Plastic surgery offers the promise of improving dimensions of life for many. Procedures are not risk-free, however. Sometimes, the expected result doesn’t materialize, and your investment offers little or no real return. Sometimes, even worse, your result becomes a liability. You avoid being seen. You cover, camouflage, or hide the area. You’re unable to return to activities and/or situations you enjoy, fearful that a bad result will stigmatize you. You’re not alone. While most procedures offer good results when performed by qualified specialists, problems occasionally arise even in expert hands. Preventing and managing a disappointing outcome is critical. My recommendations follow:
1. Research your surgeon. The surgeon who has the highest standards for his or her own performance, members of the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, will hold the highest standards for your result. View “before and after” photos (unretouched) on his or her web gallery. The quantity and quality of results should be the type of outcome you desire for yourself. In consultation, you must feel comfortable with your surgeon, and must have inner trust that he or she truly cares about the quality of your outcome. Is your doctor a professional, or a businessperson?
2. Clearly communicate your desired result to the surgeon. Find out if your requested change is safe and reasonable. If your surgeon is trying to tell you, for example, the breast implants you want will be too large for your body, listen to that recommendation. If you feel strongly in your desire and the surgeon seems to disagree, get an additional opinion from another qualified surgeon. Has your chosen surgeon achieved your desired result with others? Are you a good candidate? Are your anatomic features conducive to the surgical change you want? Plastic surgical techniques have limitations. Tummy tuck can only narrow the waist so much, and facelift cannot make you look like you are twenty-two again.
3. Follow post surgical instructions. Don’t resume normal activities before recommended. If certain garments and/or skin tape are recommended, these often prevent complications and/or improve the final result. Although inconvenient, post-surgical burdens are temporary. Once a problem develops, fixing it can be costly, painful, and/or very inconvenient. Complications are best avoided. Post-surgical routines usually facilitate healing and improved outcomes.
4. Be patient: Healing and resolution of swelling take time. If an undesirable feature of your result becomes apparent, ask your surgeon about it. Soft tissues are distorted by swelling, and amazing improvements in your result often develop as local changes related to surgery slowly dissipate. In general, if a bothersome area at the surgical site seems to be improving from month to month, surgical revision is NOT indicated. Only when the outcome is stable, often one year or longer following the initial procedure, should surgical revision be considered. The exception to this is a feature of your result that you and/or the surgeon do not see improving, do not believe will improve, and is unacceptable in your personal, social, or professional appearance.
5. Be prepared for revision(s) if necessary, either by your initial surgeon or another one. Sometimes, even when the operating team, the surgeon, your expectations, your anatomy, the equipment used, and all other variables seem to be in your favor, nature and fate interfere with your desired outcome, and you end up disappointed with one or more aspects of your result. In this case, your surgeon can and usually will be able to revise the result and improve it by another procedure, most often smaller and less costly than your initial operation. If the bothersome feature is worth changing, go for the revision. Your result will last for many years, and daily dissatisfaction can often be avoided by these smaller follow up improvements.