Non-elective plastic surgery

Posted on 18 December 2017

Plastic surgery can restore your dignity, health and quality of life.

Cosmetic surgery and non-elective plastic (or reconstructive) surgery both deal with improving a patient’s body. Cosmetic surgery focuses on enhancing a person’s appearance, while reconstructive surgery aims to correct dysfunctional areas of the body.

‘The main reasons for reconstruction are when there is a physical deformity due to congenital anomalies, such as a cleft lip; cancer, for example, the reconstruction of a new breast after a mastectomy; trauma, such as tissue loss as a result of a car accident or burns; or tissue loss through infection, such as gangrene or meningococcus,’ explains Dr Dirk Lazarus, a plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgeon in Cape Town.

What are the possible complications of non-elective plastic surgery?

‘It’s a proven fact that diseases such as diabetes and unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking or excessive alcohol consumption increase complication rates,’ says Dr Gerrit Greyvensteyn, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon with a practice in Nelspruit.

Plastic surgery is a surgical procedure, and possible complications are the same as for any surgical procedure. These include complications related to anaesthesia (pneumonia, blood clots); infection at the incision site; bleeding, which may require another surgical procedure or even a transfusion; scarring; and numbness and tingling from nerve damage, which may be permanent.

What are the downsides of reconstructive surgery?

‘All surgery leaves scars which may be unsightly,’ says Dr Greyvensteyn. ‘In some operations, such as in muscle, tendon or skin grafts, we use tissue from another area of the body. We may therefore sacrifice tissue at the donor area, leading to defects with decreased function and, sometimes, an unsightly cosmetic appearance.’

Operation Smile

‘During an Operation Smile mission to Malawi, we operated on patients who were born with cleft lips and palates,’ says Dr Greyvensteyn. During the screening phase of the mission, I saw a three-year-old boy who kept shielding his cleft lip with his hospital card because he felt so self-conscious about his appearance, even at that young age. After we did his lip repair, he couldn’t stop looking at himself in the mirror. That 45-minute operation changed his life forever. It gives me enormous job satisfaction to see the positive effects this kind of reconstructive surgery has on patients, both physically and emotionally.

Published in Healthy Life

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