The decision to undergo plastic surgery or any cosmetic procedure is not usually something that people rush into. Ideally, a lot of thought and planning should go into this decision, as well as due diligence, and proper preparation for the procedure. You must also realize that a new you means a new life, and a new commitment to the changes you will have to make in your daily lifestyle to ensure that the results of your procedure will look natural and attractive, and last for as long as possible. Below are some tips provided by Dr. Sameer Jejurikar, a renowned board-certified plastic surgeon practicing for over 20 years in Dallas, TX.
Choosing the Right Plastic Surgeon
Your first step in preparing for plastic surgery should be to shop around for a good cosmetic surgeon. Talk to friends who have had similar procedures done and whose results you admire, and ask for recommendations. Or, visit the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS) or American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) websites to search their online databases of board-certified plastic surgeons in your area. This way you will be assured that you’ll be in the hands of a reputable, board-certified plastic surgeon, committed to staying abreast of the latest developments in the industry, and acquiring the highest level of accreditation in order to provide the best possible service to his or her patients.
Spend some time on the Internet and research the procedure or procedures that you’re interested in, as well as alternative procedures that may achieve comparable results. Also, consider combining more than one procedure into a single surgical session to save on time, money, and risk. Search for doctors in your area who specialize in those surgeries that you are most interested in, or who have demonstrated extensive clinical experience in working on patients with aesthetic goals and concerns similar to yours.
Don’t be afraid to interview various doctors. It is essential that you feel comfortable with your surgeon, so take the time to find one that inspires your trust. In addition to checking the doctor’s credentials and board certification, you should also prepare a list of questions to ask at your initial intake consultation.
Questions to Ask Prior to Surgery
A reputable and trustworthy plastic surgeon should be perfectly comfortable with providing thorough and realistic answers to all of your questions during the intake interview. Below is a list of basic questions you should ask when interviewing a plastic surgeon.
- What are your credentials and how many years of clinical experience do you have?
- Do you hold any board certification(s)?
- Am I a good candidate for the procedure that I am considering?
- Would you recommend this procedure for me? Why or why not?
- If not, is there an alternate procedure I can consider?
- How many times have you performed this procedure?
- Where will the procedure be performed?
- Is the surgical facility fully accredited?
- Do you have hospital privileges? At what hospital(s)?
- What type of anesthesia is required for the procedure that I’m interested in?
- Who will administer the anesthesia, and what are their qualifications?
- What are the qualifications of the surgical staff that will be assisting my surgery?
- How will you address any emergency during and/or after surgery?
- Have you performed this procedure on patients with characteristics and concerns similar to mine?
- Can you provide before and after photos of actual patients who have undergone this same procedure?
- What are the risks involved with this procedure?
The Initial Consultation
If you’re interested in a body procedure such as body contouring or breast enhancement, prepare for your consultation by wearing clothing that may be easily removed. Provide your doctor with a thorough and complete medical history, including a full list of medications as well as any nutritional supplements that you may be taking, such as herbs, vitamins, and natural remedies. Also be honest about your lifestyle habits such as whether you smoke and drink, as well as how much time you spend outdoors in the sun, and whether or not you exercise regularly. All of this will help your plastic surgeon to know you better as a patient and to plan properly for your procedure, as well as making any necessary recommendations to ensure your safety before, during, and after surgery.
During the physical exam, notice whether the doctor behaves respectfully and professionally, and whether he or she seems comfortable and familiar with your area of concern. Note whether they make you aware of any less-invasive options that may be available for fulfilling your aesthetic goals, and if they are willing to objectively compare the pros and cons of each option to help you make an informed decision. Also inquire as to how the doctor will customize each procedure specifically for your individual concerns. Once you feel fully satisfied with all the answers you’ve received, you’ll be ready to schedule your procedure.
