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Cosmetic surgery and procedures change, restore, or enhance your appearance. There are many reasons for wanting to change or enhance your looks. If you have had burns or other injuries, were born with a birth defect, or want to change parts of your body for other reasons, you may choose to have a cosmetic surgery or procedure.
Cosmetic surgery commonly includes:
Nonsurgical cosmetic procedures include:
This topic focuses on elective cosmetic surgery and procedures rather than reconstructive surgery.
For most of us, our physical appearance affects how we see ourselves and how others see us. The size, shape, and look of our bodies may affect how we feel about ourselves and even how we live our lives.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to change the way you look. Some people do this through diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes. Others have cosmetic surgery, especially if they are unhappy with a certain part of their body or appearance that can be changed.
Think carefully about the decision to have cosmetic surgery. Surgery always involves some risk. The risks depend on your health and the type of procedure you have. They can range from slight scarring to infection and even death. Serious problems are rare, but they can occur.
Also, there is no guarantee that you will get the results you want. More than one procedure may be needed. Results are lasting unless you have surgery again. Talk with your doctor about the possible risks and benefits of the surgery.
Insurance rarely covers the cost of elective cosmetic surgery and procedures. Unless the surgery is done for medical reasons, you will probably have to pay for it yourself.
These surgeries and procedures can cost a lot. Be sure that you know the total cost of the surgery, including the costs of the procedure itself, any medicines you'll need before or after the procedure, follow-up treatments, office visits, and other expenses.
Surgery should not take the place of good health habits. There are steps you can take to help you look and feel young and healthy.
Be sure to have realistic expectations about how cosmetic surgery may or may not affect your life. For people who are unhappy with their overall appearance rather than just a certain part of their appearance, cosmetic surgery is probably not the answer. These people are unlikely to be happy with the results of just one cosmetic surgery procedure. They may end up having one procedure after another, which can be harmful and expensive.
Before you choose to have cosmetic surgery, think about your overall health. Remember that all procedures have risks. And having a health condition such as high blood pressure or heart disease may increase the risk.
Talk to your doctor if you are thinking of having a cosmetic procedure or surgery.
You may have several cosmetic surgery or procedure options to enhance or restore your appearance. Talking with your doctor can help you choose the option that best fits your needs.
If you are thinking about having cosmetic surgery or a cosmetic procedure, consider the following questions before making a decision.
This is an important question. Take the time to think it through. Cosmetic surgery involves risk and expense. It can permanently change your physical appearance, possibly in a way you didn't expect or that leaves you unhappy. Make sure that cosmetic surgery is what you want. It is not a good idea to change your appearance because someone else wants you to or because you think it will help you get a particular job. If you are content with your appearance, do not let anyone pressure you into having cosmetic surgery. The decision needs to be your own.
If you are unhappy with your appearance, consider other ways to approach your "problem" area before deciding to have cosmetic surgery. For instance, lotions and creams prescribed by your doctor can reduce fine wrinkles. Or makeup may help conceal or de-emphasize wrinkles, scars, and other skin changes. If you are unhappy with the shape of your body, changing your dress and clothing style may help you feel better about how you look. Diet and exercise can often help you achieve the body shape you desire.
If these measures don't work for you, then you may wish to consider cosmetic surgery. Satisfaction levels are generally very high. Your self-image and attitude toward your own body may improve, which can boost your confidence and self-esteem. For some people, this feeling may not last over time.
You are more likely to be happy with the results of cosmetic surgery if you have clear, realistic expectations and a clear understanding of why you want to have surgery. First, decide exactly what you would like to change or improve. Then discuss those goals with your doctor, who can tell you whether your goals are realistic and how best to achieve them. Looking at photographs of desirable features may help you decide what you want. Remember, though, that cosmetic surgery is used to enhance your own features and not necessarily to duplicate those of another person whose physical appearance you admire.
Get the facts about what to expect from a certain procedure. Have your doctor show you photographs and explain the full range of possible results. Computer imaging can be helpful, but it can also be misleading. There is no guarantee that the end results will match those created by the computer. With some types of surgery, the results may not appear for several weeks or months after the procedure. It may take several sessions or a combination of procedures to achieve the look you want. And results are not always permanent.
Remember that the effects of time, gravity, aging, and sun exposure continue after cosmetic surgery. Surgery is no substitute for good health habits. Getting proper nutrition and regular exercise, guarding against sun exposure, managing stress, not smoking, and avoiding drugs and excess alcohol can go a long way toward helping you look and feel young and healthy.
Try to have realistic expectations about how cosmetic surgery might affect your life. Changing an aspect of your body that you are not happy with may make you feel more attractive, more satisfied with your appearance, and freer to do things that in the past made you uncomfortable, either emotionally or physically. For some people, the impact may be dramatic. But don't expect cosmetic surgery to solve all your problems. It may change how you look and feel, but it won't change who you are.
Talking with someone who has had cosmetic surgery may raise issues that you had not considered. Ask how the person felt about the results, whether the surgery achieved the results hoped for, and what the total experience was like. Doctors who have experience with cosmetic surgery can also provide perspective on the issues involved.
Some types of cosmetic surgery are simple outpatient procedures that allow you to return to your regular activities right away. Others may require you to take days or even weeks off work. Be sure that you understand what your recovery will involve and that you are able to follow your doctor's instructions. Important questions to ask include:
Although many types of cosmetic surgery have very few risks, no procedure is risk-free. The risks vary according to your health and the type of procedure being done. They can range from slight scarring to infection and even death. Serious complications are rare, but they can occur.
