Its been a busy summer at the practice: several national and international plastic surgery meetings (ISAPS, BAAPS and others) followed by a seemingly endless stream…
The significant majority of my patients have one thing in common, no matter whether they are seeing me about their face, their eyes, their, breasts or their body. What links them all is that their underlying reason for coming to see me is related to their confidence or self-esteem. Whether a result of the ageing process, post-pregnancy/breast-feeding changes to their breast and bodies, the results of weight loss, or developmental issues; this is the common thread I find with my patients week in, week out.
However, there is also another group of patients, who in my practice make up a much smaller proportion. These are patients who have no significant self-confidence issues, but would like a body or facial altering procedure for more cosmetic reasons. Perhaps they would just desire larger breasts, or fuller lips, or maybe they would like a particular wrinkle treated because it irritates them, but does not impact on their psychological or emotional well-being.
The reason for me writing a blog on this topic is related to the expectations of patients in the two groups, and how they differ. Following on from my last blog on expectations (Reflections on Expectations), I realise that there is another factor that can influence a patient’s satisfaction with the outcome of their surgery.
In the first group, where patients are psychologically and emotionally affected, which impacts on their confidence and self-esteem, a change or improvement to the cause of concern usually has a positive impact, and they are normally very happy with the outcome. Perhaps they regard their outcome against their pre-procedure self, and therefore recognise the positive difference and impact that has been made. Or maybe it is because they feel that an alteration, even if not “perfect” has put them into a better position than they were in previously. Thus, in this group, most patients are very happy with the outcome of their procedure.
On the other hand, the second group, who are choosing to have a procedure for other reasons, often have a higher expectation of their result. If they are going to undergo a procedure to address their body or face that does not overly bother them, then to be “worth it”, anything but perfection will often be deemed a disappointing result. Having an insight of these differences before undergoing procedure can help you ascertain your possible satisfaction with your result.
This is why as part of the pre-procedure consultation process it is so important for me to try to understand what it is that has stimulated my patient to seek my advice and help. It also enables me to tailor my consultation for them, and try to ensure that I can be as realistic as possible when advising them on what they can expect.
Sometimes, as a plastic surgeon, I observe that despite an objectively good outcome from a procedure, the patient is not happy (see Reflections on Expectations). It seems that some patients in this group may fit into the more cosmetic category I have described above. Perhaps this is also compounded by the patient taking away an overly optimistic message from their consultation different from the one I have tried to convey. This is why I sometimes insist on a 3rd (or even 4th) consultation in situations when I am concerned the patient and I are not on the same wavelength with respect to potential outcomes and realistic expectations.
So, if you are someone who I ask to come back to see me again for a 3rd consultation for this reason, please see it as a positive part of my patient care, as in my experience, time before a procedure is always well spent, and never regretted.