Background: Google Trends (GT) is a free, open-source tool that permits customizable analysis of search term volumes entered into the Google search engine. Google Trends data may offer useful and actionable insight to plastic surgeons pertaining to worldwide, national, and regional evolution of patient interest for breast procedures and other common surgeries.
Methods: Search terms were generated using the "related queries" feature of GT. Google Trends data were collected for breast lift, breast reduction, breast reconstruction, and male breast reduction from January 2004 to September 2017. Case volumes for respective procedures were obtained from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) annual statistics reports for the calendar year 2006 to 2016. Trend analysis was performed using univariate linear regression analysis of ASPS statistics and GT search data.
Results: Total search volume varied geographically and temporally during the study period. Statistically significant positive correlations between GT and ASPS data were as follows: breast lift: "mastopexy" (R = 0.445, P = 0.025); male breast reduction: "gynecomastia surgery" (R = 0.45, P = 0.024); and breast reconstruction: "tissue expander" (R = 0.806, P ≤ 0.001) and "TRAM flap reconstruction" (R = 0.764, P = 0.002). For several search terms, no significant correlation was detected, highlighting the importance for careful selection of terms.