You've decided you're going to do it. What's next? How do you choose the right doctor? What do you need to do to prepare? What sort of post-op recovery time can you expect?
Step 1: Do your homework before ever talking to a doctor. A good place to find details and recovery times for any procedure is Web site of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (www.cosmeticsurgery.org). A local resource is www.allnewyou.com, the Web site for Dr. Mark Foglietti, director of the Cosmetic Surgery Institute in Beachwood.
Step 2: Let safety guide every decision. Make sure your doctor is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) and is doing business in an accredited facility approved for surgery using anesthesia. Ask many questions and make sure you understand details of the surgery, as well as the risks, benefits and alternatives.
Step 3: Know that the severity of procedures varies greatly. It can range from an outpatient brow lift to a hospital stay for breast reconstruction. Because each procedure has specific risks, benefits and recovery times, you need to discuss any procedure in great detail with your surgeon before agreeing to it.
As you delve into your research, you'll find each procedure comes with different preparation and recovery guidelines. However, the American Association of Plastic Surgeons and American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery offer advice to follow no matter the procedure.
Consultation/Evaluation: Your surgeon should perform an evaluation and discuss what procedures and expected outcomes are feasible based on your body and health.
Discussion: Learn about the details of the surgery, including risks, limitations and alternatives. Make sure to tell your doctor if you smoke and if you're taking any medications, vitamins or other drugs.
Logistics: Be sure you understand and are comfortable with the type of anesthesia to be used, where the surgery will take place, what the recovery will be like and what financial costs are involved.
Surgery Preparation and Arrangements
Guidelines: Follow very closely your surgeon's specific guidelines about pre-op dos and don'ts regarding eating and drinking, smoking, vitamins and medications. There may also be restrictions about sun exposure.
Medical Leave: If you'll be missing a few days or weeks from the office afterward, prepare for your hiatus as you would if you were going to be on vacation. The better prepared you are for your leave, the easier it will be to relax and focus on getting well.
After care: Even for an outpatient procedure, you'll need to arrange for someone to drive you home from surgery. It's also a good idea to arrange for someone to help you out for a few days at home, if needed.
Restrictions: Carefully follow your doctor's orders about restricting certain activities in the days or weeks following surgery. These limitations are set to help you recover safely and quickly. Not following your doctor's guidelines could poorly affect your results.
Follow-up Appointments: Be aware that you will probably have to attend one or several follow-up appointments to monitor your results.
Patience: It could take some time for your final results to show, and in some cases, scars can get worse before they get better. This is all a normal part of the process. Be patient during this transition.
Ultimately, the most important thing you can bring to the table is knowledge. Know who your surgeon is, completely understand the procedure and have realistic expectations about recovery time and results. Also, make sure you choose a surgeon with whom you're comfortable enough to have honest, open communication. You must be able to voice concerns and ask questions to educate yourself so you're feeling empowered about the experience.