The goal of cosmetic surgery is to improve a person's appearance and, thus, their self-esteem, by changing the way she or he looks. Cosmetic surgery can be performed on any part of the face and body.
Before making an appointment to see a cosmetic surgeon, people should consider their motives for wanting to change how they look. Because cosmetic surgery can bring lasting and dramatic changes to the outside appearance, it is important to understand how these changes may affect people on the inside.
Many physical characteristics can be successfully changed through cosmetic surgery; others cannot. Good candidates for cosmetic surgery:
- Have realistic expectations about what can be accomplished.
- Understand the medical risks, physical effects during healing, how the surgery will affect them personally and professionally, what lifestyle changes may accompany the recovery period, and the expenses involved.
- Have discussed their goals for surgery with their surgeon and resolved any questions.
- Have diabetes or other chronic medical conditions under control.
- Have no history of smoking or commit to abstain from smoking (including secondhand smoke) and nicotine products, including chewing tobacco and nicotine patches, gums or lozenges for six weeks before and after surgery.
- Have had a stable weight for six months to one year.
Reasons to stop smoking if considering cosmetic surgery
- Nicotine, carbon monoxide and other toxins decrease blood flow to the skin.
- Smoking affects wound healing and worsens scarring.
- Smoking increases the risk of post-anesthesia complications (pneumonia, blood clots, hypertension).
All surgeries, including cosmetic procedures, carry risk. Those with a history of cardiovascular disease, lung disease, diabetes or obesity have a higher risk of developing complications such as pneumonia, stroke, heart attack or blood clots in the legs or lungs. Smoking also increases risks and interferes with healing.
A meeting with the surgeon will include a discussion of these risks and others related to the patient's health history.
Possible complications for any surgical procedure include:
- Complications related to anesthesia, including pneumonia, blood clots and, rarely, death
- Infection at the incision site, which may worsen scarring and require additional surgery
- Fluid build up under the skin
- Mild bleeding, which may require another surgical procedure, or bleeding significant enough to require a transfusion
- Obvious scarring or skin breakdown, which occurs when healing skin separates from healthy skin and must be removed surgically
- Numbness and tingling from nerve damage, which may be permanent
Questions for the patient to consider before pursuing cosmetic surgery:
- What are my motives for wanting to change how I look?
- What are the specific attributes of my appearance that I want to change?
- Do I have realistic expectations about the results of the surgery?
- What aspects of my life will be affected such as family, work, travel and social obligations?
- What time in my life will work best so that I have the greatest chance for a successful recovery?
- Have I talked about my concerns and questions openly with my health care provider?
Questions to ask the cosmetic surgeon:
It is a good idea to bring a notepad to write down answers.
- What are your qualifications?
- How long have you been board-certified?
- How many procedures have you done similar to the one I'm considering?
- What other health care professionals are involved in my care?
- What side effects can I expect?
- What results can I expect?
- What are the possible complications of the cosmetic surgery I am considering?
- What kind of help will I need at home following surgery?
- How long before I see the final results of my surgery?
- How long before I can go back to work and/or resume exercise?
- Are there complications unique to my health history?
- Will I have any scars and if yes, what will they look like?
- If my procedure requires stitches, when will they be removed?
- How much does the procedure cost?
Questions to ask about a procedure:
- What does the procedure do? What does it not do?
- What are the risks and complications associated with this procedure?
- How long is the recovery period?
- Can I expect much discomfort?
- Will I have scars?
- Are there other procedures I should consider at the same time?
- Will I need a physical examination prior to surgery?
- How long will the results last?
- How much does it cost?
- Care is targeted to the individual needs of each patient.
- Realistic expectations are key — the goal is improvement, not perfection.
- Everyone is asymmetrical.
- Each patient has a different result.
- Patients will have at least two visits with the surgeon and/or another member of the health care team before surgery.
- It is essential that a patient be in good physical and mental health.
- Abstaining from all nicotine products and avoiding secondhand smoke for at least six weeks before and after surgery is crucial.
- Surgical scars are permanent.
- Bruising and swelling are temporary.
- Some surgeries require drains.
- Recovery times vary by person and procedure, but a minimum of 6 to 12 weeks is typical for many cosmetic surgeries.
- Insurance does not usually cover cosmetic procedures.
- Patients may need follow-up surgeries to achieve their goals.
- The wait between surgeries is generally at least four months.