Guidelines for Plastic Surgery

Plastic surgery operations were first performed in Egypt several thousand years ago but it was only after the First World War, when anesthesia and antiseptics had revol­utionized surgery that the speciality really flourished.

The terrible burns suffered by airmen in the Second World War further intensified the development of this branch of surgery and today plastic surgery is well established.

The type of work done by plastic surgeons falls into two main categories:

1 Work to repair damaged, burnt or wounded tissues or to repair or restructure congenital malformations.

2 Work done to make an individual look more attractive. Operations which fall into this category are classified as cosmetic surgery.

There isn't usually any question about when straightfor­ward plastic surgery is necessary and the only surgeons practising this type of surgery on a wide scale are the ones working in orthodox hospitals. Cosmetic surgery, however, has attracted many semi-qualified practitioners and a number of private clinics have sprung up offering various services to clients wanting to look more beautiful. There are problems associated with some of these private clinics and the doctors who work in them.

One problem is that sales staff who have little or no medical training may try to encourage customers to have surgery they don't really need, and as some work on a commission basis customers are likely to hear only about advantages and not about risks, dangers and reasons for not having surgery.

Few clinics selling private breast surgery will, for example, warn their customers that as many as 50 per cent of these operations are unsatisfactory, with patients complaining of hard or uncomfortable breast tissue.

Also, those offering cosmetic surgery do not have to be medically qualified and if you visit a clinic without your GP knowing that you are doing so, he won't know what has been done to you. If things go wrong afterwards valuable time will be wasted while he finds out exactly what sort of operation you have had.

If you are contemplating having cosmetic surgery, I suggest that you read these notes first:

1 Ask your family doctor to refer you to a specialist plastic surgeon. Explain exactly what your problem is and what you want to have done about it. If your family doctor refuses to refer you, then you are quite entitled to visit any other local GP and ask for a referral.

2 Don't believe anyone who tells you that there aren't any risks associated with plastic surgery. If you don't get told about possible side-effects, ask to be told the disadvantages as well-as the advantages.

3 Decide in advance exactly what it is that you want changed and what you hope to gain as a result. You should not 'expect any major improvements in your sex life, social life or economic status as a result of such an operation. If you do, then you will probably be disappointed. Nor is it wise to have cosmetic surgery in order to try to save a failing romance or friendship.

4 Talk to anyone you can find who has had a surgical operation of the kind you're contemplating.

5 Talk to your family and relatives, to find out whether any of them have ever suffered from 'keloid'. If there is a family history of keloid, you should forget the idea of cosmetic surgery.

6 Remember that plastic surgeons can only achieve minor miracles.

7 If you are paying for an operation do not borrow money or spend more than you would squander on a holiday or some similar extravagance. If you go into debt to pay for plastic surgery, you are unlikely to be satisfied by the results.

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