Dr Robert Sheen, Specialist Plastic Surgeon and Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS) Vice President writes plastic surgery can make a profound impact on the lives of patients.
Whether someone undergoes a corrective procedure following trauma, to fix a birth deformity or for more cosmetic reasons, plastic surgery is undoubtedly one of the most creative and life-changing disciplines within modern medicine.
It’s not always for vanity reasons that we see patients coming into our practices. Often the desire to change something about the way a person looks has been considered for months, if not years before the actual surgery happens. So after all that time, it’s not surprising that many patients are thrilled when the dressings come off and the swelling has subsided, and they finally see themselves as they’ve always imagined.
A healthy body = a healthy mind
In my practice, I see a lot of massive weight loss patients. The journey that these patients have been on is often long and complicated. But even at the end of all the heavy lifting, calorie counting and exercise, many patients are left with skin that is often ruined by stretch marks and that is not needed anymore. No matter how slowly the weight is lost, for a patient who loses 50, 60 kilograms or more of weight they will be left with excess skin. This skin needs to be removed expertly, often requiring multiple operations to ensure the patient’s safety. The removal of the skin is the final hurdle in the emotional journey to finding happiness again for the person to feel comfortable in their own body.
Remedying long term self-esteem issues
The most significant and most apparent benefit of plastic surgery is that it can boost the self-esteem of a patient drastically. While we are told that inner-beauty is what matters most, it would be naïve to say that people aren’t judged or judging themselves by their outward appearance.
If someone has grown up always being unhappy with the way their ears protrude or a noticeable bump on their nose, then it’s reasonable for them to seek out help to fix this problem. In this day and age, the access to information has never been easier, so people are often well aware of what the surgical options are available to them. Also, with advances in surgical safety and techniques, many plastic surgery procedures can be performed with relatively little downtime and no need for an overnight stay in a hospital.
Good self-esteem makes for a better quality of life
When your self-esteem is improved, so is your self-confidence. Because you have now overcome a cosmetic drawback, you can now head out into the world with more self-assurance than you have ever had before. This manifests in the form of being more outgoing in your personal and professional life. And it’s not just the young who are seeking plastic surgery to improve their looks. These days with an ageing population, many people are working well into their 60’s and 70’s. So it’s not surprising that there is a group of older individuals who are interested in looking and feeling their best to stay competitive in the workplace.
Specialist Plastic Surgeons have a real responsibility to patients to ensure then that their expectations are aligned with the surgical outcomes. The consultation process provides a vital time for the Specialist Plastic Surgeon and the patient to come together and reach a mutual understanding about what the likely result of the operation will be. When these two marry, only then should surgery be agreed to by both parties.
The world we live in has changed
The stigmas surrounding plastic surgery have lessened in recent years with its widespread accessibility. The proliferation of social media has also given patients more access than ever before to celebrities and influencers who drive trends in beauty.
Cosmetic procedures, particularly those on the non-surgical end of the spectrum are now accepted as a normal part of achieving an appearance that makes a person feel happy. Rather than being seen as shameful, it’s almost a sense of empowerment that people are entitled to change whatever they like about their body or appearance.
There’s more fish in the sea
It’s important for patients, however, to be mindful that there are doctors parading as surgeons who are selling surgery that they perhaps do not need it, or in worst cases, cannot afford it. By seeking out the services of an ASAPS Member, patients can be assured that their surgeon is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS), the only accredited trainer of surgeons in Australia and New Zealand. ASAPS Members are beholden to the Codes of Conduct of the RACS and the Medical Board of Australia or the Medical Council of New Zealand. As well as the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons or the New Zealand Association of Plastic Surgeons, meaning they operate with respect and with your safety at the heart of every decision they make.
If you are electing to put yourself in this situation on the quest to improve your appearance, you certainly want to make sure you have done your research and that the doctor you agree to do your surgery is, in fact, a surgeon and is capable of achieving the outcomes you so desire.