Before joining SPA+CLINIC as editor last year, I worked for five years on websites and magazines heavily devoted to plastic and cosmetic surgery.
It was fascinating learning on all fronts – but one of the most remarkable (ie. scary) learnings was how lightly many consumers of the art/craft took procedures such as ‘boob jobs’.
I was regularly asked for recommendations from ‘friends of colleagues of acquaintances’ for a surgeon to perform various kinds of surgery, but most notably breast implants.
Fair enough. If someone got hold of my phone they would find hundreds of numbers for surgeons and doctors around the world. But I am not qualified to recommend plastic and cosmetic surgeons, however much I might personally regard their expertise and talent (or not).
I was particularly alarmed on the occasions I was asked where people could get the cheapest boob job (as in, travelling to Asia).
Another eye-opener was the number of aesthetics therapists and fashion retailers who told me that their clients/customers would often open up to them and discuss their insecurities about their looks and bodies, going so far as to ask them to recommend a surgeon to perform breast implants.
While writing this, I have a well known Sydney boutique owner in mind, who had had an excellent breast augmentation herself and was happy to share details of her surgeon with those interested. Fortunately he is an outstanding surgeon with a stellar reputation.
It makes perfect sense, as I have written previously, that as professionals who see customers at their most vulnerable, clients would share intimate information with you and look to you for advice.
The trick is knowing the limits: be armed with sound knowledge and recommendations of professionals in other fields, but know when to draw the line about how detailed your recommendations are. If you are not a professional in that specific field ‘ don’t go there.
Back to breast implants. This is the surgery you will most likely be asked about.
Keep top of mind: Breast implants involve surgery. Surgery is serious business. In the wrong hands/on the wrong patient it can lead to failed (usually unrealistic) expectations at best. On the dark side, infection, disfiguration ‘ even death.
As the most popular cosmetic surgery procedure on the planet, more than 12,000 breast augmentations take place in Australia each year.
Dr Huy Tang of The Cosmetic Institute, one of Australia’s largest providers of cosmetic surgery, has put together a check list of 10 things potential patients should consider before submitting to the scalpel. It’s sound information that will help you address those tricky ‘recommendation’ requests.
‘Breast augmentations make up more than 90 percent of the surgeries we perform – some 5,000 procedures each year [at the Institute’s two Sydney clinics, in Bondi Junction and Parramatta],’ says Dr Tang.
‘While it’s a fairly straightforward procedure, any time a patient is considering surgery, we want to make sure they’re informed, educated and armed with the right questions to ask.’
Prior to your procedure it is critical that you are in excellent health. In particular, if you’re a smoker, it’s a very good idea to kick the habit at least eight weeks prior to your surgery, as smokers have a much higher risk of serious complications during and after surgery, including infections and impaired wound healing.
It seems obvious, but make sure you’re well informed. I recommend visiting forums, talking to people who have had the procedure and looking through the social media pages of the clinics you are interested in going with. It is a very good idea to do this research before you meet your prospective surgeon so you can ensure all your questions can be addressed in your initial consultation.
Although it can be tempting to go with the first surgeon you find and book your procedure straight away, don’t settle with the first clinic you visit. Ensure you have a consultation with at least two or three other clinics to gain some perspective on what’s out there and where you feel the most comfortable. In addition to getting to know the surgeon, you can familiarise yourself with the type of work they do by looking at before and after pictures.
Be clear about costs
To avoid any surprises, make sure you are aware of the costs associated with your surgery up front. Many clinics have hidden costs such as a facility hire fees, post op follow up fees and anaesthetist fees, so make sure all costs are laid out on the table before you decide.
I can’t stress strongly enough that patients need to think carefully before being lured overseas by the promise of cut-price surgery, as doing so exposes you to a number of unnecessary risks. In addition to being away from the comforts of home and the support of family and friends while recovering from surgery, you’re likely to be travelling to a very hot, humid climate where the risk of infection can be increased and the standard of sanitation may not be as high. You’ll also have no access to your surgeon once you return home, which may be crucial should complications occur weeks or even months after your surgery. We are lucky that Australia has one of the best medical systems in the world, so you couldn’t be in safer hands.
Ask for accreditation
One of the very basic things you need to do is make sure both the clinic and the surgeon are accredited. While the surgeon you’re talking to might be accredited, the facility may not be. I advise prospective patients to confirm their surgeon is registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and that the clinic is ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) accredited.
Ask about anaesthetic
Ask who will be administering the anaesthetic and whether you will have a specialist anaesthetist on site dedicated to your care for the full duration of surgery. Make sure your surgeon discusses the type of anaesthetic that will be used and that you are well informed about the different types of anaesthetic options available.
Get the lowdown on the implants
In terms of implant options, discuss everything with your would-be surgeon, from the type of implants he or she is planning to use (silicone gel or saline), to the size of implants they recommend based on your proportions, and their shape – which can be round or tear drop. You’ll also want to ask about the texture of your implants’ surface – rough or smooth- and whether your implants will be placed under or in front of the muscle, and the location of your incisions.
Be aware of the aftercare
What happens after surgery is just as important as what happens during surgery. Following your surgery, it is vital that you attend the recommended post-op consultations with your surgeon and follow the aftercare directions they provide you with to the letter. It is good to have a designated post-op care partner to help look after you the days and even weeks following the procedure. It is highly recommended that mothers in particular have assistance with general day-to-day activities, as their upper body will be restricted and they won’t be able to do things like pick up their children, take a pram out of the car, or reach for anything above shoulder height.
Keep expectations in check
Although breast augmentation is a relatively simple procedure for experienced surgeons, many people are unaware of the lifestyle adjustments that will need to be made following surgery and come in with unrealistic expectations about their recovery. Most patients will need to take a week or so off work and won’t be able to drive for a week. It’s also important to keep in mind that your new breasts will change dramatically in the first six to 12 weeks and will continue to settle over the 12-24 months following, so don’t expect immediate perfection.
In terms of scarring, Dr Tang says that patients are usually left with a thin line across the base of the breast, which fades over the ensuing 12 months. Because breasts will still be healing, underwire bras are off limits for about six weeks.