Preparing for Surgery
Schedule your procedure about a month in advance, so you have a full four weeks to begin planning for it, getting your body ready, and preparing for the new changes you’ll be making in your life to support the results of your surgery. Everything you do before and after the procedure will contribute to the success of your outcome, healing, and recovery, as well as making a difference in the visible quality of your results.
About four weeks prior to your procedure, you should undergo a full a physical checkup and inform your primary care physician of your plans to undergo plastic surgery. Make sure your doctor approves your plan, and provide the results of your checkup to your plastic surgeon. The more information your plastic surgeon has to work with, the better he or she can tailor your procedure and recommendations to ensure that you are thrilled with your results.
Quit Smoking and Limit Your Intake of Alcoholic Beverages
It is imperative that you quit smoking and limit your drinking well in advance of your procedure, so that you’re not struggling to give up these habits as the day draws nearer. These two key lifestyle adjustments are crucial to ensuring your safety during any surgical procedure, as well as helping to optimize the results of your surgery, because both of these habits produce overall negative effects on your entire body, and particularly when the body is trying to heal from surgery.
Smoking takes a very serious toll on just about every area, organ, and function of the human body, and its damages to overall health, and particularly to skin health, are well documented. But especially when undergoing plastic surgery, smoking may negatively affect the healing process by inhibiting or restricting critical blood flow and oxygen delivery to the surgical site. Additionally, after surgery, smoking can hinder the healing process while also diminishing the healthy glow and luminosity of your skin, reducing natural moisture in the skin, making the skin appear brittle, ashy, and dry. If you want to enjoy the best possible outcome from your procedure, you must make every effort to quit smoking permanently, and this is a great time to do so, as you will have a wonderful reward to look forward to after quitting.
Alcohol is also harmful when undergoing a surgical procedure because of its well-documented blood-thinning properties, which may compromise your health and safety during surgery, while also negatively affecting the healing process following the procedure. Because of the risk of excessive bleeding with heavy alcohol consumption, many surgeons will actually refrain from performing surgery on a patient who refuses to limit their alcohol intake in preparation for surgery. Heavy drinking also affects the health and suppleness of your skin by reducing the skin’s natural moisture, resulting in dry, brittle skin, and advancing the visible signs of aging, a factor that will negatively affect the outcome of your procedure.
Adjust Medications and Supplements
Around two weeks before your scheduled procedure, you should check in with your doctor to adjust any medications and herbal or nutritional supplements that you may be taking. You may need to suspend certain medications that thin the blood, such as aspirin, and non-surgical anti-inflammatory drugs (NSADs) which may cause increased bleeding during surgery leading to increased swelling and bruising postoperatively.
You may be advised to stop taking Vitamin E supplements, which may increase the risk of bleeding, although you may continue to use topical Vitamin E in lotions, creams, or gels, as these actually help to improve the elasticity of your skin and may help with healing scars following surgery. You may also be advised to suspend the use of certain herbal supplements, such as Garlic, Ginseng, Ginger, Ginko Biloba, Dong Quai, Ephedra, Feverfew, Fish Oil, Flaxseed Oil, and St. John’s Wort. There may also be other herbal supplements that your surgeon may advise you to suspend or cut down on. Be sure to provide your surgeon or patient counselor of any and all natural supplements you may be taking.
About a week before surgery, begin reducing your sodium intake, and aim for a daily intake of about 1,200 – 1,500 mg of sodium. Your surgeon may advise you to begin taking a daily multi-vitamin supplement, as well as specific supplements such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Bromelain, a digestive enzyme found in pineapple that helps to reduce swelling and enhances the healing process.
An herbal remedy known as Arnica Montana is also effective at reducing pain and inflammation following surgery, as well as aiding the healing process, so stock up on this natural remedy, and start taking it a day or two before surgery, then continue to use it throughout your recovery period. Arnica gel or cream may also be used topically after surgery, once the incision has healed, to help reduce swelling and inflammation at the surgical site.
