Preparing for Surgery

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Once you have decided on a cosmetic procedure and have selected a qualified surgeon, you are ready to begin preparing for surgery. During your first meeting with the surgeon you have selected, he or she probably will ask you to explain your reasons for wanting to have the procedure and how you expect to look and feel after surgery. Open communication between you and the surgeon is crucial when planning your surgery, so be candid about what you hope to achieve through surgery. The surgeon will explain whether you will have surgery in the doctor's office, at an outpatient surgery center, or at a hospital. He or she also will discuss the type of anesthesia that will be used. Any type of surgery carries risks, so make sure that you ask questions to help you fully understand the risks of the surgery you are considering. Although complications do not occur very often and usually are minor, the outcome of surgery is never fully predictable. The risks of cosmetic surgery include injury to the skin or a nerve, infection, or an adverse reaction to anesthesia or medication. Serious complications also can include formation of fat or blood clots that could travel to the lungs and cause injury or even death. There also is the possibility that you will be disappointed with the cosmetic results of the surgery. You can lower your risk of complications by following your surgeon's instructions carefully.

The surgeon will take photographs of you before and after surgery so the two of you can evaluate the results of the procedure. Before surgery the doctor will closely examine the part of your body to be altered and will discuss a number of issues related to the specific type of surgery you wish to have. For example, if you are planning to have a facelift, the doctor will closely evaluate your head

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Concerns and neck, checking to see if your hairline is receding, how far your beard grows up your cheeks and down your neck, and whether you have any facial scars or sun-damaged skin. He or she also will note whether your neck skin is loose or "jowly." The doctor will talk to you about the bruising and swelling that will occur after surgery. He or she also will discuss potential scarring.

The surgeon will ask whether you have any chronic diseases or conditions, such as high blood pressure or a blood clotting disorder, that could cause problems during surgery or affect the healing process. People with diabetes, chronic heart or lung disease, or poor circulation also have a higher risk of surgical complications. Tell the surgeon if you take any medication (prescription or nonprescription) or vitamins. Some drugs, such as aspirin, and some vitamins, such as vitamin E, can interfere with blood clotting. Also tell the doctor if you smoke. Smoking inhibits blood flow and can affect the way your skin heals after surgery.

There are no guarantees when it comes to the results of cosmetic surgery. Be sure that you have realistic expectations about how you hope to look and feel after the procedure. Discuss your expectations fully with your doctor and listen carefully to his or her description of the proposed outcome. Do not expect cosmetic surgery to stop or reverse the aging process. Although cosmetic surgery can enhance your appearance and increase your self-confidence, it will not necessarily match your ideal image or cause other people to treat you differently. The final result may differ from what you have in mind.

Recovery from cosmetic surgery takes time, and the signs of the surgery (such as swelling or bruising) may be visible for days or weeks after the procedure. Try to schedule your surgery during your vacation so the treated area will be fully healed by the time you return to work. Before surgery, be sure to closely follow your doctor's instructions about eating and drinking, smoking, and taking or avoiding certain drugs or vitamins. If you develop a cold or an infection before surgery, your procedure may need to be postponed.

You probably will be groggy from the anesthesia, so be sure to arrange in advance for someone to drive you home after surgery. Plan on taking it easy for the first few days after surgery. Depending on the type of procedure you have had, you may need to temporarily avoid strenuous activity. Follow your doctor's instructions about resuming your normal activities.

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