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  • By Wendy Lewis, The Knife Coach

    The idea of having plastic surgery can be a terrifying experience, especially if you’re a virgin, and even more so if it’s your face that is the subject of the op. To make it go smoothly, you need to prepare yourself both mentally and physically. Less invasive techniques with fewer and smaller incisions and faster acting anesthetic agents that have less side effects have simplified the whole process. Today, most face lifts, neck lifts, eyelid operations, rhinoplasty surgeries and breast procedures or liposuction can be done on an outpatient basis, either at a hospital, surgery center or in an accredited operating suite. Recovery usually takes place in your own home, so there is less disruption to your lifestyle and schedule. With short scar lifts and less invasive more modified procedures, you can be back to your normal routine within a week or two in most cases.

    It is very normal to be anxious before surgery. Even going to the dentist is known to trigger major anxiety for most people. Stress causes hormones to be released that in turn, can result in headaches, high blood pressure, sleeplessness, and irritability. For some, the fear of having anesthesia or losing control is worse than the anxieties over the surgery itself and the outcome combined.

    Outpatient surgery may not be right for everyone. If you have any serious medical condition or are having a long procedure such as a body lift, you may require hospitalization overnight. Same-day surgery may also not ideal if you are particularly anxious, live alone, or if you don’t want to bother family or friends to apply ice compresses and change your dressings. Ambulatory surgery places some of the burden on your caretaker, and it can be a huge favor to ask of a casual acquaintance, family member or even your best friend.

    When getting ready for surgery, your surgeon and his staff should be available to discuss what you are and are not permitted to do before and after surgery in terms of travel, medications, foods, bathing, washing your hair, sex, sleeping on your back, etc. Most of these are non-negotiable. You need to know exactly what is expected of you, and how to manage any unforeseen symptoms that may arise like excessive bleeding or swelling. Hiring a professional nurse or aide to care for you can relieve your anxiety and your family’s, and offer reassurance that you are doing well.

    Ask a lot of questions to make sure you know what to expect after surgery so there are no surprises. The more you know, the better your experience will be. Whenever a surgeon picks up a scalpel, it is real surgery, even if it is intended to beautify instead of cure disease. Your safety is paramount.  It is never worth taking unnecessary risks with your health purely for the sake of having less fat on your thighs or cartilage in your nose.

    Before having surgery, you will need to undergo some medical screening tests to identify any potential medical conditions to be dealt with before surgery, including anemia, clotting problems, Hepatitis B or C, liver problems, diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure. This can be performed by your medical doctor, at a lab, or at the hospital where your surgery will take place. If you are over 40, an EKG is usually required. For women of child bearing age, a pregnancy test may also be requested. A chest x-ray may be needed as well, especially for smokers. If you have any other medical conditions, additional testing may be requested. Ideally, you should be in optimal health before having surgery.

    If you have a cold or respiratory infection right before your operation, your surgery may have to be postponed. If you are running a temperature, your surgery may be canceled.

    Make sure to tell your doctor everything about your medical history – don’t hold anything back. Discuss any medications you take, both prescription and over the counter. Your doctor may ask you to give up alcohol, caffeine, aspirin and aspirin-containing drugs, hormone replacements or birth control pills, and any medications or vitamins that may slow down the clotting process and cause bruising such as Vitamin E, garlic, ginseng, and other supplements.

    There is always a possibility that something will go awry. No absolute guarantees can be given but your surgeon should make a conscientious effort to explain the procedure, risks, alternatives, and potential complications in detail so you know what could go wrong.  A satisfying cosmetic surgery experience requires meticulous planning.  The less you have to worry about during the days preceding your surgery, the more relaxed you can be going into the procedure.

    Once you are wheeled into the operating room, the anesthesiologist will give you an injection to make you drowsy and within seconds you will be completely unconscious. When you wake, the procedure will be over and you will have little memory of most of it. The next phase of your journey is the exciting path – on the road to speedy healing, quick recovery and a beautiful surgical result that you will enjoy for many years to come!

    Wendy Lewis is President of Wendy Lewis & Co Ltd, Global Aesthetics Consultancy, the author of 10 consumer health and beauty books, including Cosmetic Doctors & Dentists (Castle Connolly) and Plastic Makes Perfect; The Complete Cosmetic Beauty Guide (Orion). She is also Founder/Editor in Chief of www.beautyinthebag.com, an intergenerational beauty forum.

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    About Beauty in the Bag

    Since 2008 Beauty in the Bag is an intergenerational beauty forum founded by industry veterans Wendy Lewis, aka The Knife Coach and President of Wendy Lewis & Co Ltd, and Elaine Linker, co-founder of DDF. Voted among The HLMN Hot 100 Finalists, Beauty in the Bag was cited by Merge Magazine as the go-to aesthetic resource to “help you keep up with what’s going on in the industry.” Cosmetic Dermatology called Beauty in the Bag “the first beauty blog to bridge the generation gap between mothers and daughters.”