You can ask your friends, your family, your neighbors and the person sitting next to you on your next plane ride, but there is no one better to ask about what to do after plastic surgery than the surgeons themselves. Clocking in hundreds of hours a month performing nose jobs, facelifts, breast enhancements and tummy tucks, they’ve seen it all and have learned from each and every procedure. Here, top plastic and facial plastic surgeons share the one thing they tell all of their patients about what to do, or not do, after a procedure.
Follow the Directions Every Single Day
New York plastic surgeon Dilip Madnani, MD says he and his team agree on the importance of being diligent during the recovery process. “A lot of patients don’t think about the healing process and how it is imperative to follow post-op instructions and to keep in mind the journey they must look forward to in the next few weeks of healing. There’s a grey area that they may not be mentally prepared for. Results continue to improve for months and months after surgery, and it’s important to keep in mind how rewarding it will be to see the ultimate results.” Dr. Madnani also notes that it’s good to keep in mind that recovery is different for every patient and everyone’s journey will be different.
Contact Your Surgeon with Immediately with Concerns
“The best post-operative thing I say to every surgical patient and their spouse or caregiver is that you can call me any time of the day or night with any question, concern or problem,” says Des Moines, IA plastic surgeon David Robbins, MD. “I’m available 24 hours a day for my patients and will see them anytime if needed. This reassurance to my patients alleviates a great deal of stress and anxiety.”
Wear Your Post-Op Garments
Think of the six weeks following your surgery as a training camp for your body, says Chicago plastic surgeon Michael Horn, MD. “The biggest lesson I’ve learned over the years is to wear a post-operative bra after breast augmentation,” he says. “The ideal bra has compression over the whole breast and conforms well around the folds under the breasts. It should be snug but not uncomfortably tight.” Wearing the right compression garment that is recommended by your surgeon can ensure the best possible result.
Be Proactive About the Pain
Grand Rapids, MI plastic surgeon David R. Alfonso, MD adds that pain management has gotten so much better in recent years, his patients emerge from Mommy Makeovers and tummy tucks with very little pain or downtime: “I would say that our pre-operative medical vitamins as well as our TAP blocks for tummy tucks are the biggest advances in recovery. My patients count on the improved recovery program we have implemented, and these two aspects have been some of the biggest factors in our success.”
Communicate Expectations Early On
New York plastic surgeon B. Aviva Preminger, MD shares that what you discuss with your surgeon early on will have an impact on how you perceive your results. Knowing what is and isn’t possible will help maintain realistic expectations. “It’s so important that there’s open communication and patients fully convey what their expectations are from the surgery,” she advises. “I think that puts the surgeon in the best position to help them achieve their goals.”
Dover, OH facial plastic surgeon David Hartman, MD adds: “In order for that trust-bridge relationship to consistently work, my most important lesson has been to meticulously communicate procedures with our clients so they thoroughly understand and appropriately ‘prioritize’ their objectives. We want to be certain their surgical goals are met. In simplest terms, the lesson that has emerged for me in the post-procedure period is to ‘under promise and over deliver.’”
Trust the Process
The most important post-procedure advice Westborough, MA facial plastic surgeon Min S. Ahn, MD says you should heed is to have trust. “You have already trusted your surgeon to perform a procedure on you,” he explains. “You need to then trust that whatever she or he advises you to do during the recovery is the best route to an excellent result. That includes limiting your activity and allowing your body to heal.” Dr. Ahn often reminds his patients that healing takes time and cannot be sped up. “What you look like at day one, week one or even one month after surgery won’t show you your ultimate result. Trust the process.”
Never Miss a Follow Up
Follow-up appointments are an excellent opportunity to examine the patient and to ensure wounds are healing well, says New York facial plastic surgeon Lee Ann Klausner, MD. “This is when we help patients feel better by cleaning the operative site and reviewing their post-operative instructions,” she adds. “Everything makes more sense the next day and I think patients are calmer and happier having seen you, knowing that you have examined them and can reassure them that they are doing well.”
Use Common Sense
Some post-procedure mishaps happen when patients get too comfortable and are lax about following the recommended rules, notes Concord, CA plastic surgeon Eric Mariotti, MD. “If a friend of yours who just had surgery asked you if they should pick up their children, lift suitcases above their head, or go to an amusement park, what would you advise to your friend?” he asks. “This might have stopped someone from hiking around a reservoir, going in a hot tub or taking their three Great Danes for a walk within a few days of surgery—all of which have happened to my patients despite my instructions.”
Be Honest with Your Doctor About Smoking
Most plastic surgeons require their patients to refrain from smoking for at least three to six weeks before an elective procedure and for at least six weeks after. The main concern about nicotine and plastic surgery is tissue necrosis, or an irreversible premature death of tissue that occurs when blood doesn’t flow to the area. “I had a patient that did not disclose she was a smoker and subsequently had separation of her skin flaps and partial nipple necrosis after a breast lift,” says Baton Rouge, LA plastic surgeon John V. Williams, MD. “I now smoke test everyone having a breast lift, tummy tuck, facelift and thigh lift. If the test comes back positive, we cancel the surgery.”