If you are considering elective surgery, there are a number of things you can do to set yourself up for the best results. Obviously, choosing the best surgeon possible is the most important part of the process, but what happens before and after surgery can affect the final results in a significant way.
Prepping for Plastic Surgery
Nutrition is Key
One of the nice things about elective surgery is that it is planned, and thus allows appropriate time for preparation. Leading into surgery, there are lifestyle choices that can impact final results. First of all is nutrition, which is very important for healing. A high protein diet is particularly helpful and eating lean proteins like chicken and fish can boost your body’s ability to heal efficiently. For patients that don’t eat meat, there are plant-based protein powders and protein shakes that can be helpful. Additionally, eating lots of healthy vegetables and fruits can also improve nutrients and vitamins and will boost healing. Green juices are an easy way to get a lot of vegetables in quickly for those patients looking for an easy option. A multivitamin is not a replacement for a good diet, but it can further augment the nutrients needed for healing.
Smoking of any kind is extremely problematic for surgery as nicotine constricts small blood vessels and the smoke contains carbon monoxide. Both of these things will reduce the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood, and oxygen is key to healing wounds and fighting infection. Smokers are at much higher risk for infection and tissue necrosis (tissue death) which can result in horrible consequences such as the loss of a nipple after breast lift surgery or a wound breakdown. Any kind of smoke or vape inhalation is bad, and this includes marijuana use or secondhand smoke exposure of any kind.
To be safe, patients should avoid any kind of smoke exposure for 6 weeks before and after surgery. Recreational drug use also has a very negative impact on surgery and should be avoided for the same time frame as cigarette smoking. The exception is marijuana use which, if used only as edibles, is ok to continue until 2 weeks before surgery (when it should be stopped).
Supplements and Medications
With regards to supplements and medications, many can negatively affect surgery by increasing bleeding risks. We provide a long list of medications, supplements, and foods to avoid around surgery. Some examples of medications include aspirin and ibuprofen; supplement examples to avoid include vitamin E, turmeric, and ginkgo biloba, and food examples are garlic and ginger. Generally avoiding these things 10 days before and after surgery is sufficient.
One exception to this includes new weight loss medication like Ozempic, which is best to stop a month before surgery as it slows gastric emptying and increases the risk of aspiration (vomiting and inhaling some of the gastric contents at the start of anesthesia) which is a very serious problem.
Exercise prior to surgery is helpful as well as the more physically fit one is, the better they tolerate surgery and anesthesia. Patients do not need to be on an extreme exercise schedule, but staying active and working on cardio fitness is helpful. For patients considering tummy tuck surgery, the closer they are to their ideal weight, the better and safer the results will be. The diet and exercise level needs to be sustainable, so I always advise a healthy diet and exercise program that is moderate and can be maintained as a true long-term lifestyle change.
Recovery After Surgery
Caring for Your Body
After surgery, basic body functions are important for recovery. This includes ambulation (walking frequently) which helps with circulation and mobility. Deep breathing periodically is also important to keep the lungs open for maximum oxygenation. Finally, taking care to avoid constipation with stool softeners (and occasional laxatives if needed) will also help to improve the recovery. Patients are also given arnica and sometimes bromelain which are both supplements to reduce bruising and swelling.
With regards to scarring, avoidance of sun or UV exposure is important to allow the scars to lighten properly. I also have patients use a topical silicone called Biocorneum twice a day for 3-4 months which helps keep scars flat and smooth.
Patients should massage their scars for a few minutes a day to help further soften and flatten the scars.
All of my patients have access to the expertise of Kira, my incredibly experienced and knowledgeable laser technician, who can make recommendations for skin and scar treatments such as Broad Band Light (BBL) to reduce post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, as well as Profractional for decreasing the scar in size and texture.
We also incorporate Alastin Reform & Repair Complex into our pre- and post-surgical protocol. By using TriHex Technology, Reform & Repair Complex is able to clear out damaged collagen and is primarily used to soften the appearance of scars, as well as minimizing downtime.
Finally, additional treatments like hyperbaric oxygen and lymphatic massage may be recommended based on the surgery.
Take the Next Step
With proper high-quality surgery and attention to pre- and post-surgical care, you can take part in your own surgical process and know that you are doing everything possible to achieve the best ultimate results.