Who is not a bit frightened or perhaps very concerned prior to having surgery? Even when the surgery is cosmetic or elective in nature, the threshold for anxiety is imposing. Having some control over the procedure will allay much of your anxiety and contribute to a smooth and enduring outcome.
Look at the surgery as an adventure, into an unknown land that requires a guide to prevent you from getting lost and to assure that the expedition will be advantageous. So let us delve into some of the ways that you can facilitate a positive outcome before your facelift, eyelid, brow or nose surgery.
Choosing a surgeon is always the inaugural event which will make the experience less bumpy. Look for a physician who has the knowledge, experience and skill-set to perform the surgery that you are interested in. But as crucial to whom you pick, this individual must be able to communicate the benefits, potential risks and expected outcome of the procedure and have a plan to make the event as stress-free as possible for you. Communication is paramount in all walks of life, but especially critical in order for you to trust that you will be well taken care of. Once you establish a mutual respect, trust that your surgeon will look after you and let go of your desire to direct the show.
Make a list of questions that you wish to be addressed during the initial meeting. Come prepared by researching your surgery in advance. For example, there are numerous websites on line that will greatly assist you in this quest. A word of caution regarding second hand information from friends, as their experience may be influenced by a host of factors which are unrelated to you.
Once you have chosen your surgeon, the date and the place your surgery will take place, your participation is even more integral to a successful outcome. Your state of mind influences how your body will deal with the physical part of the surgery. The immune system, which is the part of the body that fights to prevent infections and helps in the healing, is influenced by your overall health and how positive you are. Take care of yourself physically and mentally-stay positive and optimistic. Surround yourself with similar minded individuals. The mind is an extraordinarily powerful weapon that will protect and assist you in the healing process.
Let’s now discuss a few of the factors that you have a tremendous ability to affect:
Traveling far distances within a few days of surgery is not ideal. Prolonged sitting causes the blood to pool in your lower legs which may increase the risk of blood clots. Likewise, there are a host of herbs, vitamins, and medicines, such as birth control pills or blood thinners, which either increase or decrease your ability to control bleeding or clotting.
To be on the prudent side, you should discuss what medications, herbs and vitamins you take with your surgeon prior to surgery. However, in general over, the counter herbal products should be discontinued two weeks prior to surgery and after surgery, as they may influence your body chemistry or affect how you tolerate anesthesia. Many of us take baby aspirin daily to assist with circulation. Discontinue the aspirin for two weeks on either side of the surgery, unless you are taking it under the supervision your physician. There are a number of other products: Motrin, Advil and Ibuprofen, vitamin E, fish oils, flax oils, cold remedies containing any of the above and alcohol that must be discontinued two weeks before and after surgery.
A word of caution is in order for those who partake of tobacco use. There are not many habits that are so destructive to the healing process than smoking. Numerous toxins, additives and nicotine bathe each cell of the body causing irreparable harm. The carbon monoxide that is inhaled affects the oxygen content of the blood, a vital component of healing, causing the areas operated upon to fall apart. Your lungs are compromised by the smoke increasing your risk of complications. You would not consider sucking on your car exhaust before or after surgery, so it is necessary to discontinue cigarettes weeks before and after surgery.
A few basics that will make the process smoother for you:
• Stay away from crowds a few days before surgery to prevent your catching a cold.
• The night prior to surgery eat a meal that is easy to digest, like pasta.
• Stay away from salty foods for two weeks after surgery to decrease swelling.
• Wear comfortable and loose fitting clothing to the surgical facility.
• Get all of your prescriptions filled in advance of the surgery and learn what order and how often to use them.
• Have a few bags of frozen peas or corn that you can transfer to baggies. Apply the peas/bags wrapped in a thin towel to the area that was operated upon for 10-15 minutes 4 times a day for a week to keep the swelling down.
• If you have no pain after surgery, use Tylenol every 6-8 hours for the first two days to prevent discomfort. Or use the prescribed pain medicine given to you by your surgeon.
• If possible, keep the area operated upon elevated. This will diminish swelling.
• Minimize your activity for the first week to keep your blood pressure from rising.
• Refrain from sports or heart rate elevation for a few weeks after surgery to allow for optimal healing.
• Have low salt food at home for the week following surgery to minimize swelling.
• Books on tape or movies you can enjoy at home will take away from your boredom.
• Expect bruising, some bleeding and perhaps discomfort for the first weeks after surgery.
• Be realistic; you will not be able to resume your normal daily routine for days to weeks afterwards. Plan for this.
• Healing is controlled by your body. Having a positive outlook will assist your body in the mending process.
• It helps to have your mind, body and your spirit balanced.
• Your destiny is yours to take control of. By being informed and prepared for the surgery you will improve upon the outcome. No one can predict the ultimate result of surgery but you are positioned to significantly improve upon and influence your fate.
Jeffrey S. Rosenthal, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Plastic Surgery
Chief Emeritus, Section Plastic Surgery Bridgeport Hospital
Chairperson, Plastic Surgery for National Book Reviews
Board Member of the Connecticut Society of Plastic Surgery
Private Practice Plastic Surgery, Fairfield, Connecticut