Patients often ask me about appropriate timing for their elective cosmetic surgery operations.
“Is now the right time to have this done?” is a very common question. It comes from all types of people considering operations across the whole spectrum of cosmetic plastic surgery.
It sounds like a simple question but in fact it is a very important question and the answer can involve a number of issues, some of them complex.
I feel the bottom line for a patient considering a cosmetic operation is that they should have the operation when they feel they want it and they need it. If this basic rule is followed then an improvement to satisfy the patient’s desires can be expected.
I think it is wrong for a patient to have an operation too early. That is to say, in anticipation of a deterioration in their appearance or physique over time. In this circumstance some mild improvement may be achieved but it may not be enough to make a person feel that the effort was worthwhile.
Sometimes I advise patients to hold on and not proceed with an operation now but to allow the circumstances to develop a little further so that a real and evident benefit can be perceived.
There are however a lot of other intricacies involved in timing operations.
The age of a patient is often a consideration. In some cases such as prominent ears surgery can be carried out at a very early age. This can have significant benefit for a child with respect to interactions at school and the subsequent teenage years of significant self awareness.
I think however that cosmetic surgery for adolescents is generally not an appropriate thing. On the other hand old age is not necessarily a barrier to surgery either. Some cosmetic plastic surgery procedures such as breast reductions and tummy tucks can considerably assist the lifestyle of older people. The overriding factor for these patients is their fitness to undergo surgery.
I am often asked questions with respect to timing in relationship to the seasons of the year. Some patients would prefer to have procedures which require extensive dressings performed during the autumn and winter months (although air conditioning goes a long way to resolving these problems). Procedures which require minimal dressings such as procedures around the face are perhaps not as influenced by the weather.
I think it is also important to plan surgery with respect to the seasons. If a patient is contemplating breast surgery in the anticipation of a coming summer, then it is best that this be planned several months prior to the summertime.
A classic example would be a patient contemplating breast augmentation. If she anticipates an active summer at the beach or on a boat, I would suggest that she have the surgery well in anticipation of the spring so that her recovery period is over beforethe highlights of summer begin.
Patients also ask me about timing with respect to events in their lives. Sometimes they don’t actually ask but I pick up on events which will be influential.
Functions such as weddings and anticipated holidays may need to be taken into account. Recovery periods from operation can be as long as eight to ten weeks. This means that the surgical procedures need to be performed well in advance if the mother of the bride, for example, is to look her best at the wedding or indeed the bride is to have a comfortable honeymoon/holiday.
I also think stressful events need to be considered. I would suggest that a patient who has had significant stress in their immediate lives, particularly stress within a relationship, should take the time to ensure that this stress is not going to impact on his/her procedure or recovery. If it is, then I would recommend that he/she perhaps hold back with the procedure until the stress is largely resolved.
So timing is important when considering cosmetic plastic surgery. I feel that it does need to be discussed with patients, perhaps in many facets depending upon the individual to optimize the outcome.