Cosmetic plastic surgery ranks among the top surgical procedures performed in the medical field today. Although complications are rare and procedures are considered generally safe when performed by a qualified and experienced plastic surgeon, there are still existing risks.
How do we minimize the risks of cosmetic plastic surgery?
1. Approach cosmetic surgery as a serious medical procedure. Sometimes the fact that cosmetic surgery is elective affects how you perceive it. If you undergo surgery for cosmetic reasons, you may tend to think of it as something like going to the beauty salon and having a haircut. It is important to realize that the body doesn't differentiate the trauma from cosmetic surgery from any other surgery. Just like any other surgical procedure, complications are possible and to minimize risks, it is important to approach cosmetic surgery as a serious medical procedure.
2. Make sure you fully understand the procedure/s you are considering. The degree of plastic surgery complications and risks is largely dependent on the type of surgical procedure/s performed and one way of minimizing risks is to arm yourself with knowledge about the procedure. Minor complications and unmet expectations can be minimized by fully understanding the risks and benefits associated with the procedure you are considering.
3. Don't be one of the first to try out a new technology. Innovative technologies and new surgical techniques are continually being introduced through the media and at times the complications for these procedures have not been fully documented or evaluated. For example, the issue of hyperpigmentation due to laser treatments only surfaced after more than a year of its introduction. Thus it's advisable to wait at least eighteen months once a new technology is released before trying it out. New equipment requires a big investment and unfortunately, some doctors want to make a return for their investment quickly.
4. Choose your plastic surgeon well. The benefit of elective surgery is you have the time to do research, get second opinions and choose your surgeon well. The best way to minimize risk is to choose a reliable plastic surgeon who is board certified and has the experience and skill necessary for a successful surgery.
a. Choose a qualified, board certified plastic surgeon. He should be certified by the organization that is recognized by the country's Board of Surgery. In the Philippines, the Philippine Board of Plastic Surgery (PBPS) is the only organization recognized by the Philippine College of Surgeons to grant board certification in the field of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery. This certification ensures that the surgeon has undergone has completed an accredited training program in plastic surgery and has reached a certain standard of skills and competence.
b. Check whether the surgeon has hospital privileges. Before a hospital grants privileges to physicians, they usually require certain standards of training and competence to be met.
c. Choose a plastic surgeon who is experienced in the specific cosmetic plastic surgery procedure you will have done. The level of experience that the plastic surgeon has is also important. How long has the surgeon been performing the procedure? Oftentimes, the experience of a surgeon determines his ability to visualize the end result and his ability to deal with any complications. The more cases he has done, the better his judgement, and the less the risks. A deceptively simple procedure such as a rhinoplasty can have results that are extremely diverse, depending on the surgeon who is performing the procedure.
5. Don't be tempted by a low price tag. Although prices for cosmetic surgery procedures vary widely, you want to make sure that you don't sacrifice safety and quality for a lower price. Verify the products or implants that the surgeon will use for your procedure. Make sure he doesn't use substandard products or variations of well known, FDA approved brands of products used in order to lower costs.
6. Check the surgical facility and support staff. Although many cosmetic surgery procedures may be safely done in outpatient clinics, others should only be done in a hospital setting. Check that the operating facility is properly equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and meets standards for operating room safety, personnel and surgeon credentials. Check the credentials of the support staff, especially the anesthesiologist.
7. Discuss your expectations and concerns with your plastic surgeon. The most common risks for cosmetic surgery are unsatisfactory results and/or unmet expectations. Good communication is important to minimize the risk of unmet expectations. A responsible surgeon will evaluate if your expectations are realistic and explain to you what he can do to help you. He will clearly and thoroughly explain potential side effects and risks and the possibility of secondary procedures. Although your plastic surgeon can and should do several things to minimize your chances of unsatisfactory results, even the most skilled plastic surgeons deal with factors which are not under their control, such as how tissues heal.
8. Make sure you are physically fit to have the surgery. Patient evaluation is an important prerequisite to surgery. Your plastic surgeon should screen you carefully and to minimize risks, he needs to make sure you are, physically and emotionally, a good candidate for cosmetic surgery. The degree of complications and risks in plastic surgery is largely determined by the patient's own health condition and physiology. If you have diabetes, heart conditions and allergies, if you smoke, or are elderly, you will have a greater risk for complications than if you are young and healthy. In some cases, your surgeon will require you to obtain medical clearance from your primary care physician to make certain that it is safe to proceed. Try to get as physically fit as possible, stop smoking, have blood tests and a physical examination done before you undergo surgery.
9. Tell your surgeon about any past and present medical conditions. Complications can be minimized by disclosing your entire medical history to your surgeon. You should also tell him about all prescribed or over-the-counter medicines and herbal supplements you take on a regular basis.
10. Diligently follow your surgeon's instructions before surgery. At times, patients disregard the surgeon's pre-operative instructions, thinking that it doesn't matter that much. It is important to realize that to minimize risks, you need to prepare your body for surgery by obeying the advice of your surgeon. For example, before surgery, you'll be asked to stop taking medications that can promote bleeding. If you smoke, your surgeon will advise you to stop at least two weeks prior to surgery.
11. Diligently follow your surgeon's instructions after surgery. Always follow your surgeon's instructions for postoperative care. These are carefully designed to minimize your risk of complications. Your specific instructions will vary depending on the surgery performed but in general, your surgeon will instruct you to avoid activities that could hinder the healing process. If you smoke, you will be advised to stop at least two weeks following surgery to aid in wound healing. You will also be instructed to refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages and from taking any drugs containing aspirin, as they will increase bruising and may even cause internal bleeding. You will be given instructions in proper wound care. The proper care of your incision affects the scar that you will eventually have. For some procedures you will be instructed to wear support garments to help your body adjust. You can also help minimize complications such as swelling by walking around. By following your surgeon's instructions, you will ensure that the surgery will have the best results possible.
12. Avoid strenuous activity for several weeks after surgery. During the initial postoperative period, take at least a week away from your daily routine, allowing yourself time to rest and recuperate. Excessive physical activity can result in unnecessary swelling or bleeding. Thus your surgeon will advise you to limit physical exercise for a certain period.
13. Contact your surgeon immediately if you experience any post-operative complications. Even if your surgeon will schedule a follow up appointment with you, don't wait for the scheduled date to consult about any unusual symptoms such as such as excessive pain or bleeding, fever or abnormal swelling.
There are a variety of post-operative complications and expected side effects in cosmetic surgery procedures. Most of them are temporary and can be easily treated when discovered early. Cosmetic surgery is not an exact science and the body does not always react in predictable ways. Thus, while serious complications in cosmetic plastic surgery are uncommon when performed by qualified and experienced plastic surgeons, they do occur from time to time, even with the most careful surgeons under the strictest conditions. Those with the least risk of complications are patients who are relatively young, in excellent health, and who strictly adhere to pre- and post-operative instructions.
Dr. Carlos I. Lasa, Jr. is a Board Certified Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon who specializes in Aesthetic/Cosmetic Surgery and Liposuction. The only Filipino plastic surgeon ever accepted for advanced fellowship training at the prestigious Institute of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A, he also trained at the University of the Philippines, & at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Ohio, USA. He is currently based in Metro Manila, Philippines, where he specializes in cosmetic plastic surgery procedures such as liposuction, rhinoplasty (noselift), breast augmentation, blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery), rhytidectomy (facelift), abdominoplasty (tummy-tuck) and more. For more information about having safe and affordable cosmetic plastic surgery in the Philippines, visit his site at http://www.cosmeticsurgeryphil.com
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