More than €2.5m has been spent providing liposuction for patients in public hospitals during the past five years.
The costly treatment involves the surgical removal of fat from particular parts of the body, such as the thighs, buttocks or abdomen.
The procedure is normally carried out with the use of suction and costs an average of around €4,500.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that €2,539,188 was spent on liposuction and lipectomy procedures for 569 patients in public hospitals since 2009.
Last year, 142 patients accessed the treatment through the public healthcare system at a cost of €626,392. In 2012, €595,684 was spent providing liposuction or lipectomies to 138 patients.
On average, over €500,000 has been spent on the surgeries each year since 2009.
The HSE has stated that it is not possible to calculate how much of this was funded through the medical card scheme, private health insurance, or procedures funded in another way.
On a section of its website providing information about conditions and treatments, the HSE describes liposuction as “a cosmetic procedure carried out to improve a person’s appearance, rather than their health”.
It notes that “liposuction is not a treatment for obesity” and provides a list of “popular areas for liposuction” that includes the buttocks, thighs, breasts, calves and ankles.
In its statement, the HSE said it is not possible to tell from the statistics whether a procedure was carried out for purely cosmetic reasons or therapeutic reasons.
“The HSE provides and sometimes funds 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 plastic surgeon.
“Surgery of this nature is performed on the basis of the clinical diagnosis by a medical consultant and not simply following a request from a patient.”
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