If you’re going to get plastic surgery, you want the results to last as long as possible. There are lots of factors that affect long-term results (and short-term, too), but there are many things you can do to give yourself the best recovery and maintain your new look far into the future. The most important is giving your body the time and rest it needs to heal. Doing too much, or too soon, can negatively affect your ultimate results as well as delay healing.
Surgical procedures are designed to provide more extensive results than non-surgical treatment options, so they are by nature more invasive. Therefore patients recovering from surgical procedures typically need more down-time to recover, have restrictions on heavy lifting and require more extensive care of their healing surgical scars.
Location Affects the Recovery Process
Just as Dr. Elizabeth Hernandez tailors each surgical procedure for each patient, she provides different recovery instructions depending on the specific surgery performed. For example, a patient recovering from a facial surgery should remain upright as much as possible during the day and sleep in a recliner with the head elevated. A patient recovering from a tummy tuck should walk leaning forward for 1 week to decrease the tension on the lower abdomen incision and sleep in a recliner for 2 to 3 days for comfort. However, a patient recovering from a buttock lift should sleep face down for 2 weeks to minimize the pressure on their buttocks.
The Surgeon You Choose Affects Short-Term and Long-Term Results
It is very important to select a surgeon you can communicate with well, cautions Dr. Hernandez. This ensures your expectations will be understood and met. Good communication is important during the initial consultation but also during the recovery period, as you’ll have to understand, learn and perform incision care, drain care, etc. at home. This affects short-term results.
Selecting a surgeon with extensive experience in performing the same surgical procedure you are considering is important for both short-term and long-term results.
Lifestyle Affects Results
A healthy, well-balanced diet and regular exercise are very important following surgery, because maintaining a healthy weight and good body condition will help you main surgical results, too. Healthy weight and body going into surgery will help you heal faster and more comfortably. Smoking, in particular, impairs healing and can cause post-surgical complications. Dr. Hernandez always advises smokers to stop prior surgery and never start again.
Follow Doctor’s Orders
Whatever type of plastic surgery you have, it is critical to follow Dr. Hernandez’s post-procedure instructions exactly. You may think you’re just sitting around, or some of her instructions may be uncomfortable, but healing is tough work for your body.
For example, strenuous exercise causes swelling in freshly treated areas. This can lead to fluid build-up, which may be noted as increased output from surgical drains or increased swelling in the surgical site. Some patients may develope a pocket of fluid in their tissues called a seroma which would need to be drained with needle aspiration or by placement of a surgical drain into the seroma. The seroma can become infected and require drainage as well as antibiotic treatment.
High tension from exercise too early in the recovery process can also lead to wound dehiscence (in which the incision re-opens internally or externally). The re-opened wound will require additional care and antibiotic treatment, and it could lead to wider, more noticeable surgical scars.
Skin Care Products Can Help
Surgical scars gradually mature (change, become lighter and softer) over about 1 year. Dr. Hernandez recommends protecting surgical scars with sunscreen during that time because sunlight can cause the scar to thicken and become darker. Sunscreen also protects the skin and limits the signs of aging. Scar therapy skin care products containing silicone are useful in helping the scar fade and soften faster. Creams containing growth factors can also help incisions heal faster and minimize scarring.