Cosmetic Surgery: What to Know Before Going Under the Knife

Cosmetic surgeries are surgical interventions that seek to alter a physical aspect of the face or body. They range in complexity and severity, from liposuction to remove fat from the abdomen to bone-shaping procedures like rhinoplasty and beyond. Around 18 million cosmetic surgeries take place each year, the most common of which include breast enhancement surgeries and cheek lifts.

Crucially, cosmetic surgery is distinct from ‘elective’ surgery – a common misconception made in part due to ambiguous reporting from media sources. Elective procedures are non-emergency surgeries that might address a condition or improve quality of life; while elective surgeries might include cosmetic surgeries such as rhinoplasty (to reconstruct a nose after an accident) or even breast enhancement (to treat dysphoric conditions), the umbrella term also covers joint replacements and hernia correction. Why might cosmetic surgery be an option, and what are the risks?

The Reasons for Cosmetic Surgery

There are multiple reasons why an individual may elect to undergo a cosmetic surgical procedure. Some use surgery to attain their ideal aesthetic, whether to correct perceived wrongs with their current form or to add features to themselves. 

These are by no means the only recipients of cosmetic surgery though. Cosmetic surgeries are also used to correct disfigurements and deformities, whether congenital or received through an accident. Correcting a cleft lip is a form of cosmetic surgery, as is a skin graft for a burn victim. There are those that feel dysphoria about their physical form, for example as a result of being a different gender from the one they were assigned at birth. Gender affirmation surgeries such as facial feminisation or phalloplasty fall under the cosmetic category.

The Risks Associated with Cosmetic Surgery

Cosmetic surgeries, as with surgeries of any kind, come with a degree of risk. Those that require general anaesthetic invite risk in the form of negative reactions to the drugs administered, for example. Infection is another risk; in breast augmentation patients, up to 2.5% experience infection after surgery.

But there are also localised risks dependent on the location of the surgery. Facial surgeries present the risk of nerve damage, which could prevent the natural use of certain muscles; tummy tucks could present hypertrophic scarring.

Reducing Risk

One of the better ways to manage the risks associated with surgery is to discuss each surgery with a doctor ahead of time. Having the option to choose your surgeon can also be helpful – vetting any private service heavily before opting into surgery can help avoid sub-par treatment and surgery. 

While some of the above risks cannot be controlled directly, there are easy routes to recompense and accountability in the event of negligent care. These routes do not undo the damage done, but can at least ensure that any recovery period is untroubled by cost issues.

Cosmetic surgery is not always an ‘option’, per se. It is often a direct path to comfort and security in oneself, if not the only path after a catastrophic or unexpected incident. The risks may be there, but if managed well, cosmetic surgery should not be seen as an unnecessary risk.

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