For those who wish they could look just a little younger or change an unflattering feature, they may want to consider cosmetic surgery. A minor adjustment can smooth away the wrinkles in your brow; more elaborate procedures can "lift" your sagging face or remove excess fat from your thighs or stomach. Properly performed, cosmetic surgery can have a profound effect on how you look and feel. The boost in confidence and self-esteem could affect virtually every aspect of your life.
But just because an operation is labeled cosmetic doesn’t mean it is risk-free. Of course, some procedures are chancier than others, but every operation carries some possibility of complications. Infection, disfigurement, paralysis, and even death can occur as a result of virtually any kind of surgery. Such undesirable consequences of cosmetic procedures are estimated to be no higher than those of other types of surgery.
Below are six of the most common procedures for which patients visit cosmetic surgeons. All of them carry risks, from scarring to facial paralysis and even, in the case of liposuction, death. Choosing a highly skilled surgeon can drastically reduce the odds of a mishap.
1. Eyebrow Lift – This procedure minimizes brow wrinkles, droopy eyebrows, hooded eyes, and frown lines by removing excess tissue and tightening the skin on the forehead. Recovery time is 7 to 10 days at home (less if performed with an endoscope, which requires fewer incisions); bruising lasts two to three weeks. Permanence is about 5 to 10 years. Risks include loss of facial motion, muscle weakness, infection, scarring, and asymmetrical look.
2. Eyelid Surgery (blepharoplasty) – This procedure corrects puffy bags under eyes and sagging lids above by removing excess fat, skin, and muscle. Recovery time is 7 to 10 days at home; no reading allowed for two or three days, and no contact-lens use for 14 days or longer; bruising and swelling last for several weeks. Permanence is several years; sometimes for life. Risks include temporary blurred or double vision, infection, bleeding, swelling, and dry eyes; permanent difficulty in closing eyes completely; drooping of lower lids necessitating further surgery; and permanent blindness.
3. Face-lift (rhytidectomy) – This procedure improves sagging facial features, including loose jowls and crepey neck, by removing excess fat, tightening muscles, and redraping skin. Recovery time is 10 to 14 days at home; bruising lasts two to three weeks. Permanence is about 5 to 10 years. Risks include facial paralysis, infection, bleeding, excessive scarring, and drastic change in facial appearance.
4. Liposuction – This procedure changes body shape by removing fatty deposits. It is performed by sucking fat out through a tube connected to a vacuum device. In tumescent liposuction, the area is first infused with a saline-anesthetic solution to enable fat to be removed with less swelling and bruising. In ultrasound liposuction, sound waves are used to liquefy fat before removing it. Recovery time is 1 to 2 weeks at home; swelling and bruising last one to six months or longer. Permanence is lifetime, with sensible diet and exercise. Risks include rippling or sagging of skin, pigment changes, skin damage, excessive fluid loss leading to shock, infection, burns, and cardiac arrest. Complications from liposuction have been the cause of several deaths.
5. Nose Surgery (rhinoplasty) – This procedure reshapes the nose and may reduce breathing obstructions by cutting or reshaping cartilage or bone or by grafting bone. Recovery time is 1 to 2 weeks at home initially; complete healing may take a year or more. Permanence is lifetime. Risks include infection and damage to tiny blood vessels, causing red blotches on nose; may require repair surgery.
6. Tummy Tuck (abdominoplasty) – This procedure flattens a sagging stomach by removing excess fat and skin and tightening muscles. Recovery time is 2 to 4 weeks at home; no strenuous activity for four to six weeks; scars may be highly visible for 3 months to two years. Permanence is lifetime, with sensible diet and exercise. Risks include blood clots, infection, and scarring; may require a second operation.
Even when your cosmetic surgery proceeds without a hitch, you may not be totally delighted with the outcome. Digital photography and computer imaging programs can give you a flattering preview of what your new nose, face, or abdomen may look like, but your appearance after surgery depends to a large extent on the skill of your surgeon – as well as factors unique to you: skin type, bone structure, healing ability, and overall health.
If you find yourself having unrealistically high expectations about what your new look will do for you, it would be wise to mention this to your surgeon. An experienced surgeon should help you prepare for the fact that the outcome of the surgery doesn’t always meet the expectations of the patient.
Reading more information on cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery procedures can be a valuable thing to do before going through the operation itself.