So, you have decided to have plastic surgery – congratulations! Today we are going to be sharing some tips from board certified New York City plastic surgeon Darren M. Smith, MD, to help you get ready for the big day and to make the process as smooth as possible. We will be touching on five major topics: your physical health, your psychological wellbeing, having a support system in place, financial preparedness, and practical advice for the days and weeks leading up to surgery itself. There is obviously a broad range of procedures that constitute “plastic surgery” ranging from very low impact surgeries like liposuction to more intense surgeries like mommy makeovers. The information presented here is meant to apply to the full gamut of plastic surgery, but certain specific things really apply only to bigger procedures (e.g. you probably won’t need to arrange childcare assistance after liposuction).
In terms of your physical health, aesthetic plastic surgery consists of elective procedures. This means that they don't need to be performed. So, if you are not in good enough health to have an elective procedure, you shouldn’t have one. You will make this decision with your surgeon and your primary care doctor. There are many instances in which an individual has a medical problem, but it can be treated effectively enough such that it is safe for him or her to have a plastic surgery procedure. This is called “optimizing” your health. You will work with your surgeon and primary care doctor to achieve this goal. Next, make sure you are stable at your goal weight. This is important for several reasons. First, it is better for your general health (and will therefor contribute to a speedier recovery). Next, if you gain or lose substantial amounts of weight after your procedure, the results can change significantly (not for the better!). Last, high BMI is associated with an increased risk of surgical complications. The next issue in terms of optimizing your health for surgery is smoking. Use surgery as your excuse to quit. Smoking can cause complications with anesthesia and can cause serious issues problems with wound healing. Finally, certain medications and supplements should be avoided before and soon after surgery as advised by your doctor. For example, I have my patients avoid oral contraceptives (blood clot risk) and aspirin as well as ibuprofen (bleeding risk).
Your psychological wellbeing is just as important as your physical wellbeing in preparing for surgery. First, if you have a psychological diagnosis, make sure you are receiving treatment an you discuss it with your surgeon just as you would a physical condition. There are some mental health issues that could make aeshtetic surgery difficult. Next, make sure you are having this surgery for yourself. A significant other or peer pressure should never be the reason you are having aesthetic surgery. It is fine to get input from others about the details (e.g. size of breast implants), but the final decisions are always yours. This next point may seem obvious. You are having plastic surgery. Your appearance is going to change, sometimes dramatically. Make sure you are ready for this! Your surgeon can help. Finally, take things slow during recovery. Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t up doing jumping jacks right after your tummy tuck. It takes time. Make sure you speak to your surgeon so you have realistic expectations regarding recovery prior to your procedure. Recovery is manageable as long as you know what to expect.
A support system can be a powerful resource in making your recovery as fast and comfortable as possible. This can consist of family, friends, or even colleagues. Everyone has a different group of special people in their lives. It is up to you to identify yours and decide, in advance, who might be up to helping you after your procedure. The key to making this work well is clear communication prior to your procedure. You don’t want to be deciding who will be picking you up from your tummy tuck when you wake up from surgery! Your support system can have several roles, including assisting you with tasks at home or work, helping with self-care, childcare responsibilities, and transport to and from doctors appointments.
Financial preparedness is also very important for aesthetic surgery procedures. These surgeries can be quite expensive. It is essential that you choose a provider based on skill and your personal comfort with that provider, not on the basis of price. Of course, all things being equal, choose someone you can afford. But DO NOT compromise on training, safety standards, or surgical excellence to save money. Traveling abroad for surgery is dangerous for many reasons including the lack of safety standards and no guarantee of your surgeon’s level of training or expertise. This is your health, your life; this is not the time for bargains. You are better off not having surgery at all or waiting until you can comfortably afford a US-based board certified plastic surgeon. There are many resources available to help you do this. We are happy to help.
We’ll end with a few specific pieces of advice for the period leading up to your operative date. Remember not to eat or drink after midnight on the evening before your procedure if so advised by your surgeon. Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding avoiding certain medications like blood thinners or oral contraceptives, for example. Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding your existing medications; I usually have my patients take their standard morning medications with a sip of water on the morning of their surgery. On the day of surgery, wear comfortable clothing that is easy to take off and easy to putt on. If you are staying overnight at a surgical facility, pack an overnight bag with your essentials.
Most importantly, get excited!!! Aesthetic surgery is an incredible experience.