Commit to a Healthy Diet and Regular Exercise
While plastic surgery can dramatically rejuvenate and improve your physical appearance, it cannot prevent future damage caused by unhealthy eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle that may dramatically advance the signs of aging and wreak havoc upon the results of cosmetic procedures. Prior to your surgery, begin a healthy diet and exercise program and commit to continuing this healthy lifestyle after surgery and in fact, permanently. While it’s normal to gain a little bit of weight while resting during recovery, you’ll want to return to a regular exercise routine as soon as your doctor gives you the go-ahead, so as not to affect the results of your procedure with excess weight gain.
Starving yourself before or after surgery deprives your body of the building blocks it needs to heal surgical incisions and to combat inflammation. In particular, a patient’s protein intake has been shown to have a huge impact on the incidence of postoperative wound healing complications. For all body contouring procedures, Dr. Sameer Jejurikar encourages all of his patients to consume supplemental protein shakes for a week before and after surgery, which in turn, helps limit postoperative wound healing complications.
Although body contouring procedures may trim away excess fatty deposits, they are not performed as weight loss surgery, and while these procedures can help you look toned and lean, in order to maintain those results, you must also maintain a stable and healthy weight, as well as an active lifestyle. For example, fat reduction procedures such as liposuction will permanently destroy and eliminate fat cells in the treatment area, but if you gain weight as a consequence of unhealthy eating and lack of exercise, fat cells in other areas will expand, causing accumulation of bumps and bulges in other areas.
Follow Your Post-Op Instructions
While a talented surgeon will skillfully hide your incisions in areas where they can be camouflaged easily, in order to make sure that your body heals optimally and scars fade away as they should, you must follow all post-operative instructions that your surgeon provides, including any restrictions on certain gestures or physical activity. Avoid straining or stretching the surgical site, which could cause your incisions to become larger or more pronounced and visible. In some cases you may have to temporarily alter your sleeping position.
Your surgeon may also recommend that you wear compressive garments, and proper use of these garments is essential to helping your body heal and adjust to its new shape.
It is also essential to protect your incisions from sun exposure, keep them clean, and properly apply the topical creams and ointments prescribed by your plastic surgeon. Before using any other over-the-counter scar creams make sure that you clear them with your plastic surgeon, as using the wrong products may actually do more harm than good.
Rest Properly Immediately After Surgery
Most surgical procedures will require a recovery period and you should take this into consideration when planning ahead for your surgery. Make sure you have someone on hand to drive you home after the procedure and engage the help of a friend or relative to help you around the house for the first week or so following surgery. Prepare meals in advance and freeze them before you go into surgery so that you won’t have to work so hard during recovery, and particularly so you can avoid spending time in a hot kitchen while your delicate skin is healing from the procedure. If necessary, hire someone to do basic housework for you so that you can take it easy and rest properly during the first few days following surgery.
Guidelines for Your Recovery Period
How well you take care of yourself during your recovery period will directly affect the outcome of your surgery. Many patient-controlled factors play a vital role in creating the best possible results, as well as the smoothest and most comfortable post-operative recovery period. Dr. Sameer Jejurikar considers the following guidelines as essential to ensuring the best possible results:
- Avoid excessive pain medications – obviously, pain medication is required after a surgical procedure. Nonetheless, many patients take pain medications to prevent pain, rather than to treat pain they are actually experiencing. This can lead to excessive reliance on pain medication, which in turn leads to prolonged constipation, somnolence, memory loss, or diminished memory, as well as potential opiate addiction. As a general rule, take prescribed pain medication only to treat severe postoperative pain, and make every effort to discontinue the medication quickly after surgery. After all, pain is a natural and expected aspect of healing, and should be treated so that it is tolerable, but one cannot expect to completely eliminate pain while healing from a surgical procedure.
