"Under the knife". "Nip & tuck". the phrases used to describe cosmetic procedures aren’t especially comforting, evoking images of scalpels and needles.
There’s no way around it: cosmetic surgeries and treatments always involve a degree of risk, and can cause anxiety. This is normal! For healthy people, this risk is much lower, but remains a risk regardless.
the good news is, the goal of doctors is is to minimize risk as much as possible. This is achieved through a thorough review of one's medical history via a screening and/or physical, and limiting the number of procedures at any time. Most importantly, a patient who chooses a board-certified physician with experience in the specialty will be far better positioned for success.
Research and education beforehand on potential outcomes and side effects can also be quite comforting.
Here are five big fears raised by potential cosmetic surgery patients, paired with board-certified physicians’ tips on the reality of each fear.
the press is quick to report a story about a death from plastic surgery, more so than other forms of medicine. why? Probably because cosmetic surgery is typically elective and often perceived to be vanity-driven.
The reality: Risk factors vary by surgery, but the percentages are typically very low. For example, for tummy tuck surgery, Dr. Ricardo Meade, a Dallas plastic surgeon, notes that he's read that the odds of complications range from 0.04% to 20 per 100,000, and other incidences.
Doctor tip: Dr. Meade says, "Discuss [potential risks] with your board-certified plastic surgeon, as he or she has likely spent a considerable amount of time thinking over this topic for you at many continuing medical education meetings." Additionally, Dr. Steven Wallach, Manhattan plastic surgeon, speaks frankly on this topic: “If you are afraid to have surgery (which, by the way, is normal)…then do not move forward with surgery.” Cosmetic surgery is largely elective, and the decision to have a procedure must be one the patient is comfortable with.
the bandages have come off…and you don't have the nose/breasts/tummy you wanted. You're devastated. what happened?
The reality: “every surgeon has complications, and if they say they do not, I would avoid them,” says Dr. David Bogue, Boca Raton plastic surgeon. “Surgical outcomes are a combination of the surgeon's experience, planning, the patient's anatomy, and the patient's own unique health situation. "
Doctor tip: Dr. Bogue says, "the key is to find a…surgeon with whom you feel comfortable. You should understand the procedure, the risks of the procedure, any alternatives, and what to expect afterwards (including treatments for any complications).”
the big fear here is ending up looking like the famous Catwoman – or simply someone with cartoonish, out-of-proportion features that scream "surgery".
The reality: Dr. David Shafer, new York plastic surgeon, notes, “Most major…procedures involve an incisionand downtime from work. however, if everything goes well, you should look very natural with little evidence of having surgery."
Doctor tip: According to Dr. Shafer, "in most cases, I recommend changing something else about your look to distract people from thinking that you had surgery – change your hair color, wear contacts instead of glasses, etc. there are minor procedures such as dermal fillers and Botox that can make you look refreshed if done in moderation.”
making the decision to have surgery can be monumental. so what if the results don't last, and you're back to where you started?
The reality: “Some patients are under the impression that plastic surgery prevents you from aging. This is not the case,” explains Dr. Shafer. “Plastic surgery and rejuvenating procedures will set back the clock, but the clock keeps ticking. the effects of gravity over time and loosening of you skin will result in changes. however, you will look and feel much better…than without [the procedure].”
Doctor tip: Dr. Hisham Seify, Orange County plastic surgeon, has this to say: "Like any surgical procedure, different patients will have different results. it is standard to expect your result to last…if no major changes to your body happen in the meantime. it…is important to choose the right procedure and plastic surgeon."
Afraid of anesthesia and being unconscious during a procedure? This loss of control can be terrifying for patients.
The reality: "the American Society of Anesthesiology published some interesting statistics that might make you feel better," says Dr. Michael Bodgan, a Dallas plastic surgeon. "when you look at all patients (including very sick patients undergoing heart surgery, etc) undergoing anesthesia, the risk of dying from anesthesia is 0.0004%. (The National Weather Service put out a statistic that your lifetime risk of getting struck by lightening is 0.02%!) For healthy patients, the chance of a problem is even less."
Doctor tip: According to Dr. C. Bob Basu, Houston plastic surgeon, “If you are healthy and have no other health problems (to be reviewed by your board certified plastic surgeon well before your surgery), general anesthesia should be safe. Talk to your anesthesiologist before your surgery to have any of your questions answered. your surgery should be performed in an accredited facility such as a hospital or an AAAASF accredited ambulatory surgical facility.”
have concerns, qualms or fears about cosmetic procedures in addition to those above? Ask questions and get answers on RealSelf.
Photo by pressmanwill on Flickr Some doctors' reponses have been edited for clarity and readability
Five Big Fears of Plastic Surgery