It is possible that you may be putting your health and life at unnecessary risk when you have cosmetic surgery. It's important to weigh the risks against the possible benefits.
The other major risks of cosmetic surgery are that it may not produce the changes you want and that it may produce changes that leave you even more unhappy than you were before. Additional treatment may be needed to correct the results of the initial surgery. But the results of cosmetic surgery are often irreversible.
Insurance rarely covers the cost of elective cosmetic surgery done to improve appearance. Reconstructive surgery may be covered if it will improve your physical function or will correct a problem present from birth (congenital) or caused by an accident. But unless cosmetic surgery is done for medical reasons, you will probably have to pay for it yourself.
Examples of cosmetic surgery done for medical reasons that may be covered (or partially covered) by insurance include:
Cosmetic surgery can be quite expensive, especially when you are paying for all of it out of your own pocket. Be sure that you know the total cost of the surgery, including the costs of the procedure itself (such as surgeon fees, anesthesia fees, and operating facility fees), any medicine before or after the procedure, follow-up treatments, office visits, and other expenses.
Also be prepared to cover costs resulting from complications during or after surgery or the need for "touch-up" surgery. Insurance may not cover treatment for complications that arise from cosmetic surgery. Some procedures, including skin treatments, liposuction, and breast enlargement, may have to be repeated as time goes by, to maintain the results. You will have to pay for these repeated treatments just as you paid for the initial treatment.
Finding a cosmetic surgeon that you have confidence in and are comfortable talking to is extremely important when you are considering cosmetic surgery or procedures. You and your doctor can work together to build a treatment plan that both meets your needs and is realistic.
You may want to schedule a consultation with a cosmetic surgeon. Many cosmetic surgeons offer free or low-cost consultations. Sometimes a consultation fee is applied to the cost of the surgery.
No other single thing may influence the results of cosmetic surgery as strongly as the doctor's level of experience. Don't be afraid to ask about the doctor's experience with the procedure you are considering. Request before-and-after photographs of other people who have had the procedure done. And ask to see the worst results as well as the typical and best results.
Doctors with special training in cosmetic surgery should be board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery or the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
Take your time finding a cosmetic surgeon that you like and trust. Ask your doctor for recommendations. And contact the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, or the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery for a list of qualified surgeons in your area.
You will have a greater chance of being happy with the results of cosmetic surgery if you find a cosmetic surgeon who listens to you and understands what you want to achieve. People differ in what they consider an "ideal" face, nose, breast, or body type. Your and your doctor's vision of what is ideal may not be the same. Make sure that your doctor understands what you want. Also remember that cosmetic surgery is done to enhance your own appearance and not necessarily to duplicate that of someone whose physical appearance you admire.
It is important to understand and accept what can and cannot be achieved with cosmetic surgery, based on your skin or body type, age, medical history, the surgeon's experience, the limits of technology, and other things. A good cosmetic surgeon can help you understand how these things affect your cosmetic surgery options.
Any licensed medical doctor can legally perform cosmetic surgery, but the levels of training and experience in cosmetic surgery vary widely. For your own safety, avoid doctors who are not board-certified, and look for a cosmetic surgeon with a lot of experience. Doctors who most commonly do cosmetic surgery and procedures include:
You may also check the credentials of any outpatient surgery center that you are considering, to make sure it is safe and reliable. Look for clinics that have a well-established track record for good results and high-quality service, and avoid those that do not. The facility should be licensed by the state in which it is located and accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting organization. To check a facility's accreditation status, contact the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Plastic Surgery Facilities (www.aaaasf.org), the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (www.aaahc.org), or the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (www.jointcommission.org).
Other sources of helpful information include consumer health groups, people who have had cosmetic surgery, other doctors, books and articles, and the Internet. But do not put too much trust in before-and-after photos you may find on the Internet. Some may have been altered by computer or are likely to represent an extremely positive result, not necessarily a typical result. In either case, before-and-after photos on the Internet may give you a false impression of the results you can expect.
Cosmetic surgery is not an emergency procedure, so there is no reason to rush into it. Do not be pressured into making a quick decision. Get as much information as you need to feel comfortable about your decision. Don't be afraid to get a second and even a third opinion, especially if you are not completely comfortable with your first doctor visit.
Other Works Consulted
Kontis TC (2009). Scar revision and skin resurfacing. In JB Snow Jr, PA Wackym, eds., Ballenger's Otorhinolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, 17th ed., chap. 57, pp. 707-715. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
Kontis TC, Rhee JS (2009). Rejuvenation of the upper face and midface. In JB Snow Jr, PA Wackym, eds., Ballenger's Otorhinolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, 17th ed., chap. 60, pp. 741-748. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
Losee JE, et al. (2015). Plastic and reconstructive surgery. In FC Brunicardi et al., eds., Schwartz's Principles of Surgery, 10th ed., pp. 1829-1894. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.
Murakami CS, Ambro BT (2009). Rejuvenation of the lower face and neck. In JB Snow Jr, PA Wackym, eds., Ballenger's Otorhinolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, 17th ed., chap. 61, pp. 751-757. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerKeith Alan Denkler, MD - Plastic Surgery
Current as ofOctober 5, 2017
Current as of:
October 5, 2017
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
& Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Keith Alan Denkler, MD - Plastic Surgery
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