Recently, the U.S. has seen a spike in plastic surgery procedures such as tummy tucks, liposuction, and breast reconstruction. In fact, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there were 15.6 million cosmetic procedures and 6.8 million reconstructive procedures performed in 2020. Further, there is often a spike in these types of procedures in the winter, as this time of year typically allows for patients to spend more time inside wearing comfortable clothing that masks swelling or bruising from their procedure. Winter holidays and breaks also allow for ample recovery time. With over 20 million patients heading to their plastic surgeons’ offices for these surgeries every year, it is important for patients and their caregivers to understand how to minimize risks, recover quickly, and get back to their daily routines.
Whether you are seeking elective cosmetic surgery or needing a reconstructive procedure such as a breast reconstruction following a mastectomy or lumpectomy due to breast cancer, these tips and tricks can get you back on your feet swiftly!
Have an Open Conversation About Your Current Health Habits and Goals
You should never be afraid to have a discussion with your clinician about how to ensure an optimal surgery and recovery experience, especially if you have questions. It’s your provider’s job to help navigate and answer any surgery-related questions or worries you may have. Prior to your surgery date, be honest with your doctor about any habits that can potentially hinder the procedure or recovery such as smoking, alcohol consumption, allergies, and current medications. It’s important to be direct in these conversations, especially when outlining your goals for the procedure. With accurate knowledge, providers can ensure that you are receiving the best individualized care and assessment for your situation.
Discuss Recovery and Pain Management Options
In addition to conversations about your surgery goals, discussions about pain management and recovery should be a priority. Prior to surgery, talk to your doctor about the range of pain management options available to you, including opioid alternatives. Even as the opioid epidemic continues to impact almost every community across the country, patients often don’t realize that non-opioid options that can be used before, during and after surgery exist to manage pain after surgery, and that they have a right to ask about these options. In fact, according to a recent survey, 94% of health care providers agree that non-opioid pain management options can positively impact recovery and the ability to return to normal function following surgery by getting patients home from the hospital sooner. It’s important that you feel comfortable bringing up this topic with your doctor, especially if you have any worries around the potential risks and side effects of opioids, such as nausea, constipation, the risk for addiction or dependence, etc. Luckily, non-opioids can safely and effectively manage pain while potentially reducing, or even eliminating, the need for opioids after surgery.
Get Enough Steps & Sleep
Getting up and moving around is one of the most important things you can do after surgery. Taking a brief walk every so often will help you avoid serious complications that can put you back in the hospital, such as pneumonia or blood clots. Be sure to clear this with your doctor beforehand and be careful not to engage in any advanced exercise or physical activity until cleared to do so. While it is important for you to move your body, you shouldn’t be performing any extraneous activities that can injure the surgical area.
Getting enough sleep also plays a crucial role in tissue healing and repair, as your body is able to create white blood cells to fight off any infections that may hinder healing. Taking the time to relax and decompress after your surgery will allow for a smoother recovery. During this time, you can also ask your surgeon about an appropriate timeline for fully returning to everyday, and/or strenuous, activities to ensure you stay on track, and don’t push yourself too far.
Continue A Proper Diet, and Enlist Help
Surgery can leave many patients with a loss of appetite or feelings of nausea and constipation. However, food is fuel, and it is important to stay hydrated and continue a healthy diet after surgery. Drinking water and eating proper meals can help promote the healing process, minimize common complications, and help get you home from the hospital sooner. If you aren’t able, or don’t remember to prepare easy meals ahead of time for yourself, ask a family member or friend to lend a hand. It helps to have assistance during the recovery period in general, especially in the case of any last-minute needs or emergencies.
Follow Your Discharge Papers
Following the instructions provided by your care team will ensure that your recovery is as smooth as possible. Every patient’s care instructions will be different, but they will all have the same goal – optimal recovery. From taking medications at a specific time to how to care for your incision, your care team will provide you with all the information you need along the way. But, if you have any questions, you should feel empowered to ask!
Overall, it’s imperative that surgeons and patients foster a relationship that includes two-way, open dialogue early in the process so that patients’ needs are met, and the end results of their procedures are positive. Following these tips and having these conversations with your doctor can ensure that your expectations are clear, and that you have an enhanced experience before, during, and after surgery.