Plastic surgery has often been the focus of many celebrity tabloids and reality TV shows and when thinking of plastic surgery, people often visualize celebrities who have undergone extreme surgical enhancements. While these cases of plastic surgery have been highly publicized for added shock value, the reality is that plastic surgery is actually a very common occurrence for people in their everyday lives. In addition to cosmetic surgical enhancements, plastic surgery is often a life-altering procedure performed for those suffering from a traumatic event or genetic condition that requires reconstructive surgery. It’s important to understand the difference between cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery and the types of procedures available to ensure that the postoperative patient can take the necessary steps during their plastic surgery recovery to avoid excess pain, discomfort, or permanent damage.
The Difference Between Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery
While cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery are very similar specialties, there are some unique differences that set the two professions apart. Cosmetic surgery refers to an elective procedure that enhances or reshapes part of the body. These types of procedures are often not covered by insurance and doctors performing cosmetic surgery do not require special certification or training. Plastic surgery refers to reconstructive surgery on parts of the body affected aesthetically or functionally by a multitude of illnesses or injuries. Plastic surgery is performed with a referral to a board-certified specialist and is covered under medical insurance. Board-certified plastic surgeons undergo 6-8 years of residency and hands-on training in their field and must adhere to the policies and procedures of the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Both plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery include an array of procedures including nonsurgical, minimally invasive, or surgical procedures.
Types of Plastic Surgery Procedures
There are three different types of plastic surgery that include nonsurgical or noninvasive techniques, minimally invasive procedures, and surgical procedures. In the most basic terms, nonsurgical techniques include any procedure that does not require an incision, puncture or cutting into the skin. These may include procedures such as laser skin resurfacing, light chemical peels, or cryolipolysis (more commonly known as CoolSculpting). Minimally invasive procedures require only small punctures or incisions into the skin and may or may not be performed using local anesthetics or numbing agents. Minimally invasive procedures include Botox injections, lip fillers, and deep chemical peels. Surgical procedures involve an incision into the skin and are typically performed under general anesthesia by a board-certified plastic surgeon.
Recovery from Plastic Surgery
The length and extent of recovery from plastic surgery largely depend on the type of procedure performed, but no procedure is without risk. Nonsurgical procedures require little to no recovery time and patients can generally return to normal activity the same day as these procedures while monitoring for signs of adverse reactions. Adverse reactions to nonsurgical procedures are rare but can include mild pain, increased risk of nerve pain, redness, infection, changes in skin color, or scarring. Reactions are typically self-limiting and resolve within 2-10 days of the procedure. Common side effects from minimally invasive procedures during recovery include swelling, mild pain at the site of injection (when applicable), slight bruising, or itching that lasts anywhere from 1-2 weeks. These reactions can be minimized by applying a cold compress to the affected area, applying anti-itch creams as needed, and using appropriate techniques during the procedure. More serious adverse reactions include headaches, infection, scarring, allergic reactions, development of granulomas, paralysis, and rarely death. Patients suffering severe adverse reactions should seek medical treatment immediately to minimize the risk of permanent damage. Patients undergoing surgical procedures have the longest recovery time of about 6-8 weeks and are at greatest risk for adverse reactions including adverse reactions to anesthesia, infections, excessive bleeding, blood clots, scarring, nerve damage, the opening of the surgical incision, hematomas, and more. Patients undergoing surgical procedures should continue to follow up with their doctor regularly until the healing process is complete and seek emergency medical treatment if they are suffering severe adverse reactions.
How to Minimize Postoperative Risks During Recovery
The best way to prevent adverse reactions after undergoing plastic surgery is by being informed before, during, and after surgery. When choosing a plastic surgeon, patients should make sure they review the qualifications of their doctor and choose a board-certified surgeon or other qualified healthcare professional. During the initial appointments, patients should feel free to ask as many questions as necessary to establish open communication with their doctor and ensure they know the risks and feel comfortable undergoing surgery. After surgery, patients should strictly follow any postoperative instructions from their physician. This includes taking all prescribed medications, refraining from drinking alcohol or smoking, maintaining a healthy diet, adding movement into daily routines while making sure not to overdo it, attending all follow-up appointments, and altering their doctor immediately if they notice any abnormalities.