Cosmetic Surgery: Fact and fiction

A grounding on what cosmetic surgery can do and what it cannot; for those who assume cosmetic surgery can do magic

Looking in the mirrorMan is now showing great improvement in health, fitness and longevity. Living longer means keeping you presentable and attractive at all times - mainly for social acceptance. Cosmetic surgery, also called aesthetic surgery, aims at making a person presentable. Popular cosmetic surgeries - used mainly for improvement, replacement or repair - include rhinoplasty, liposuction, tummy tuck, breast enlargement, breast reduction, face lift, skin resurfacing, wrinkle correction and hair transplant. Cosmetic surgery can also repair damage caused by burns, accident, blasts injuries and birth defects. However it is risky - just like any other surgery.

Professional expertise is a must

Cosmetic surgery requires a high degree of professional training and experience. It needs to be practised in a well equipped hospital where all facilities and emergency care is available under one roof, as in Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital and also other pre-eminent hospitals in India. In a standard hospital set up, the charges are fixed - and contrary to popular belief - cosmetic surgery is quite affordable.

Some myths associated with cosmetic surgery need to be mentioned and explained. I have highlighted a few of them below:

No supermodel makeover

Cosmetic surgery is not for dreamers who imagine that you can completely change your face or body. It can reduce the intensity of your problem to make it more acceptable. You can never get rid of a scar completely. You can make it thin, less prominent, hide it or reduce it, but a scar never disappears. It is part improvement and part adjustment. The choice is between a bad scar and a good scar, there is never a "no scar".

Media greatly influences the way you think. You see beautiful bodies everyday, and develop your own dream body image. When you think you do not look like your imagined perfect body, the conflict begins. You then strive to change everything and desire a new look.

The models who are flashed in the media are thorough professionals. They strictly follow a lifestyle which includes strenuous exercise, diet modifications and life style restrictions. We must realise that these models follow such a regime only for a few years to make a career. After that, they are replaced by newer models. They then live normal lives like anyone of us. You cannot expect to have a model-like figure all your life.

No cloning

It is stretching your imagination too much to think that cosmetic surgery can create duplicate persons or replace a completely lost face to exactly the same as before. Patients ask if their brother's/wife's skin or hair can be used in cosmetic surgery. Skin, hair or body parts from other people/donors cannot be used in cosmetic surgery because making other body parts acceptable requires that your own body defence be shut down. This means using life-long high doses of multiple medicines. It also indicates that you avoid meeting people and be confined to a single dust-free room for the rest of your life.

Our body is not clay

A cosmetic surgeon cannot just modify anything to your wish. He has a limitation to work within the available tissues and keep the blood supply intact while working. Your body is definitely not like a clay model that he can just remove a nose, press it into the shape you desire and stick it back onto your face.

Logistical and biological limitations

Cosmetic surgery often needs to be planned in stages. There is a limit on how much tissue one can borrow from surrounding areas without creating a defect, or leaving a bad scar. The final look comes only after painstaking work for 8-10 months. Even a one sitting procedure takes 2-3 months of healing time to show the final outcome.

Many cosmetic surgery procedures today have been converted to non-invasive techniques. One must understand that using microcurrents, resurfacing the skin, filling up wrinkles, treating scars or having a face lift, with non surgical methods have limited results. It can never be the same as doing a surgery, though one can achieve some improvement, making it acceptable.

A Few facts about hair transplantation

  • Hair transplantation cannot be planned directly for a person who has been losing hair for a few years. His hair has already become thin, slow growing and weak with continued hair loss. Pre-conditioning the hair and strengthening the roots with medicines for 2-4 months will enhance the results.
  • Hair growth has a body cycle of four months. After transplant hair begins to grow only after four months.
  • Hair transplant is done under local anaesthesia; no shaving of the head or hospital stay is required. It usually takes around six hours. After that, you are advised to take rest at home for three days and no head bath for two days. No stitch removal or repeated visits are required.
  • An experienced surgeon can offer 2000-2200 grafts in one sitting with 95 per cent guaranteed results. Each graft contains one, two or three hairs. 2000 grafts transfer 4000-5000 hairs.
  • Hair transplant centres should be a separate unit in a hospital and have a dedicated surgeon only for hair transplantation.

The specialised infrastructure for hair transplant includes:

  • Lights with heat filters
  • Air conditioning with humidity and temperature control
  • Use of magnification instruments by entire team
  • Use of micro-instruments
  • Use of a stitch-less technique
  • All grafts should be transplanted by the surgeon himself.

Tips before cosmetic surgery

  • Be cautious of spurious clinics promising too much in one quick-fix session for any problem.
  • Never follow media publicity and advertisements blindly.
  • Consult more than one person for opinion.
  • Get information about the qualification and experience before fixing the consultation, like the biosketch of the surgeon available at L H Hiranandani Hospital.
  • Ask relevant questions. Do not insult the doctor by asking, "Are you qualified? Have you done any such surgery before?" An irritated doctor becomes non-cooperative and will not offer his best. If you show trust in your doctor, he will go out of the way to help you.

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