January 8, 2013
Dr. Anu Bajaj, M.D.
Oklahoma Community, recovery after plastic surgery

On Patient Patients and Patient Surgeons

Recently, I read a blog by another plastic surgeon. The topic of his blog was “why the patient patient is the happy patient.” I really enjoyed reading what he had to say because this statement hit home for me and also applies to the surgeon as well. So please forgive me for plagiarizing his topic.

I started thinking about my own approach with patients and how I try to prepare them for the effects of surgery. As surgeons, we know that the healing process can take up to 1-2 years. That means that our incisions may be closed, but our bodies are making collagen and breaking it down to create a healed scar for up to a year after surgery.

As patients, we may notice that our breasts look like “franken-boobs” immediately after a breast reduction; but then several months later, the swelling has decreased, the scars are fading, and the breasts feel soft with a good shape.

Similarly, after lipo, the bruising and post-operative swelling may make even your “fat” jeans feel tight! At this point, our bodies are secreting cortisone and other stress hormones, making us swell and retain water after surgery, so the scale may show that you gained a few pounds even after several pounds have been removed.

“I have found that the patients whom I educate about the healing process are the happiest. I suppose that I can relate to that because if I know what to expect, I can better deal with the ups and the downs.”

I have found that the patients whom I educate about the healing process are the happiest. I suppose that I can relate to that because if I know what to expect, I can better deal with the ups and the downs.

But it’s not only the patient who has to be patient. The honest truth is that I want my patients to be happy with their results. I take pride in what I do, and when someone is unhappy, it is very difficult not to take it personally. But the right answer doesn’t always mean rushing into another operation to revise a less than perfect result. I, too, have to wait for the swelling to go down, the scar tissue to settle, and the healing to be complete.

As a patient, we may become impatient and think that the surgeon is avoiding fixing a perceived flaw; and as a surgeon, I may feel that I need to do something to keep my patient happy. However, in my experience waiting and allowing the body to heal, may show that these perceived flaws are products of the inflammatory process and resolve as the body recovers from surgery; and if they don’t and a revision is necessary, the results become more predictable after both of us have been patient and have allowed the body to heal and recover.

So, in truth, the key to happy patient, and a happy surgeon, is a patient patient and patient surgeon.

Photo by martin.mutch on Flickr