Plastic surgery is exciting. It’s typically something individuals actively pursue to reach goals they set for themselves: a flatter abdomen, a perkier breast, or a more youthful face, for example. But just because you choose to have plastic surgery, does not mean the possibility of risk is absent. Surgery, whether elective or required, is surgery. Here are 5 tips for optimizing safety for your plastic surgery experience:

1.    Make sure your surgeon is Board-certified by a “real” board, one that is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. The American Board of Plastic Surgery, for example, demands from its members a very comprehensive, strict process for certification through written and oral examinations, and maintenance of certification. Boards of cosmetic surgery are not ABMS-regulated and membership requires very little to qualify. Check on your surgeon’s credentials. You can check to make sure your doctor is an ASPS member.

2.    Is your health profile as optimal as it can be? Are you eating well? Do you exercise? Do you smoke? The more you do up front to improve your health through excellent diet, exercise and cessation of smoking will optimize outcome in plastic surgery. Plastic surgery is not a substitute for weight loss and good health. This is especially important when you are choosing to pursue a surgery for which you will be paying.

3.    Communication must be open and easy with the surgeon you choose. In my practice, the more questions a patient asks, the better! These patients are amongst the best prepared for their surgical experience. Do not be shy with getting all the information you need! And don’t be afraid to share your complete medical history – you need to be honest and frank if there are any issues that may impact your surgery.

4.    Check on the facility in which your surgery will be performed. If it is an outpatient, ambulatory surgery site, don’t overdo it. There are safe limits to outpatient surgery. Not every patient is a good candidate for outpatient surgery and may require a hospital-based operation. Individuals who have sleep apnea or latex allergy must go to the hospital. Make sure the surgical center is certified and ask what emergency procedures are in place.

5.    Talk to your surgeon about postoperative recovery and duration, and be compliant with instructions. More activity than recommended early after surgery may result in wound healing problems – plan for help if you need it. A little time to rehabilitate will go a long way, considering that a complicated outcome prolongs recovery for an unknown length of time.

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