- Keep moving – While it’s important to take it easy and not stress yourself after surgery, it is a fallacy that bed-rest is the best way to recover after surgery. Not moving around makes patients more prone to potentially fatal blood clots, or deep venous thrombosis, as well as atelectasis, which indicates a collapse or closure of the lower aspects of the lungs and can lead to pneumonia. Dr. Jejurikar has observed that patients who get up and begin walking the night of their surgery definitely recover much faster.
Obviously, every surgical procedure will have specific recovery tips that apply to it, but following these basic steps can definitely lead to an improved postoperative experience and improved patient outcomes across the board.
Stay Fit and Maintain a Healthy Weight
If you’ve had a surgical lifting procedure, such as a breast lift, tummy tuck, or body lift, it is crucial that you avoid stretching your skin again as this may reduce the skin’s elasticity and negatively affect the results of your procedure. Constant weight fluctuations can cause your skin to become more lax and wrinkled, and you’ll risk requiring a follow-up procedure if you lose weight again in the future.
In general, weight fluctuations adversely affect your body contouring results. The best way to ensure that you continue to look your best after a body contouring procedure is to commit to eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. Fortunately, there are an array of other benefits that you will derive from this commitment, as it will help you to not only look your best, but will also increase your energy and emotional outlook, while improving your overall health and appearance.
Protect Your Skin from Excessive Sun Exposure
One of the most important considerations and lifestyle alterations you must make once you undergo a cosmetic procedure is a commitment to using top-quality sun protection with an SPF of at least 30 whenever you go outside in the sun, even if you’re just driving in your car. Many cosmetic procedures, even minimally invasive, non-surgical procedures generally leave the skin in a delicate and vulnerable condition, making it more sensitive and susceptible to damage from prolonged exposure to sunlight. Protecting your delicate skin from the ravages of UV rays is especially critical to reducing the visibility of scars while the incision sites are healing, as well as ensuring that your skin remains properly hydrated.
Some good rules of thumb to protect your delicate skin from excessive sunlight include:
- Use an SPF 30 or higher sunscreen
- Avoid going outdoors during peak UV sunlight hours between 11am and 2pm
- Wear UV-protective sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats to protect vulnerable skin from excessive sunlight.
- Cover up your arms and legs when in the sun if you’ve had a body procedure such as a thigh lift or arm lift.
- While you may want to show off your new curves in a bikini, it’s best to cover your torso for the first few months following surgery with a loose-fitting cover-up if you’ve had a body lift or tummy tuck to prevent the delicate skin from being damaged by sun exposure.
Use Medical-Grade Skin Care Products
Commit to a good daily skin care regimen using the highest quality medical-grade skin care products formulated for your particular skin type. Using pharmaceutical-grade skin care products will prepare your skin for surgery by repairing damaged cells, encouraging collagen production, and improving hydration and elasticity. Using the right products will also help to enhance and maintain the results of your surgery, particularly if you undergo a facial procedure. Your surgeon’s medical facility may have a licensed aesthetician among their medical spa staff to recommend the best line of medical skin-care products for each patient. Begin using these products even before you undergo the procedure and commit to continuing their use after the surgery.
Routine Maintenance Procedures
Once your skin is fully healed from your surgical procedure and your plastic surgeon gives you the OK, maintain the results of your surgery by getting regular Medical Spa treatments. Regular maintenance treatments such as chemical peels, micro-needling, radiofrequency therapy, skin tightening, or injectable dermal fillers such as Juvederm or Radiesse will help to keep your new look fresh and youthful. Consider getting regular monthly facials, which provide cleansing, moisturizing, and exfoliation to keep your skin looking youthful and smooth, with healthy radiance and luminosity.
After investing in a surgical procedure to improve and rejuvenate your appearance, it makes no sense to cut corners when it comes to proper skin care, so plan to continue investing in yourself by using the highest quality skin care products available, and taking advantage of routine maintenance procedures to keep you looking your best. Looking great requires effort, but you’re worth it!