Questions to ask my plastic surgeon

You'll achieve the best results from plastic surgery if you and your surgeon communicate openly and work together to achieve realistic goals. An understanding of your goals, expectations and motivation is essential to a successful partnership between you and your surgeon, helping both of you to determine whether plastic surgery is the right choice for you.
Use this checklist as a guide during your consultation:

  • How many years of plastic surgery training have your surgeon had?
  • How many procedures of this type have your surgeon performed?
  • Am I a good candidate for this procedure?
  • Where and how will you perform my procedure?
  • How long of a recovery period can I expect, and what kind of help will I   need during my recovery?
  • What are the risks and complications associated with my procedure?
  • How are complications handled?
  • What are my options if I am dissatisfied with the outcome of my surgery?
  • Do you have before-and-after photos I can look at for each procedure and what results are reasonable for me?

What is the difference between cosmetic and reconstructive surgery?

Plastic surgery is a very specialized field dealing with both cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. Reconstructive surgery may be performed to correct a deformity caused by birth defect, cancer or trauma. Examples of reconstruction include cleft lip, breast cancer reconstruction and microsurgery. Cosmetic plastic surgery provides the opportunity for you to feel better about how you look. Examples of cosmetic surgical procedures are those done to correct prominent ears, a large nose, baggy eyelids or breasts that are small and/or sagging.

Describe a good candidate for plastic surgery?

A good candidate for cosmetic surgery is one who understands the procedure, is realistic about expectations of the surgery and is motivated primarily to please oneself.
At the initial consultation with your plastic surgeon, you should explain your concerns and what you would like to have done. Your situation will be evaluated and you will be advised as to what can be accomplished. You should have some understanding about what will be done so that you can appreciate the magnitude of the procedure. You also should be aware of the risks and potential complications associated with the procedure. Since cosmetic surgery is elective in nature, you should be well-informed and certain that it is what you want. You should carefully weigh the "benefits" that you will receive from the surgery. Should you have doubts about proceeding with the surgery, you should seek and have a full explanation of the procedure and defer surgery until your doubts are resolved.

How long is the recuperative period? When can I return to work? 

The length of time it takes to recuperate after plastic surgery varies depending on the procedure performed and the person operated on. Most patients will require assistance for the first two days. Following these two days, most patients are able to care for themselves but may still need assistance if they have small children to care for. The specific lengths of disability are outlined below by procedure. These are approximations, and do not include return to exercise.

Eyelid surgery: most patients can get around independently by the second day. With the use of sunglasses, you may feel comfortable going to the store by days three to four, and with make-up could return to work in five to seven days.
Facelift surgery: most patients can get around independently by the second day. Usually do not feel comfortable going out in public for five to seven days. Requires 10-14 days before returning to work if in the public eye.
Breast surgery: most patients can get around independently by the second day. You can return to work at seven days.
Liposuction: most patients can get around independently by the second day, earlier if smaller number of areas were treated. One can return to work and normal activities in 10 days.
Abdominoplasty: patients may take between two to four days before getting around independently. The recovery is almost identical to a Caesarean section. One can return to a desk job at 10 days, other jobs in two to three weeks.

What are the possible risks?

There are risks with any surgical procedure. Ask your doctor to outline and discuss what they are, how often they occur, and how they will be handled if they do occur. If the doctor does not openly discuss the risks and complications associated with the procedure or says that there are no risks, seek another opinion.

What warning signs should I watch for in the days and weeks following surgery?

The following symptoms may indicate possible complications. Alert your doctor immediately if you develop any of the following:

  • Sudden increased pain in the area of surgery
  • Sudden persistent swelling at the surgical site
  • Numbness in any extremity
  • Fever greater than 38°C degrees
  • Redness of incision or surgical area
  • Wound separation
  • Drainage or bleeding from the incision
  • Persistent nausea or vomiting
  • Inability to urinate after surgery
  • Any other unusual symptoms that concern you

When can I resume regular exercise?

The time a patient resumes regular exercises varies based on the operation performed. All patients are encouraged to start a slow, walking routine on the second post-operative day. Regular aerobic and more vigorous activities are not allowed during the first two to three weeks in order to decrease the risks of bleeding, swelling, and bruising. Weight lifting and contact sports are allowed after six weeks in most cases.

Are there any products or behaviors I should limit to prepare for surgery?

There are a number of steps you can take to maximize your surgical results, including:
Discontinue smoking at least six weeks prior to surgery to avoid skin healing problems and serious medical complications following surgery.
Discontinue using aspirin or products with anticoagulation properties at least 10 days prior to surgery to minimize the risk of unnecessary bleeding.
You want to be in the best health at the time of surgery. For this reason, if you develop a cold or fever, pimples, rashes, or open wounds, contact the office immediately to reschedule your procedure and minimize the risk of surgical complications.

How should I prepare on the night before and the day of my procedure?

To prepare for your procedure, please observe the following guidelines on both the day before and day of your surgery:
It is important that you do not eat or drink anything after midnight on the day prior to surgery.
You should shower with an antibacterial soap, the day before surgery as well as the day of surgery, but avoid scrubbing areas that have been marked for your procedure.
Do not shave the surgical area or apply moisturizing lotion.
Wear minimal makeup to the hospital.
Wear loose fitting, button-front clothing. Leave jewelry and other valuables at home.
Arrive at the hospital one hour prior to your scheduled surgery time.