Nearly two million people elect to undergo plastic surgery procedures annually. The most common include breast augmentations, liposuction, nose reshaping, eyelid surgery, and tummy tucks. Minimally invasive procedures, like laser hair removal or chemical pills, draw in nearly 17 million patients every year. Surgery, no matter what kind, however, does not come without risks. If you’re considering “going under the knife,” there are steps you can take to improve your chances of a successful outcome.
Understand the Risks
Prior to undergoing any medical procedure, it’s important to be aware of the associated risks. Your surgeon will discuss the possibility of complications. Factors like age, weight, and alcohol use all come into play when determining risks. Your physician will need to determine if your heart and lungs are strong enough for surgery, and whether or not your body can tolerate anesthesia.
Even if you are considered a low-risk surgical candidate, no surgery is risk-free. Understanding the complications can open a dialogue between you and your doctor. For example, patients undergoing breast augmentation could be at risk for a hematoma.
A hematoma is a pocket of blood that appears as a large bruise. One to six percent of breast augmentation procedures result in a hematoma. This is also a common complication after a facelift.
Nerve damage is also a risk of plastic surgeries. Numbness and tingling are common signs of nerve damage. While the nerves could repair themselves, there’s a chance the damage is permanent. Infections are also a common risk associated with cosmetic surgeries.
While some infections, like a skin infection called cellulitis, can be cleared up with oral antibiotics and proper care, internal infections may be severe and often require IV antibiotics and hospitalization.
To reduce the risk of suffering from surgical complications, you’ll want to educate yourself about the procedure, look into your doctor’s credentials, investigate the facility where your surgery will take place, and discuss your concerns openly and honestly with your surgeon.
Patients who ask their surgeons questions are more like to get the most out of their consultation and be more satisfied with the choices they make. Plastic surgery candidates should make a list of questions to ask potential surgeons.
The questions can help a person decide whether or not cosmetic surgery is right for them, and if the doctor they are speaking with is the one they want to perform their surgery.
Open communication also helps physicians understand their patients’ goals, expectations, and motivations. You’ll want to consider asking the following questions during your consultation:
- Are you board certified in plastic surgery?
- How many years of plastic surgery training have you had?
- How many times have you completed the procedure I am interested in?
- Am I a good candidate for this procedure?
- What are the common complications associated with my procedure?
- How will my procedure be performed?
- What type of anesthesia will I receive?
- What can I expect in regard to recovery?
- What will the total cost of the surgery be?
- What happens if I am dissatisfied with the outcome of the procedure?
Understand Pre-Op and Post-Op Instructions
You will receive specific instructions from your surgical team on how to prepare for your procedure. While the pre-operative guidelines will differ by person, there are some general similarities that all plastic surgery patients need to abide by.
Most surgeons will ask patients to discontinue smoking at least one month prior to the procedure. This is because smoking reduces circulation, slows healing, and can lead to other major post-op complications. You’ll also need to report any signs of cold or infection prior to your procedure.
Filling your prescriptions for pain medication the day before your surgery will ensure you have the medication when you need it. In most cases, patients are not allowed to eat or drink anything eight to 12 hours before their scheduled surgery time. Also, you’ll need to arrange to have someone take you home and stay with you after the surgery.
Following post-operative instructions is also crucial, as they will reduce the chances of complications and ensure proper healing and the best possible surgical results. You’ll want to make sure you are taking your medications as directed.
While pain tolerance varies from person to person, staying on top of your medication will ensure you are not in unbearable pain. You may be directed to rest for a specific period of time, but you’ll want to make sure you take the first 24 to 48 hours easy. Do not drive or drink alcohol while taking narcotic pain medications. It’s also important to avoid heavy lifting and exercise for a couple of weeks.
Know What Signs to Look For
The initial side effects of your surgery, like swelling and pain, should decrease as you follow your physician’s post-operative instructions. If, however, you start to notice signs of potential complications, you’ll want to return to your doctor as soon as possible for an examination. Common side effects that require further evaluation include severe discomfort or pain, bruising that lingers for longer than a couple of weeks, excessive swelling, fever, excessive bleeding, and unusual drainage.
If you believe you’ve been the victim of a surgeon or surgical team’s mistake and your health has been adversely affected, you may benefit from seeking legal guidance from a medical malpractice lawyer who has experience with plastic surgery cases.
There’s no way to determine with 100 percent accuracy how a procedure will go or how a patient will recover. But by following the steps above closely and working with a surgeon your trust, you’ll know you are doing everything possible to maximize the success of your outcome.
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