What is plastic surgery?

Plastic surgery is a surgical specialty that deals with the correction of any congenital, acquired, tumoral, or involuntary process that requires repair or replacement, or that affects the form and/or function of the body. Its techniques are based on the transplantation and mobilization of tissues by means of grafts and flaps or even implants of inert material. Reconstructive Plastic Surgery seeks to restore or improve the function and physical appearance in injuries caused by accidents and burns, in diseases and tumors of the skin and supporting tissues, and in congenital anomalies, mainly of the face, hands, and genitals.

Aesthetic plastic surgery, on the other hand, deals with generally healthy patients and its purpose is the correction of alterations of the aesthetic norm in order to obtain a greater facial and corporal harmony or the sequels produced by aging. This has repercussions on emotional stability, improving the quality of life through professional and emotional relationships, etc.

Cosmetic surgery can help you improve your appearance, but it is not suitable for everyone. Learn what to consider before surgery, how to find a surgeon and what questions to ask.

Cosmetic surgery, a branch of plastic surgery that includes surgical and nonsurgical procedures, may seem like an easy way to take years off your appearance or improve your physique.

However, cosmetic surgery has risks and limitations. If you’re considering cosmetic surgery, here’s what you need to know.

Factors to consider

Cosmetic surgery changes your appearance by altering or reshaping parts of your body that function normally but don’t look the way you want them to. Before proceeding with cosmetic surgery, consider:

  • Your expectations. Anticipate improvement, not perfection. If you expect cosmetic surgery to turn you into a movie star, you’re sure to be disappointed. Don’t count on surgery to save a difficult relationship, get a promotion or improve your social life.
  • Expenses. Cosmetic surgery is not covered by most health insurance plans. The cost varies depending on the procedure, from hundreds to thousands of dollars. In addition, you should factor in the cost of any follow-up care or additional corrective procedures.
  • Risks. It is possible to be unhappy after any type of cosmetic surgery. Surgical complications are also possible, including excessive bleeding or infection at the surgical site.
  • Recovery. After cosmetic surgery, you may need days, weeks, or even months to recover. Understand the physical effects that may be part of your recovery, as well as how the surgery may affect aspects of your personal and professional life.

Also, if you smoke, your doctor will probably recommend that you stop smoking about a month before surgery and during recovery to minimize the risk of complications.

Finding a qualified cosmetic surgeon

If you decide to have cosmetic surgery, you probably have your choice of surgeon. Choose a surgeon who specializes in the procedure you would like to have done and who is board certified in the specialty by a board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. Beware of misleading certifications from unrecognized or self-appointed boards.

If you are having a procedure that requires general anesthesia, make sure the surgical center is certified by an accrediting body, such as The Joint Commission, or licensed by the state where the center is located.

Meeting with the surgeon

Once you have narrowed down your choice of surgeons, schedule an appointment or several appointments with different surgeons. The surgeon will evaluate the part of your body he or she wants to treat, and you will share your medical history, list all medications you are taking, and discuss your wishes and expectations. During the initial consultation, ask the surgeon the following questions:

  • Am I a good candidate for this procedure, why, or why not?
  • Are there other treatments besides surgery that might work just as well or better for me?
  • How many times have you performed this procedure? What were the results?
  • Can you share before and after photos or diagrams to help me understand the procedure and expected results?
  • Can the desired effect be achieved in one procedure or are multiple procedures planned?
  • What are the surgical options and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
  • Will the results be permanent?
  • What type of anesthesia will be used? How will it affect me?
  • Will I be hospitalized? If so, for how long?
  • What are the possible complications?
  • How will my progress be monitored after surgery? What follow-up care will I need? How much recovery time can I expect?
  • How much will the procedure cost?

The closer you work with your surgeon to establish specific, measurable, and achievable goals before surgery, the more likely you are to be satisfied with the results.

Remember, however, that even if you have done your homework and found a surgeon you like at a price you can afford, the decision to undergo cosmetic surgery is yours and yours only.

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