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Having plastic surgery? Here's how to prepare for a smooth recovery


After you've decided to have plastic surgery and you've chosen a great plastic surgeon, you're probably going to get a great result, right? Actually, there is someone else just as essential to a great outcome – you!

The best plastic surgeons take every measure to minimize your risks, but they can't be there with you as you recover, so that's when you're the one in control. If you bend the rules, you could end up with an emergency bleed or other complication requiring emergency surgery or forever impacting your result.

Your role in a smooth recovery

So what can you do to enhance your chances of a smooth recovery?

  1. Follow your surgeon's instructions. If you find yourself asking for an exception to the rule, such as exercising earlier than recommended or taking a medication on a "don't take" list, think about what you are asking. Do you want your surgeon to cut corners? If the answer is no, then expect the same from yourself.
  2. Prepare your home ahead of time. Arrange a hospital bed, a recline, a caretaker or pre-cooked meals in advance so you aren't scrambling the day before surgery.
  3. For outpatient surgery, line up someone who can pick you up on time. Ambulatory surgery centers don't have the staffing to accommodate latecomers, and you may be charged.
  4. If your plastic surgeon asks you to have a caretaker, make arrangements in advance.
  5. If you are responsible for others, such as children or parents, arrange for someone else to care for them so you can take care of yourself.
  6. Be patient. Healing takes time. Swelling doesn't go down right away, scars are pink while they heal, and your final results may not be evident for weeks, even months.
  7. If you have questions, call. Sometimes a simple question can touch on a very important issue.

Some patients experience emotional ups and downs during the recovery phase of surgery. This is normal. Express your feelings to your plastic surgeon and staff, since their job is to support you as you bounce back.

If the results don't meet the ideal that you expected, discuss your concerns at your next visit. No matter the body part, if you have two, one side will be naturally higher, bigger, or different than the other. Our eyes often don't see those mismatches until after surgery, when everything looks new to the eye. Your plastic surgeon can help you distinguish mismatches that occur naturally from those that result from surgery.

Patients who are happy with their results overwhelmingly go into surgery having realistic expectations. The better informed you are before your surgery, the more likely you'll be satisfied with the results of well-done operation. Plastic surgeons can't change your genetics, your tissue tone, or your basic underlying asymmetry, and if you think, your much more likely to be unhappy with your procedure, and that defeats the purpose.

As you look at before-and-after photos of other patients, whether on your plastic surgeon's website or on ASPS's Plastic Surgeon Match page, if you love the postop result, ask yourself if you look like the "before" view. If your skin is more stretched out and saggy than the person you are looking at, then it's unlikely you'll get the same results. The better you understand those limits, the more likely you'll be happy with the results.

When you've chosen your board-certified plastic surgeon, congratulations! You're part of the team.


The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

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