Plastic surgery is becoming more popular than ever. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, more than 11.7 million procedures were performed in 2007, an increase of more than 400 percent since statistics were first gathered 10 years earlier 1. While the benefits of cosmetic surgery are widely accepted, patients should consider the positive and negative aspects of plastic surgery before undergoing any treatments 3.
While the risk of surgical complications during a procedure may be minimal and depend on the cleanliness of the facility and the experience of the surgeon, there are risks associated with any surgery. The bigger the procedure, the higher the risk of complications. A patient's general health also should be taken into consideration when evaluating risks. Smoking and pre-existing vascular conditions can slow and impede the healing process. Any cut made on the skin is likely to leave a scar. Most procedures however take this into account and skilled cosmetic surgeons take great pains to hide scars in little seen areas, such as under the hair, behind ears and in skin folds. Although steps are taken to reduce the risk of infection, there is always a chance that infection at the site of the incision can occur. Excessive bleeding can occur while a wound is open, and occasionally a blood transfusion may be required. Blood clots may spring up following extended periods of surgery, although walking and movement following surgery usually help to remove the risk. Finally, there are the risks associated with anesthesia that need to be talked about with the anesthesiologist before the procedure.
A study performed by a social worker and two psychiatrists reported by the American Psychological Association showed that for the most part, patients felt better about themselves following plastic surgery 2. Patients reported a boost in self-image and overall well-being. The same study reported negative responses from those who had high expectations that were not fulfilled by the cosmetic procedure. Patients who were not satisfied with the results of the surgery often went in for additional work. Others experienced periods of depression, isolation and anger towards their doctors. The researchers concluded that more psychological counseling be enacted by plastic surgeons prior to doing the work. Pre-screening by plastic surgeons, especially focused on people who have had previous bouts of depression or other mental health issues, can help to alleviate some of the post-surgical negative responses that patients sometimes experience.
Patients considering cosmetic surgery must plan for time off to heal and to be comfortable being seen in public 3. While the healing time varies among patients and the type of procedure, it can take up to two or three weeks to recover enough to return to work and everyday activities. Many people use the time in lieu of a vacation or as time to nurture themselves and their well-being. In addition to the time spent, plastic surgery can be expensive, with procedures ranging up to $6,000 or more. Most insurance policies do not cover elective procedures, such as plastic surgery 1. The money can be thought of as an investment in the future, especially when the improved appearance will help in obtaining a job or promotion.
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