Tips and Traps on Recovery

Planning and Anticipation of Recovery

How to Plan Your Recovery

  • If you work weekdays, schedule your operation on a Friday to give you an extra weekend of recovery before returning to your job.
  • Expect to have blood drawn at a hospital or lab prior to surgery.
    A mammogram is usually obtained before breast surgery. If you are over 40 or have medical problems, you may also
    need an EKG or chest x-ray. The preoperative testing process usually requires a separate visit and will take 30 minutes to two hours.
  • Purchase two weeks of groceries and household supplies.
    Prepare single-serving meals and freeze them.
  • Anticipate the need to reduce swelling following facial surgery by applying ice and elevating your head. Crushed ice can be placed in a plastic bag, wrapped in a small towel, and freshened regularly. Alternatively, frozen peas are tidy, reusable, and maintain their cold temperature. For elevation of your head, stacked pillows are prone to failure, but a dependable backrest can be purchased in department stores for less than $25. A recliner is a reliable way to elevate your head but may be uncomfortable for sleeping.
  • If you are uncomfortable telling your friends and coworkers you are having cosmetic surgery, then you may wish to tell them you are taking vacation at home, you are having reconstructive surgery, or you are having “female surgery.” Each of these explanations may be true, given your situation.
  • Arrange transportation for the day of surgery and for your follow-up appointments. Anticipate that you will not be able to drive on the day of surgery or while you are taking pain medication.
  • Ask a friend or family member to stay with you during your first night at home. This person should be willing and able to refresh your ice packs, prepare your food, check on you through the night, recognize problems, and call your doctor. If no one is available, consider hiring a private duty nurse. Your plastic surgeon can direct you to a reputable nursing agency. Anticipate paying $300-$500 per day for this service.
  • Fill prescriptions for antibiotics and pain medication prior to the day of surgery. You may pick up the prescriptions from your doctor’s office before surgery and have them filled when you stock up on groceries.

What to Anticipate after Surgery

  • Expect to look worse before you look better.
    Nearly all cosmetic surgery procedures involve swelling and bruising. As swelling and bruising fades, you will begin to see your result.
  • If you had surgery on your face or neck, keep your head elevated for two to three days to minimize swelling and speed recovery. Do not underestimate the importance of elevation: keeping your head elevated will reduce your recovery time, whereas failure to do so will prolong it and may create disturbing asymmetries.
  • Ask your doctor when you may shower, bathe, and wash your hair. Often this is allowed within a day or two of surgery.
  • You will be able to return to work between three days and two weeks following most cosmetic operations,
    depending on the procedure and your occupation.
  • Do not drive while you are taking pain medication because it will alter your judgment and delay your responses. Following most operations, you will be able to drive once you stop taking pain medication.
  • Consult with your doctor before taking any vitamins or herbal medications which you may believe are harmless. Some of these medications may cause problems.
  • You may resume exercise once your doctor allows it. Do not exercise before that time, even if you feel able. Exercise may worsen your swelling and confound your final result.
  • Vitamin E is falsely perceived to minimize scar visibility. Whether taken in pill form or as a topical cream, there is no evidence that it improves scar appearance. In fact, some studies have suggested that Vitamin E causes skin irritation when applied topically.
  • Use extreme caution when exposing yourself to the sun following surgery. During the first year, protect all surgical sites with potent sun block (SPF 15-40).