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updated August 07, 2010

Cosmetic surgery: What to know beforehand

  • SUMMARY
  • Cosmetic surgery can help improve your appearance, but it's not for everyone. Understand the benefits, risks and limitations before you decide to pursue cosmetic surgery.
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MayoClinic Logo
Filed under: Boomer's Health

(MayoClinic.com) Cosmetic surgery, or plastic surgery, might seem like the easiest way to shave years off your appearance or improve your physique. If you're not satisfied with your appearance, cosmetic surgery may help you not only to look better, but also to feel better. As with any surgery, though, cosmetic surgery has risks and limitations. Here's what you need to know if you're considering cosmetic surgery.

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Factors to consider

Cosmetic surgery changes your appearance by altering parts of your body that function normally but don't look the way you want. Before you proceed with cosmetic surgery, consider:

  • Your expectations. Anticipate improvement, not perfection. If you expect cosmetic surgery to turn you into a movie star, you're bound to be disappointed. Don't count on surgery to save a rocky relationship, gain a promotion or improve your social life.
  • Expense. Cosmetic surgery isn't covered by most health insurance plans. The cost varies depending on the procedure, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Also consider the cost of any follow-up care or additional corrective procedures.
  • Risks. Dissatisfaction is possible after any type of cosmetic surgery. Surgical complications are possible, too — including excessive bleeding or infection at the surgical site.
  • Recovery. After cosmetic surgery, you may need days, weeks or even months to recover. Understand the physical effects that may be part of your recovery, as well as how the surgery may affect aspects of your personal and professional life.
  • Psychological changes. Your self-esteem might improve after cosmetic surgery, but cosmetic surgery isn't likely to relieve depression or other mental health conditions.
Finding a qualified cosmetic surgeon

If you decide to pursue cosmetic surgery, you'll probably have your choice of cosmetic surgeons. Choose one who specializes in the procedure you'd like to have done and is certified in the specialty by a board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties, such as the American Board of Plastic Surgery or the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Beware of misleading certifications from unrecognized or self-designated boards.

If you'll be having a procedure that requires general anesthesia, be sure that the operating facility has been accredited by a national- or state-recognized accrediting agency, such as The Joint Commission, or is licensed by the state in which the facility is located.

It's also important to remember that not all referrals are equal. Seek recommendations from people you trust, such as your family doctor or a friend who's had a successful procedure. If you call a hospital to ask for a recommendation, you might simply be referred to the next cosmetic surgeon on a revolving list.

Meeting your surgeon

When you've narrowed your choice of surgeons, schedule a consultation — or multiple consultations with different surgeons. The surgeon will evaluate the part of your body that you want treated, and you'll share your medical history, list any medications you're taking, and discuss your desires and expectations. During the initial consultation, ask the surgeon:

  • Am I a good candidate for this procedure? Why or why not?
  • Are there treatments other than surgery that might work just as well or better for me?
  • How many times have you done this procedure? What were the results?
  • Can you share photos or diagrams to help me understand the procedure and the expected results?
  • Can the desired effect be accomplished in one procedure, or do you anticipate multiple procedures?
  • What are the specific surgical options? What are the pros and cons for each?
  • What type of anesthetic will be used? How will it affect me?
  • Will I be hospitalized? If so, for how long?
  • What are the possible complications?
  • How will my progress be monitored after surgery? What follow-up care will I receive?
  • How much will the procedure cost?
  • How often is "touch-up" surgery needed? Is it covered in the cost estimate?

The closer you work with your surgeon to establish specific, measurable and achievable goals before surgery, the more likely you are to be satisfied with the results. Remember, though, even if you've done your homework and found a surgeon you like — at a price you can afford — the decision to pursue cosmetic surgery is yours and yours alone. Make sure you're absolutely comfortable with the surgeon and committed to your treatment choices.

©1998-2013 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Terms of use.
Read this article on Mayoclinic.com.


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