Are you ready for surgery?

Before undergoing any kind of cosmetic procedure you should thoroughly inform yourself about the safety issues involved.

Aesthetic medicine and procedures to improve personal appearance are gaining increasing popularity in Australia, partly because technical advances have minimised the risks involved and the industry is well regulated. Even so, if you are contemplating surgery or even a non-invasive procedure you should make sure you know exactly what to expect.

Practitioner’s credentials

Choosing a surgeon is one of the most important decisions you can make. Ensure that the surgeon is appropriately qualified to practise and is a member of a professional body.

Find out what training the surgeon has and whether it is in the field of surgery you are considering. Ask how many of these types of procedures the surgeon performs in a year and how long he or she has been doing them. You can also check with the Australian Medical Board if the surgeon has ever been the subject of a malpractice suit. If you are considering a non-surgical procedure the same considerations in regard to appropriate training and experience apply.

Risk

During consultation, make sure you thoroughly go through the risks involved with the procedure, how often they occur and what action the practitioner will take. It’s a good idea to ascertain which hospital(s) a surgeon works in or can admit patients to in case of an emergency. This will enable you to check the surgeon’s credentials with the hospital.

If you are undergoing surgery, be sure to ask what the surgeon’s policy is in regard to surgical revision.

Anaesthesia

If a general anaesthetic is required, find out who will be administering it and what their qualifications are. Be aware that a small but significant percentage of the population is allergic to some of the chemicals in even local anaesthetic and raise this with your practitioner during consultation.

Location and facilities

Is the location where the procedure is to take place fully equipped with lifesaving and monitoring devices? Look for a practice clinic that has been accredited by the Australian Council on Health Care Standards (ACHS).

Sterility

Especially in the case of office-based procedures, a sterile environment and equipment are of cardinal importance. Ask the practitioner what protocols they have in place.

Avoid non-clinical settings, even for minor procedures. An injectable should always be administered using sterile equipment in an appropriate setting, by a person who has been properly trained.

Pain

Make sure that you are realistically informed about the amount of pain you will experience and how long discomfort should normally persist. Ask the practitioner what measures they will be taking to manage this and what you need to do. Exactly follow instructions relating to reducing pain after your procedure, including movement, drinking adequate fluids, taking medication, using ice packs or elevating the site to reduce swelling.

Preparation

Fully disclose any medical conditions you might have and medications that you are taking, including supplements. Some individuals seeking cosmetic surgery are considered poor candidates because of specific lifestyle factors that can affect their safety in the operating room and during recovery. People who are overweight or who smoke may be declined.

Smoking

Smoking significantly increases the risk of complications and wound healing during and after surgery. In fact many Australian cosmetic and plastic surgeons have an office policy not to operate on people who do not stop smoking at least six weeks prior to surgery. Not only are there well-recognised cardiac and respiratory risks caused by smoking, but smokers also have increased risks of wound infection and more adverse complications than non-smokers.

Some of the lifestyle factors that may be discussed during consultation include:

– Current weight and history of weight fluctuations
– Nutrition and vitamin supplements
– Exercise frequency and type (aerobic/non-aerobic)
– Smoking habits and exposure to secondhand smoke
– Alcohol consumption
– Sun exposure
– Sleep patterns
– Stress level and coping mechanisms

You should be able to expect:

– The practitioner to present their credentials on request.
– The practitioner to take the time during the consultation to answer all of your questions and fully both the benefits and the risks involved.
– That if you are undergoing surgery, the surgeon marks the operating site(s) on your body before the procedure.
– That any product used in the procedure has been approved by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
– The practitioner provides follow-up care.