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Make the most of your surgical consultation

Posted on August 21, 2013

MyBreast founding surgeon, Mr Simon Withey, talks about making the most of your cosmetic surgery consultation.

Give yourself enough time: Hopefully your consultation will start punctually but medical consultants are renown for overrunning in outpatients. Your surgeon will do his /her best to keep the other consultations to time, but occasionally other patients will require more time than might have been anticipated. You should also consider this when arranging travel and parking.

Do your homework: Before you visit your surgeon I would suggest that you spend a little time researching your proposed operation on the Internet. It is amazing how helpful five minutes of reading can be, you will feel more comfortable and confident discussing things, and it will help you prepare some questions.

Know a little about your surgeon: It is likely that before you visit your surgeon you will be provided with a surgeon profile outlining their training and experience. Ensure that they are on the specialist register for plastic surgery, FRCS (Plast). Check what professional bodies they belong to.

Help your surgeon: Your surgeon will ask you a number of questions that would be helpful to consider before your consultation. If you are having a consultation regarding aesthetic worries you will be asked to try to be quite specific about your concerns, in other words, if you don’t like your nose you will be asked to describe what it is that you don’t like, and of course what it is that you would hope for.  Your surgeon will also ask you about any significant illnesses and operations that you might have had in the past, he will expect you to be able to produce a list of any medication that you are taking, including the oral contraceptive, and will ask about any allergies that you might have to take medicines for.

Think about taking a second set of ears: Patients often find it helpful to attend outpatients with someone else. Many find it easier to discuss their concerns with a friend or family member by their side, it also means they have someone who has witnessed the consultation to discuss it with later.

Know what to expect: Having talked to you about your wishes and examined you your surgeon should talk you through the operation, you will be informed of any alternative treatments that might be available. By the end of the consultation you should be aware of the implications of surgery, for instance you should be aware of the time you might be expected to take off work, and the time during which you should avoid exercise. You should also be aware of the risks of surgery and part of your consultation will undoubtedly focus on these.

Have your questions prepared beforehand: Towards the end of your consultation it is likely that your surgeon will ask you whether you have any questions, it is helpful to have considered this beforehand, if you do have any questions that you wish to discuss I would suggest that you write them down, as I can guarantee most patients minds go blank when they are asked this.

Expect to be asked if you mind having your photograph taken: Pre operative photographs will be taken and kept in your clinical notes, they are important for operative planning and are kept as a clinical record. Some patients do not like the idea of their photographs being taken and kept but it is highly unlikely that your surgeon will agree to proceed with your surgery unless pre operative photographs are available.

Be prepared for communication to be sent: It is viewed as good clinical practice for surgeons to communicate pre and post operatively with your family doctor. Some patients have good reasons for preferring that their doctor is not informed of their consultation, do not be surprised if your surgeon suggests that a letter should be sent.

Get copies of old records: If you have had previous aesthetic surgery and a requesting revisional work from another surgeon it is important to have copies of your notes/ operative records available. Between 30% and 40% of my time is now spent undertaking revisional surgery after patients have had their primary procedure elsewhere, I can’t stress enough how helpful it is when patients turn up to their first consultation with their previous notes. If you have not obtained copies of your records it is likely that your surgeon will ask you to sign a release form that will allow their office to send for them on your behalf.

Trust you instincts: Most patients are very good judges of character. If you feel uncomfortable with your surgeon then seek a second opinion. If you feel that you are being pressurised to proceed then walk away. You should not embark on surgery unless you feel that you can trust your doctor, however good the price!