The benefits of plastic surgery are endless. In just a matter of hours (or even less depending on the procedure that you’re having done), your plastic surgeon can transform your biggest beauty complaints and make them virtually nonexistent. While plastic surgery of any kind is nothing to take lightly, and the potential risks and recovery involved should never be glossed over, there’s one thing you really need to make certain you’re aware of if you choose to go under the knife. And, that is that you will swell.
As Leesburg, VA, plastic surgeon Phillip Chang, MD, points out, the main reason why patients swell after surgery is because of the trauma incurred to the tissue. “What isn’t as obvious is the swelling that occurs from anesthesia. Most general anesthetics cause dilation of the blood vessels, which also cause them to be ‘leaky.’ This results in increased fluid in the surrounding tissue,” he says. And, in the name of caution, the majority of anesthesiologists will give more fluid than required for safety reasons. “The increased amount of fluid contributes to increased swelling.”
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While it’s important to know that you’ll be swollen post-procedure, many patients don’t realize how long that swelling can ensue and often get panicked, feeling that they look worse after surgery than they did before. “Doctors want to reassure patients that they will easily get through it and get back to their normal lives. Patients need to know that cosmetic surgery is surgery and that they will have swelling that sometimes won’t be completely gone for weeks or months,” Dr. Chang says. It’s more common to experience long-lasting swelling if you’ve had surgery to the lower part of your body like your thighs and knees. “With something like liposuction, the repetitive back and forth trauma of the cannula and the fact that we use a tumescent solution that contains numbing medicine, leads to a lot more swelling.”
But not every procedure leads to prolonged swelling—some cause next to none at all. “Many patients often ask why they don’t swell much after the facelifts that I perform under local anesthesia,” says Dr. Chang. “The technique used minimizes tissue trauma, and the fact that it is performed without general anesthesia, minimizes potential swelling, too.”
Despite the fact that post-surgery swelling is part of the normal healing process (there isn’t really much you can do beforehand to prevent it), Dr. Chang says there are some things that can be done to help it along. “After surgery, particularly body surgeries, patients can benefit from Lasix, a water pill, or a steroid.” Lymphatic drainage massages are also often recommended to break up any lingering inflammation, fluid and swelling.