When you see a friend you haven’t seen in awhile who had cosmetic surgery and notice a stark improvement in look, you understand the power the procedures have. A great surgery can truly take years, if not a decade, off your looks. With the success of these operations from board certified plastic surgeons, however, comes an issue not talked about very often: plastic surgery can only go so far.
Before many patients even reach the operating table, a hurdle may be lurking that could be tough for even the best board certified plastic surgeon AND the patient to overcome: unrealistic expectations.
Dr. Lou Bucky, a board certified plastic surgeon in Philadelphia, says one of plastic surgery’s unspoken secrets is the unattainable images some patients have in their minds. Plastic surgery is extremely capable, but patients need to know there are absolutely limits to what procedures can successfully deliver.
“We’re going back to emulating bodies that are not realistic in the real world,” Dr. Bucky tells The Plastic Surgery Channel. “When that occurs, it doesn’t make any difference how talented the surgeon is. If the outcome is expected to be that of a movie star who’s twenty years younger than the patient presently is, then we have a problem. That’s why it’s mandatory, and I can’t stress that enough, not to have any secret expectations on the part of the patient. If it all isn’t out on the table for us to discuss, there’s probably a problem that could be brewing.”
Today’s Media-driven Society Conspires Against Realistic Goals
Social media, television shows and trends often push unrealistic self-images upon patients without them even realizing it. Take the ‘thigh gap’ for example. That’s right, the thigh gap.
Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Grant Stevens of Marina Del Rey sees this particular issue arise in his office constantly. “You don’t want your thighs kissing each other,” he shares. “So what we’ve come up with is a unique way to freeze the fat and create a thigh gap. CoolSculpting in this case allows us to meet what used to be an unrealistic goal. One of the great things about plastic surgery today is the constant development of techniques and devices that make yesterday’s over-inflated patient expectations actually achievable today.”
Even when technology catches up to formerly unrealistic goals, the why of the process is still an important question during the consultation
Falling short of patient expectations is bad, but reaching them is a home run
Some plastic surgeons say they welcome the emphasis social media and today’s broadcast programming have on patients’ hopes and goals. According to Austin-based board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Ned Snyder, great things are possible when a patient and surgeon are on the same page during consultation. When a surgeon hears what a patient expects and desires from her or his operation, and the surgeon thinks those goals are achievable, then even MORE can be accomplished than an aesthetically-pleasing surgery.
“One of the most significant outcomes from this is the confidence they build in women,” explains Snyder. “And this relates to feeling better in clothes, in a bathing suit, but also in a career setting. Of course the patient looks in the mirror after surgery and feels great about the physical improvements that surgery has brought him or her, but the mental aspect, the confidence boosting, the edge the surgery gives you in your business life is immeasurable.”
What’s Good Today May Fade Down the Road
Even after expectations are understood and an agreement made, patients need to be aware of changing beauty ideals. Things that are “en vogue” today may not be tomorrow, and a great surgeon will remind patients of this to verify their desires.
“A surgery that’s a home run today may not hold up as a success 10 years from now, no matter how well the surgeon did the first time around,” adds Snyder. “I think there’s a little bit of a trend that doesn’t hold as beauty through the ages and I think it’s very problematic.”
Don’t Hold Anything Back!
Every board certified plastic surgeon we interviewed for this story stressed that the best way to eliminate that secret trap door standing in the way of a happy outcome is for patients to be completely open and honest about what they expect.
“If they keep it to themselves, no one can read minds,” Dr. Stevens says. “Speak up!”