The big day, healing and recovery

What should I do before my surgery?

Here are some tips.

Make sure you understand the procedure well and have had all your questions answered.

All the details around the hospital booking, the anaesthetist, health cover, and what you bring to the hospital will be taken care of with you before surgery. Make a bag of the things you’ll need to bring to the hospital well before the surgery date. Fasting and admission times will be provided for you, usually a day or two before surgery.

When we consult, I will want to know all the medication you take. Medication containing aspirin should not be taken for 10 days prior to surgery. Any other blood thinning medication you might be on will need a management plan made before surgery. We need to plan this in advance.

We will provide advice on managing pain, nausea and constipation in the operative period.

If I want you to wear a specific elastic pressure garment or bra after the operation, it will be organised for you well before the surgery date. Bring it with you to hospital. It is put on at the end of the surgery.

If you smoke you will need to cease all nicotine products a minimum of two weeks before the surgery. If you’re unable to do this, the surgery will be cancelled. Complications of plastic surgery have been reported to be up to 40% more common in smokers, so it is not in your interest for me to proceed if you’re still smoking.

For three days before the surgery, use a daily antibacterial wash in the shower, paying careful attention to the area of surgery. Products such as phisohex®, or cetaphil®, are fine and readily available from the pharmacy. For facial procedures, an antibacterial shampoo is fine. Don’t use these products for more than the three days recommended.

Make a good plan for recuperation, time off and getting well.

If you have a gym membership, you might want to suspend it for four to six weeks. We can provide a letter for you.

What happens on the day?

You’ll come into hospital the day of surgery, and will be in hospital for the time we plan, depending upon the scale of your operation. The anaesthetist will see you before surgery, and I will see you and mark you carefully.

For most surgery, we use a general anaesthetic. All the areas being treated are filled with local anaesthesia once you’re asleep to minimise your postoperative pain.

We take great care of you in the operating room, paying attention to your positioning, warmth, and dignity. Monitoring devices are placed on you, IV lines and other necessary devices are connected, and the general anaesthetic is commenced.

If longer than an hour in theatre, we use measures to minimise the risk of clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis). We fit you with medical grade stockings before the operation, use compression devices during the operation to keep the blood circulating through your legs, and administer a blood-thinning drug to you usually at the commencement of the surgery.

Once the surgery is finished, dressings and if necessary, compression garments are applied.

Drain tubes are used for tummy tuck procedures, but usually not for other surgery I do. An IV to give you fluids will be present when you wake.

You’ll wake up in the recovery room with a nurse dedicated to your care sitting next to you.

What happens after surgery?

The staff will be experienced in caring for you and managing your pain, and on the medication chart there will be various pain relief options, so the best mix of drugs can be used for you. People vary a lot in how much discomfort they have, so we plan for all scenarios we meet.

You’ll be in hospital for the predicted time depending upon the scale of the surgery. You’ll be well taken care of in the hospitals I use.

The treated area becomes swollen and sometimes bruised. The bruising gradually fades and disappears, and when your pressure garment or splint is removed you will immediately see changes to the area. However, the swelling takes weeks to resolve, and your new shape will take time to be fully revealed. It is normal to retain some permanent numbness around the scar, especially in the lower front of your abdomen for tummy procedures.

In hospital, the nurses will help you begin to mobilise and start walking.

Once you can care for yourself, eat, go to the toilet on your own, and the drain tubes are out (if they’ve been used), you’re ready to go home.

When you go home, the advice I give is to drink well, rest, and walk as much as you can. Resting is best to be stretched out like a banana, rather than sitting up. Of course, you can sit up in a chair to eat, but for the first 10 days, try to rest most of the time stretched out on the couch, recliner or bed with a little gentle head elevation. You’ll swell less if you do this. In some operations, specific positions are recommended, but we’ll let you know all this when you’re in hospital.

Garments can generally be removed for showering, and the dressings underneath will be waterproof. Otherwise, keep the garment on. You don’t need to change any dressings.

Your first appointment after the operation will be about five to seven days after you go home.

You should not plan to do anything at home other than look after yourself for the first week after you leave hospital. If you have children, you’ll need to organise complete care for the children for a minimum of the time in hospital, plus your first week at home.

After that time, you will most likely be able to participate progressively in childcare. However, for a full four weeks after the operation, the focus must be on your own recovery. Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance with other aspects of your life during this time. As you get stronger, you can do more. If you live alone, it is wise to either have a friend stay with you for the first few days you have at home, or arrange to stay with a friend or relative for that time.

If you’ve travelled to Melbourne for surgery from interstate or afar, it is wise to have a support person with you.

You’ll need time off work after surgery, depending on the size of the procedure and your occupation. We’ll discuss this before surgery.

You should avoid any exercise other than walking for four to six weeks following surgery, depending upon the operation. You can resume light cardio, and begin light resistive exercise at four to six weeks after the operation.

Driving can be resumed once you are comfortable, can react quickly if necessary, feel well, and are not taking strong painkillers. This usually takes around three days to two weeks depending upon the operation – we’ll give better guidelines for your particular situation as this depends on the operation type you’re having.

At your first postoperative appointment, five to seven days after you go home, we’ll instruct you as to how you’re progressing and what to do next.

Along the way, if you have any questions, please contact us by call, text or email. For non-urgent questions, please contact Tracey during office hours. For urgent issues out of hours, contact me direct at any time.

Results and expectations

How do you know your procedure has been successful and you can move on, pleased with the decision you made?

When you are preparing for surgery, it’s important to consider the following points: Surgery should be good – but is rarely perfect.