While every cosmetic procedure is different, the process to enhance your appearance is consistent.
by Featured Provider Katherine Billue on Thursday, October 7, 2021
You’ve done the research. You know the changes you want to see. You’re ready to improve your appearance and confidence.
Now it’s time to consult a plastic surgeon. And you might be a little nervous about what to expect as you start down the path toward cosmetic surgery. Katherine Billue, MD, a plastic surgeon at The Iowa Clinic’s Medical Spa in West Des Moines, outlines everything you need to know about getting cosmetic surgery.
The cosmetic surgery consultation is all about you.
After scheduling a consultation, you might still be a little unsure and uneasy. Don’t be.
Cosmetic surgery is your decision, so you get to drive the discussion. While your doctor will ask plenty of questions, remember you’re there to discuss your goals and expectations, and understand your options for meeting them.
“It’s really a discussion to understand the reason for your visit,” Dr. Billue says. “It’s important for us to get a sense of your goals so that we can figure out your surgical options and help you choose the right one for you.”
A cosmetic consultation starts like most any other medical appointment. A nurse will ask why you’re there and go through your personal and family medical history. Then, your physician will come in and go over everything in depth. They will also:
- Conduct a physical exam to ensure you’re a healthy candidate for surgery.
- Measure the area of the body you want to change.
- Take photos for planning the surgery, post-op comparisons and, possibly, insurance purposes.
- Cover the benefits and risks of the cosmetic procedure.
- Provide educational materials, a post-op care guide and other needed resources.
- Get your informed consent to go ahead with surgery.
You may need reconstructive surgery for cosmetic reasons.
Ready for a Change?
Talk to Dr. Billue to choose the right procedure for your goals.
Cosmetic surgery aims to enhance your appearance in some way, improving on or reshaping what is already there. Plastic surgery, on the other hand, reconstructs or corrects something that a disease or injury changed. Depending on your medical history, you may need reconstructive plastic surgery instead of cosmetic surgery.
“Reconstructive surgery is designed to improve function. But it may also be needed to restore your appearance,” Dr. Billue says. “If you’ve had breast cancer or skin cancer, you may actually need reconstructive plastic surgery.”
It might seem like simply a difference in terminology, but it can mean a big difference in the costs of your surgery. Because cosmetic procedures are elective, they’re not usually covered by health insurance. Insurance typically covers reconstructive procedures on some level.
Understanding what’s covered and what out-of-pocket costs to expect is important. There may be limits to what you can afford or what you’re willing to pay to improve your appearance. You can get an estimate from your plastic surgeon and consult your insurance provider about covered procedures. You may qualify for financing of an elective cosmetic procedure.
You’ll review every last detail with your plastic surgeon.
“Education is the most important part of the consultation,” Dr. Billue says. “We want to match the right procedure to your goals. We may look at things in the mirror together, discuss certain areas and talk about the results you can expect.”
Education is also important throughout the rest of the process. Your plastic surgeon will set expectations, lay out guidelines and answer questions at each additional appointment. This keeps you informed about what comes next and reminded of the benefits and risks of cosmetic surgery.
On the day of your surgery, you can expect:
- An early arrival. You need to be at the surgery center several hours prior to your procedure to get prepped. It takes time to get checked in, get your health history and start an IV.
- A review of the information. Your plastic surgeon will again walk you through the procedure, mark areas of your body for incision and make sure you’re comfortable to go through with it. They’ll also review the recovery process again and provide the information you need to follow after you leave.
- Adequate recovery time. After surgery, you’ll spend time in the recovery suite until you’ve come out of anesthesia and are awake and aware. Your surgeon will decide when you’re well enough to leave and schedule your first follow-up appointment.
“Recovery varies depending on the procedure, but we always monitor the healing process,” Dr. Billue says. “Your body needs appropriate time to heal. It’s very important to follow all instructions to maximize results and reduce complications. It makes your overall recovery go smoother and more quickly.”
Depending on the surgery you receive, you may have restrictions in activity, bathing (or getting incisions wet) and caring for your wounds. There might be specific guidelines for changing the dressings, draining excess fluids and — most importantly for the overall aesthetic results — scar management.
“Everyone worries about scarring but it fades in time. After about the third week, you can take steps to reduce the visibility of scars,” Dr. Billue says. “We help you get the products you need to manage scars and monitor them at your follow-ups."
Ultimately, your plastic surgeon wants you to look and feel your best. Cosmetic surgery is something you do for yourself to improve your confidence and well-being. The closer you work with your surgeon to establish goals, set expectations and communicate throughout the whole process, the happier you’ll be with the results.