Arm yourself with knowledge before plastic surgery

Despite the fact that 8 out of 10 patients who have plastic surgery are happy with the results, nearly 40 percent wish they had done better research before the operation with regard to the potential side effects and complications.

According to a recently released survey by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) only 28 percent of patients had checked their surgeon's credentials and more than half admitted they were concerned about side effects and complications but many said they were uncomfortable asking their surgeon questions.

The survey was designed to assess the differences between 301 patients who had cosmetic plastic surgery (breast augmentation, tummy tuck, liposuction, etc) and 316 patients who had medically necessary surgery (gynecologic, orthopedic, ophthalmic, etc).

However, both groups reported similar experiences, perceptions and attitudes regarding their surgical experiences.

Patients were never directly asked about side effects at any point in the survey, but instead were asked about risks and complications, which in several questions included some well-known side effects such as nausea, vomiting and pain.

Before surgery, 91 percent of cosmetic plastic surgery patients said they knew what to expect, but fewer than half recalled being informed of some common side effects and complications such as bleeding (48 percent), nausea and vomiting (42 percent), or blood clots (34 percent).

Patients who experienced a side effect or complication reported being unable to accomplish tasks (35 percent), decreased energy levels (32 percent), and time away from work (27 percent) as negatively impacting their daily life during recovery.

Dr. Roxanne Guy, the president of ASPS, says the study suggests patients are not as aware as they should be when it comes to understanding the possible side effects and complications after surgery.

Although 80 percent of the 617 patients who had cosmetic and reconstructive surgery were satisfied with the results, nearly 40 percent said they wished they had done more research.

Plastic surgery has become increasingly popular ranging from tummy tucks, breast enlargements or reductions to face lifts etc.

More than 10.2 million dollars worth of cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were performed in the United States in 2005, an increase of 11 percent from the years before.

Another 5.4 million reconstructive procedures, operations for tumour removal, to repair cuts and scars and breast reduction were also done.

Top of the list was liposuction, followed by nose reshaping, breast augmentation, eyelid surgery and tummy tucks.

Facelifts though still popular did not make the list of the top five because patients are increasing opting for more minimally-invasive procedures such as Botox and chemical peels.

Dr. Guy says patients should ask questions during initial consultations about the surgeon's credentials, training experience, how many procedures of this type have been done, possible alternatives to surgery, and the risks involved.

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