Could Saddam Have a New Face?

Could that nondescript, paunchy guy sitting next to you on the bus be Saddam Hussein?

It's medically possible, say plastic surgeons.

The former Iraqi leader, not seen publicly since at least April 9, could conceivably be nearly healed from soft-tissue plastic surgery and have the look of a dapper businessman, a mustache-free version of his younger self, or an uglier man than he ever was.

Given a bit more healing time, he could have his facial structure transformed so dramatically that even members of his inner circle and high-tech facial recognition programs would have trouble recognizing him.

"If you went ahead and just painted your house, that would just take a few days to make a little bit different," said Dr. Henry Kawamoto, a plastic surgeon at the University of California, Los Angeles. "But if you wanted to change the structure … that would take a little bit longer."

There is no evidence to suggest Saddam has had any surgery. In fact, a profiler who has studied Saddam believes he's way too vain to agree to change his appearance, and may be dead.

At the very least, many believe he's likely in too much of a scramble to escape to make time for an operation.

Not Hard to Change

Nevertheless, several plastic surgeons contacted by ABCNEWS offered their takes on how different he could appear if he wanted to.

"It would be quite easy to change his appearance," said Dr. Julius Few, assistant professor of plastic surgery at Northwestern Medical School in Chicago. "It is technically easier to change a person's appearance than to enhance it and maintain the same character. He could be transformed and significantly recovered by three to six weeks."

To make Saddam look like a younger man with male-pattern baldness, Few might "recede his hairline, elevate his brow, smooth out his upper and lower eyelids, adding a subtle slant to the corners, place cheek implants, soften his nose, give him a facelift and chin implant, and reduce the size of his ears."

Even a quick, non-surgical restyling — such as mustache, hair and makeup changes — might be enough to fool Saddam pursuers who don't look too closely, said Kawamoto, who is perhaps best known for separating 17-month-old Guatemalan twins conjoined at the head last year.

"I would think he'd have things to do other than to lie on the table," Kawamoto said. "Certainly, if the bombs are falling all over, you're not going to think about having plastic surgery."

If Saddam had time for soft tissue surgery and reshaping, he could appear much younger, but perhaps not different enough to fool those who know him well.

For a more dramatic change, Kawamoto said surgeons could "physically change the position of his eye sockets … but it's not something that most people would have done to themselves."

Such a change would be painful, but could fool many facial-recognition programs, Kawamoto said.

Dr. Russel Kridel, of Facial Plastic Surgery Associates in Houston, told ABCNEWS station KTRK-TV he might remove fat and skin from around Saddam's eyes, shave his mustache, tweeze and reshape his eyebrows, reshape his face, remove his jowls with a facelift, thin his nose and inject his forehead and other areas with Botox.

The process would involve about nine hours of surgery and cost about $20,000 in Houston, he said. Before-and-after renderings of the look are pictured atop this story.

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