You may love what plastic surgery can do to enhance your appearance and self-esteem, but nobody looks forward to the recovery after plastic surgery. You may fear the pain of surgery or the temporary limitations on your normal activities like working, exercising or caring for your kids. Fortunately, there are new strategies and surgical techniques that offer less pain and a quicker recovery.
Pain control strategies have changed significantly over the past several years. Doctors now prescribe more than one medication to improve your recovery after plastic surgery. The advantage to this approach is different medications work in different ways, and often complement one another.
Narcotics, NSAIAs and Muscle Relaxers
In the past, surgeons primarily prescribed narcotics and avoided post-operative non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIAs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen. While narcotics are an effective pain-relieving tool, they can also cause unpleasant side effects like nausea or constipation and have the potential for becoming addictive.
Doctors now commonly prescribe NSAIAs or muscle relaxers to reduce the amount of narcotics you need. All three medications work well to control pain, but NSAIAs also have anti-inflammatory properties that narcotics typically don’t.
The use of local anesthetic agents helps with early post-operative pain control. Patients who have excellent pain control early on (when the pain is usually at its worst) don’t seem to have as much pain later in their recovery. This not only helps reduce pain and the need for narcotic medications, but also makes it easier to be up and walking, which may reduce your risk of blood clots.
Two procedures in which local anesthesia can help with recovery after plastic surgery are breast augmentation and abdominoplasty (tummy tuck). In breast augmentation, local anesthetic can be placed around the implant to help reduce pain for the first few hours. During tummy tucks, a long lasting local anesthetic can reduce your pain for up to 72 hours.
Less-invasive Surgical Techniques
Advancements in surgical techniques can also result in a better recovery after plastic surgery. The tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) procedure is a great example. Abdominoplasty traditionally required the use of one or two drains. Drains are plastic tubes (placed under the skin) that come out through the incision or through a small, separate hole. They are typically left in place anywhere from three days to two weeks after surgery.
But over the last several years, a method of placing stitches internally (progressive tension sutures) during the procedure eliminates the need for drains. With this method, you don’t need to empty the drains, measure the output or deal with them interfering with your activities (like showering). You also don’t have to worry about having the drains removed. Best of all, studies have shown that progressive tension sutures work better than drains at preventing fluid buildup.
Emory Aesthetic Center
At Emory Aesthetic Center, we use the most innovative techniques to give you the results you want with the easiest recovery. We even offer a remote video follow-up appointment option, where you can receive a virtual post-op exam from the comfort of your home. If you’re thinking about cosmetic surgery, come see us. We’ll work with you to make your journey as comfortable and pleasant as possible.