Definition and Overview
Plastic surgery, which can be performed for cosmetic or reconstructive purposes, is an invasive procedure that aims to enhance or restore the original appearance and in some cases, the function of different body parts. Popular procedures include breast enhancement (boob job), facial contouring (which includes cheek, chin and nose enhancement), facelift and liposuction. Just like with any type of surgical procedure, postoperative care is imperative following a plastic surgery to avoid possible complications such as infection, swelling and extreme pain, among others.
Plastic surgeons typically schedule the follow-up consultation once the patient has been discharged from the hospital or specialised clinic where the procedure was performed. It is also around this time that the patient is given specific instructions on how to care for the wound and a list of things to watch out for that could warrant an emergency follow-up consultation with the plastic surgeon.
It’s important that the surgeon’s instructions are strictly followed. Otherwise, the risk for complications greatly increases, even to the point of achieving undesirable results.
The follow-up consultation is usually scheduled at a time when the wounds are expected to start healing. If by that time there has been no noted improvement, the surgeon may provide medications and instructions or perform additional procedures that can help speed up the patient’s recovery.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
Anybody who has undergone plastic surgery is scheduled for a follow-up consultation. The purpose is to ensure that the wounds are healing properly and in some cases, to remove stitches, dressings, or bandages. This follow-up provides patients with an opportunity to discuss their concerns, if there are any, or symptoms that they’ve experienced between the time they were discharged and the scheduled follow-up.
The patient should expect more follow- up consultations until the wounds have healed completely and any swelling has disappeared.
How Does the Procedure Work
Oral surgeons follow specific protocols during a follow-up consultation and this depends on the extent of the surgery and the patient’s unique circumstances. In some cases, the surgeon only needs to check if the wound is healing well. In others, the surgeon removes the dressings and stitches.
In any case, the consultation usually begins with a short interview to discuss how the patient’s recovery is progressing or if there have been any unexpected symptoms. The surgeon will then visually inspect the wound to see if it is healing as expected.
If the patient complains about pain or discomfort, the surgeon may elect to adjust his medication or recommend a therapy that’s appropriate for his condition.
Most follow-up consultations only last for an hour but could be longer if the patient is showing symptoms. In such cases, diagnostic tests will be performed to identify the causes and treatment method will be formulated, if needed.
Follow-up consultations for plastic surgery patients are typically scheduled a couple of weeks after the procedure. However, patients can see their plastic surgeon ahead of the scheduled follow-up if they develop worrying symptoms such as heavy or excessive bleeding, abdominal pain, swelling, or fever while recuperating. Fever is a sign of infection while excessive bleeding and abdominal pain are signs that the patient’s body isn’t coping well.
However, it is important to keep in mind that other symptoms, such as pain and nausea, are normal. The surgeon will provide medications to control these when the patient is discharged from the hospital.
Possible Risks and Complications
Although the consultation itself does not present any risks or complications, the healing process differs from person to person and this can be affected by the patient’s commitment to religiously follow post-care instructions.
The risk of not following the surgeon’s instructions during the recovery period is great. It’s important to remember that even though the end results of a plastic surgery procedure rely heavily on the skills of the surgeon, the patient’s actions during the recovery process can alter the desired results.
For instance, patients are instructed to refrain from taking any type of medication other than those prescribed. If the patient does not follow this instruction and takes certain drugs, these could interfere with the healing process, or even cause severe bleeding. If this happens, there’s a possibility that the wound won’t heal as quickly as anticipated, thus affecting the end result of the operation. Also, if the patient does not follow instructions on how to properly clean the wound and replace the dressing, an infection may develop and this can prolong the recovery period.
- McGrath MH, Pomerantz J. Plastic surgery. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 69.