedures in the United States, from June 2018 through July 2020. Search terms were based on the most common surgical and nonsurgical procedures reported in the American Society of Plastic Surgeons 2019 survey.4 When available, Google Trends topic data were used in lieu of specific terminology to better capture procedure-specific terminology and colloquialisms (ie, “tummy-tuck” has been captured as the most searched term related to abdominoplasty).

Our findings demonstrate the destabilizing effect of the coronavirus pandemic on search terminology related to plastic surgery. Coinciding with the first COVID-19-related death in the United States on February 29, 2020, and the national declaration of emergency on March 13, 2020, there was a precipitous drop in search engine traffic in early 2020, and the interest in nonsurgical procedures approached an all-time low (Fig. 1). However, the public’s interest rapidly recovered, with 2-year peaks reached for some terms beginning in April 2020 and into the current summer season. A similar trend is observed in surgical procedure keywords. Two-year troughs were reached for all terms, with rapid return to baseline or, in some cases, new peaks (Fig. 2). Google-Trends–based analyses have previously been shown to correlate with the actual number of procedures performed, although there are inherent limitations worth noting.5

Data represent a deidentified amalgam of searches from potential and prior patients, physicians, and third parties. Still, search-engine–based analysis is a facile, readily available means to gauge interest for surgical procedures on a nationwide level. While the United States was impacted uniformly during the initial adjustment to COVID-19, a heterogeneous pattern of poorly controlled hotspots has emerged. If this pattern continues, it is reassuring for plastic surgeons that patient interest appears to rebound over a short period of time. It would be beneficial to further investigate the locoregional impact of COVID-19 on interest in plastic surgery procedures. In conclusion, while interest in plastic surgery was acutely impacted by COVID-19, search interest was able to rapidly recover to baseline and reached new peaks. With more consumers working remotely from home, patients may be able to take advantage of unique opportunities to recuperate from procedures, with less downtime from work compared with that during pre-pandemic times.

Fig. 1.:
Public interest in common non-surgical procedures (Botox, hyaluronic acid fillers, and laser hair removal) pre- and post-COVID-19 pandemic.
Fig. 2.:
Public interest in most common plastic surgery procedures (breast augmentation, liposuction, mastopexy, abdominoplasty, and blepharoplasty) pre- and post-COVID-19 pandemic.


1. United States Department of Labor News Release. COVID-19 Impact. 2020. Available at Accessed July 31, 2020.
2. American College of Surgeons. COVID-19: Executive Orders by State on Dental, Medical, and Surgical Procedures. 2020. Available at Accessed July 30, 2020.
3. Shokri T, Lighthall JG. Telemedicine in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic: implications in facial plastic surgery. Facial Plast Surg Aesthet Med. 2020;22:155–156.
4. The Aesthetic Society. Aesthetic Plastic Surgery National Database Statistics. 2019. Available at Accessed July 30, 2020.
5. Tijerina JD, Morrison SD, Vail DG, et al. The utility of Google Trends data for analyzing public interest in breast procedures. Ann Plast Surg. 2019;82(5S suppl 4):S325–S331.
Copyright © 2020 The Authors. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. on behalf of The American Society of Plastic Surgeons.