As aesthetic surgery becomes increasingly popular, correct patient selection becomes even more important. Aesthetic surgery is unique because, unlike any other surgical procedure, it is initiated by the patient. In addition, this surgery elicits a more acute reaction from patients than any other type of surgery.
Before agreeing to operate, a surgeon must evaluate the psychological condition of a patient. While some surgeons will have pathways in place to address the psychological stance of a patient, many others do not. As a patient of cosmetic surgery who has undergone five elective procedures, I can safely say I was not properly psychologically assessed for any of my procedures. In three of my five operations, the ‘subject’ was barely touched on, while for the remainder there was no mention at all. I was never asked ‘why’ I wanted to undergo liposuction, rhinoplasty or breast augmentation. I was never asked whether I would like counselling pre- or post-surgery. And I was never prepared for how I would ‘feel’ before or after surgery.
When I woke from a routine breast augmentation procedure 2 years ago, nothing prepared me for how I felt as I exited the surgical theatre to my post-surgical recovery room. I broke into floods of tears and felt rather ‘fragile’; it wasn’t the pain of the actual surgery that was troubling me, but an inner turmoil and anxiety that I couldn’t quite explain. I remember thinking, ‘nobody tells you about this bit’.
It was the same feeling that had hit me in the pre-operative room before surgery, as surgical staff worked busily around me preparing me for the scalpel. I asked myself at the time, ‘Is this feeling normal?’ I never had time to ponder the question much as seconds later I was in anaesthetic slumber.
As a cosmetic surgery and beauty coach, I see dozens of women (and men) every month who ask for information, guidance and referral to the safest ways to shop for image enhancement services. My ultimate objective is to arm clients with the essential knowledge and skills to make the right choices ‘themselves’.
However, no matter how well informed you are, no matter how well prepared you are physically, there is clearly insufficient preparation within the industry when it comes to ‘psychologically’ preparing a patient for cosmetic surgery. My experiences and those of the thousands of patients that I have dealt with over the years have led me to question this aspect of cosmetic surgery, a subject I feel is too easily over looked or brushed aside. Indeed, a report by the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death found that many centres offering cosmetic surgery in the UK were failing to assess and care for patients properly, including psychological evaluations.
If a surgeon can’t be ‘bothered’ to handle the psychological aspects of surgery as they’re too busy dealing with the ‘practical stuff’, then may I suggest they refer patients to independent counsellors and experts who now offer pre- and post-cosmetic surgery counselling. The patient journey will be a more positive and safer experience as a result.
After all, no matter how skilled a surgeon may be, a scalpel may be able to fix an imperfect body but it doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to healing the mind.