The day of surgery is often the biggest milestone in a patient’s mind when undergoing cosmetic surgery.  Once surgery is over and you are taken out of the operating room, cosmetic surgery recovery is an equally important part of your surgical journey.  Ten tips for enhancing your cosmetic surgery recovery are as follow:

          Follow recommended bathing instructions

Detailed bathing and wound care instructions will be given following surgery.  After most cosmetic surgeries, it is recommended to begin showering daily and gently wash your surgical site and incisions with soap and running water.  Exceptions exist (for example, keeping the splint dry following cosmetic nasal surgery) and will be discussed pre-operatively.  In general, gently washing your incisions with soap and water may lower the risk of developing a surgical site infection and may promote healing.

          Allow for appropriate recovery time before returning to work

Please discuss your job responsibilities with your surgeon pre-operatively to arrange appropriate recovery time off from work.  Following most cosmetic surgeries, patients are generally able to return to light office work within a week or so of surgery.  For more strenuous jobs or more extensive surgery, longer recovery time may be needed.

          Wean pain medication during early cosmetic surgery recovery

Prescription pain medications have associated side effects and risks.  Common side effects include nausea, drowsiness, and constipation.  It is recommended to wean prescription pain medication as soon as possible.  Within the first few days, most patients will be able to begin alternating doses with Tylenol plain or extra-strength and should then be able to discontinue prescription pain medication.  Once no longer taking narcotics and able to turn and mobilize sufficiently, you may also resume driving.

          Avoid taking anti-inflammatories if possible

Advil, Aleve, and other anti-inflammatories should be avoided over one month post-operatively given increased risk of bleeding and bruising.  Tylenol plain or extra-strength may be safely taken without these associated risks.

          Get adequate sleep during cosmetic surgery recovery

While weaning prescription pain medication, you may still wish to take a tablet before bed over the first few nights to ensure a good night’s sleep during early recovery.  Please ask your surgeon regarding appropriate sleeping position based on your specific surgery.  Following most head and neck procedures (e.g. facelift, eyelift, rhinoplasty), sleeping with your head elevated on 2-3 pillows will reduce swelling over the month following surgery.  Sleeping on your back is generally recommended following tummy tuck and cosmetic breast surgery to lower the risk of developing asymmetric swelling or applying pressure to your surgical site.  Following tummy tuck, it is also helpful to maintain your head and upper back elevated when sleeping with a pillow placed under your knees.  These positioning maneuvers will maintain your waist in slight flexion following tummy tuck, which may reduce tension on the incision and also reduce discomfort.

          Arrange help with childcare and housework during cosmetic surgery recovery

Instructions will vary for each patient based on individual responsibilities.  If you have young children at home, please arrange help with care to ensure you are able to follow post-operative activity restrictions over the first month.

          Avoid exercise for one month

Over the first 4-6 weeks, it is important to avoid exercise which may increase one’s risk of bleeding, bruising, and further swelling.  Any activity that increases your heart rate and blood pressure, even if not targeting the specific surgical site (for example, crunches following tummy tuck), should still be avoided given increased risk of bleeding and healing complications.

          Focus on healing well and defer judgements regarding aesthetic outcome

I recommend for patients to defer any judgements regarding aesthetic outcome until well healed.  When seeing your surgeon for suture removal, there is still swelling and bruising present.  It takes several weeks to months to see early results following cosmetic surgery.  Final outcomes may take up to one year to become apparent as scar maturation completes.

          Wear post-op compression garments as directed

Compression garments are recommended following certain cosmetic surgeries.  The recommended length of wear and specific instructions will be discussed before surgery.  Following tummy tuck, cosmetic breast surgery, and liposuction, surgical garments are generally recommended for 6 weeks.  Following submental (chin) liposuction, I recommend for patients to wear the compression garment for one week full-time.  If returning to work at that time, I then recommend wearing the garment outside of working hours over the following 3 weeks as able.  This applies gentle compression to the surgical site to reduce swelling and provide support.

          Call your surgeon if any concerns arise

This may be your first time undergoing major surgery.  If any concerns arise during your recovery, please have a low threshold for contacting your surgeon.  S/he may advise you to send a photograph for reassurance or arrange earlier follow up if needed.

Following these recommendations for cosmetic surgery recovery may help a patient reach his or her aesthetic goals and lower risk of healing complications.  Please contact us if you are considering cosmetic surgery in Toronto and wish to schedule a consultation with Dr. Power.

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