Who doesn't want to look younger? Plastic surgery may be able to smooth out some flaws on your face or figure. Before you go under the knife, though, it's important to become educated. Doing your homework to determine if your expectations are realistic is important and your involvement in the recovery can make a big difference, too. Here, some basic information to contemplate.

Keeping It Real

"Plastic surgery to improve one's appearance may be very successful, provided the patient has real flaws, is medically/psychologically stable, and has realistic expectations," explains Clyde H. Ishii, MD, FACS, a plastic surgeon in Honolulu who serves on the board of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Key Facts About Plastic Surgery

Ishii shares this advice to get the most out of the experience:

1. Plastic surgery is not risk-free and most procedures (other than the noninvasive variety) involve recovery time. While the media often portrays plastic surgery as quick and easy, in real life there are risks that you need to weigh when deciding if the possible rewards are worth it. Bruising, swelling, pain, facial nerve injury including weakness and/or paralysis, blood clots, infection, and skin discoloration are some possible side effects. You can expect to have some down time at home after surgery before the results are fully realized. You'll want to take these things into account because the process may end up being longer and more complicated than you anticipated.

2. Not all plastic surgeons are equal. Experience and skill matters. "There are no laws restricting which doctors can perform plastic surgery and most states allow doctors of any specialty (for example, many dentists administer Botox) to perform any type of treatment—including plastic surgery—in their office," Ishii says. Hospital credentialing is much more rigorous and allows surgeons to perform surgery only within their scope of training. Therefore, if the operation is taking place in an office setting, the patient should inquire if the surgeon has been credentialed to perform that same procedure in the hospital. Ishii also recommends checking the doctor's board certification and making sure that it's recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

3. The recovery process can vary depending on the procedure. Ask your plastic surgeon up front what to expect. "Noninvasive cosmetic procedures such as Botox, soft tissue fillers, light chemical peels, noninvasive body contouring, and certain laser treatments have no down time," Ishii says. For surgery on the upper eyelid, rhinoplasty (nose job), breast augmentation, liposuction, and other procedures of this nature, you'll probably need to take a week off from work and from your other regular activities. Bigger surgeries, including abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) or more significant body contouring, will require even more of a recovery time. Ishii suggests asking other patients about their experiences or (reading online message boards) to get an idea of what your recovery may be like.

4. The results of many plastic surgery procedures won't last forever. "We like to say that most plastic surgery procedures turn back the clock, but the clock continues to run," Ishii points out. "I tell my patients that on average most facelifts will last 7 to 10 years. However, otoplasty (pinning back of the ears), chin augmentation with a silicone implant, and breast augmentation with implants can be more 'permanent.'"

You should ask your doctor during your initial consultation what to expect for the duration of the results from your desired procedure.

5. Paying more for your surgery doesn't mean you'll get better results. "There's no correlation to the quality and value of the surgical experience (surgeon's expertise, quality of the surgical staff, after care, etc.) and what they charge," Ishii says. "Therefore, the patient should only choose a surgeon after a careful review of his/her credentials, consulting with the surgeon, and deciding if it's a good fit." He also recommends getting references to the surgeon's other patients to find out if they had good results. This can help you determine the value of the experience.

6. Insurance typically doesn't cover procedures that aren't medically necessary. "Insurance will pay if the surgeon can show that the patient has a condition that requires medical treatment or causes a functional deficit," the surgeon explains. Examples of procedures that might have a medical component include correcting droopy upper eyelids that interfere with the field of vision, and breast reduction surgery for very large breasts that cause neck/back/shoulder pain that doesn't improve with non-surgical treatment methods. If your plastic surgery doesn't meet the medically necessary criteria, you can ask your cosmetic surgeon about financing options to help you make the price work within your budget.

For More Information

To learn more about plastic surgery, you can visit, www.smartbeautyguide.com and www.surgery.org. Ishii also recommends, Be Your Best—a Comprehensive Guide to Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, a book that includes a section on selecting a qualified surgeon in your area.

Clyde H. Ishii, MD, FACS, reviewed this article.



Clyde H. Ishii, MD, FACS, plastic surgeon, board member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Email interview 14 December 2013. http://www.surgery.org/consumers/plastic-surgeon/clyde-ishii

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Web. Accessed 17 December 2013.