Why do People Have Surgery?
People have surgery for many reasons over many different surgical specialities. The better question for me to answer is ‘why do people have plastic or reconstructive surgery?’
The plastic and reconstructive surgical procedures we undertake at Avery Plastic Surgery include: removing large and serious skin cancers, particularly on the face; restoring breasts for women who have had a mastectomy following breast cancer; replacing areas of lost skin and tissue following significant trauma; improving scars following injury or previous surgery; alleviating back and neck pain with breast reductions; removing excess skin following significant weight loss or pregnancy, which relieves discomfort of potentially irritated heavy skin folds; reducing visual obstruction by removing heavy excess upper eyelid skin; altering breast size with either a breast lift or a breast implant, often sought as a balancing procedure with reference to body proportions; reduce or change the appearance and function of the nose; and children for birthmarks, scar revisions, ear pinning, and other assorted procedures.
There are many reasons people choose to explore plastic and reconstructive surgery. Sometimes there is a crossover in the ‘why’, but people are individuals and as such the reasons and the life that has lead them to explore their surgical options are often somewhat different from one another.
Some of the plastic and reconstructive procedures are primarily restorative in their aims. Breast reconstruction, and repairing skin/tissue, and scars are examples of these. Additionally, addressing functional concerns in some way frequently features in the reasoning for plastic and reconstructive surgeries. For example, alleviating the discomfort and irritation from large breasts, or from excess skin on the abdomen.
Some procedures performed are primarily for aesthetic reasons. Many people we see want to change an aspect of their appearance based on how they feel internally. A common misconception is that people have plastic and reconstructive surgery to stand out from the crowd, but in fact the majority of people we meet want to blend in and see themselves as more in line with their friends and family, and their community. Examples of these include male breast reduction, rhinoplasty (nose), and pinning ears back.
Each person has a unique life journey that brings them to their decision to seek our services. We do not debate the social and cultural constructs of changing ones’ appearance, and it is not my place to make personal judgements about the information people seek or the changes they are hoping to achieve.
However, it is my responsibility to ensure all people who come to me for a consultation about any procedure, including those procedures with an aesthetic focus are fully informed. My role is to talk with them about their expectations, what is achievable with surgery, and what are the possible consequences. This includes the very serious decision to undergo surgery, which always carries an element of medical risk. These risks include understanding the permanency of the scars associated with the procedure, and the problems that can occur with the body away from the surgical site such as possible clots in the leg that can ultimately be life-threatening. Another risk that ALL surgeries have is the possibility of needing more surgical intervention or medical treatment related to the outcome of the initial surgery. The decision to proceed with the surgery is a joint decision between the surgeon and the patient. Ultimately, if I believe the expectations are unrealistic or deviate significantly from what the general medical community would consider acceptable, then the surgery will not proceed.
Having a consultation to explore surgeries you have been considering is not equivalent to committing to proceed with that surgery. It is about information gathering and increasing your knowledge so you can make a fully informed decision. We never book elective surgeries on the day of the consultation to encourage people to go away and think seriously about the decision. I would like to think we provide a non-judgemental, safe, and warm space in our Practice for people to explore their options. I would hope we do this regardless of the ‘why’ they are having surgery.
If you have questions, you would like Dr Avery to answer; please email firstname.lastname@example.org.