American Society of Plastic Surgeons
For Medical Professionals

Road to recovery: Patience in practice after plastic surgery

patience in practice after plastic surgery

Rest and recovery are essential to maximize your plastic surgery results. Many patients tend to focus only on the procedure, but healing is just as critical to achieving the goals you desire. This means giving your body ample time to heal by limiting physical activity, undergoing scar treatment and taking enough time off work.

ASPS reached out to two experts in the field – Daniel Liu, MD, and Heather Furnas, MD, FACS – to get insight on the importance of post-procedure recovery and how to maximize your results.

The importance of proper recovery following a procedure

Patients are often so excited and focused on the end result and getting there as quickly as possible.

"It is easy to think that everything that needs to be done is accomplished in surgery, and the postoperative instructions don't add much to the result," said Furnas.

Yet, speeding along recovery after a procedure can actually slow your progress.

"It is incumbent upon the plastic surgeon to properly educate and prepare their patients for recovery, which should be tailored to their particular procedure and social situation," said Liu. "Appropriate anticipation of recovery is not only critical to minimizing surgical complications, but it makes a world of difference for patients' emotional well-being and physical comfort."

Proper recuperation can make a significant difference in your results. Important steps include following the instructions from your plastic surgeon and allowing yourself adequate time to heal following a procedure. Yet, patients often try to go back to their daily routines immediately.

"I think sometimes patients may think of instructions as arbitrary rules because it's not uncommon for them to ask us to make exceptions," said Furnas. "Like, 'Your instructions say no exercise for two weeks, but I'll turn into a couch potato. Can I get on a treadmill at one week?' At one week, that rise in heart rate and blood pressure can blow a clot off a blood vessel, leading to a major bleed and hematoma that can mean emergency surgery."

It is crucial to remember that plastic surgery is real surgery. You increase your risk of complications if you don't give your body enough time to heal, and you will get better results by easing back into activities.

"Beyond early surgical healing, there are many steps to return to normal, including physical rehabilitation, which may require professional PT referral and last for months," said Liu. "Attention to scar care is also important to improve the appearance of scars, which involves self-care, such as skin moisturization, scar massage and silicone taping, over several months."

Set yourself up for success by being patient, trusting the process and giving yourself adequate time and space to mentally and physically recover.

Maximize your recovery process

To prepare yourself for an easy and uneventful recovery process, there are a few key steps that you can take.

Find the right surgeon and practice

Start by identifying a surgeon and practice to perform your procedure.

"Choose a board-certified plastic surgeon and check out before-and-after results and reviews," said Furnas. "When you contact the office, are they responsive? They're the ones you'll be going through after surgery. You're hiring not just the surgeon, but everyone else – the ones answering the phones, texts and emails."

Prepare for recovery before the procedure

An easy way to minimize stress and heal is to get everything ready for your recovery ahead of time.

"Patients should focus on planning for anticipated activity restrictions," said Liu. "Purchase specialty garments required – and have multiple sets to make laundry less cumbersome – and arrange for adequate support system from family/friends during the immediate postoperative period."

Really read the instructions

Study all the recovery instructions from your surgeon. These directions are often provided prior to the surgery to allow patients enough time to read, understand them and ask questions so that they are fully prepared and know what to expect.

"Read all instructions thoroughly as soon as you get them," said Furnas. "This isn't possible with emergency surgery, but most surgeons give information on elective surgery in advance. Write down your questions and ask them at the preoperative visit or before."

Keep an eye on your diet

What you eat and the vices you may indulge in can play a role in your recovery process.

"Surgical recovery requires a huge amount of metabolic energy, and the importance of nutrition should not be underestimated," said Liu. "It's critical for proper wound healing to maintain a high protein diet, completely abstain from alcohol and nicotine and minimize simple carbohydrates during the healing process. Vitamin supplementation may be helpful and should be guided by the surgeon's recommendations."

Minimize your stress

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health when you are recovering from a surgical procedure. Stress, whether from work or home, can negatively affect your recovery and potentially hamper its progress.

Also, practice mindfulness. Ask for help when you need it so you can allow both your mind and body to rest., You can promote a better and faster recovery if you limit stress.

Invest in your recovery

When it comes to undergoing a plastic surgery procedure, there's so much excitement involved in the procedure itself and the end result that you are hoping to achieve. While we often hope this goal is quick to reach, the process of recovery takes both time and patience.

To achieve your ideal end result, you'll need to maximize your recovery time and process, making sure to follow the direction of your surgeon. And after just a short amount of time spent waiting, you'll be able to reveal the amazing results you've been dreaming of from your procedure.

To find a qualified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, consult a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All ASPS members are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited facilities and follow strict standards of safety and ethics. Find an ASPS member in your area.


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