Get Savvy Before Cosmetic Surgery

Survey: Many Patients Say They Should Have Done More Research First

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on March 16, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

March 16, 2007 -- Nearly 40% of adults who got elective cosmetic surgery say they should have worked harder to learn the risks and complications before their operation, according to a new survey.

Also, more than a quarter of the 301 patients surveyed -- 28% -- said they didn't check their cosmetic surgeon's credentials before their surgery.

Still, the survey of U.S. adults who got elective cosmetic surgery shows that most -- 80% -- were satisfied with their overall surgical experience.

Harris Interactive conducted the online survey in January for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

All of the patients had had elective cosmetic surgery under general anesthesia within the previous two years.

The operations included breast augmentation, tummy tuck, eyelid surgery, liposuction, nose reshaping, male breast reduction, breast lift, hair replacement surgery, face-lift, forehead lift, and facial implants.

Cosmetic Surgery Survey

In the survey, patients recalled how they had felt before their cosmetic surgery.

The vast majority of patients -- 90% -- said that, prior to surgery, their doctor or surgeon had answered all the questions they had.

Roughly the same percentage -- 89% -- said they felt their doctor did everything possible to make their surgical experience positive.

In addition, 91% said that, prior to surgery, they felt they knew what to expect in terms of postoperative risks and complications.

However, of the 223 cosmetic surgery patients who said they experienced postoperative complications, 39% said the complications were worse than they had expected.

About 30% of patients reporting complications said the complications were at least somewhat difficult to manage.

For comparison, the survey also included 316 other adults who got planned, medically necessary surgeries -- such as cesarean section, heart or lung surgery, cancer surgery, or orthopaedic surgery -- under general anesthesia.

Both groups of patients gave similar feedback on their surgical experience.

Questions to Ask Before Surgery

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons recommends asking surgeons the following questions before surgery:

  • What are your credentials and training experience?
  • How many procedures of this type have you performed?
  • Are there alternatives to surgery?
  • Where and how will you perform my procedure?
  • What do I need to do to prepare for surgery?
  • What are the risks involved with my procedure?
  • What type of anesthesia will I need?
  • How can I minimize post-surgical side effects and complications such as nausea, vomiting, pain, infection, and blood clots?
  • How will complications be handled?
  • How long of a recovery period can I expect, and what kind of help will I need during my recovery?
  • Will my recovery keep me away from my usual, daily activities such as work? If so, for how long?

The survey was funded by a grant from the drug company Merck. Merck is a WebMD sponsor.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Harris Interactive: "Elective Cosmetic Surgery -- Examination of the Patient Experience." News release, American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

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