“Doctor, what will I look like?” is a question in the first chapter of all individual plastic surgery stories. It seems every patient wants to know the answer to that question, and one of the best ways to answer it involves Before & After pictures.
Whether it’s a big surgery with multiple sites or a small procedure, everyone wants to know what their results will be. You can get an idea or approximation of your outcome with the many computer imaging systems and programs available for this purpose. If you’re viewing such a program with your doctor, you will always be advised that your result might be similar to, but not exactly the result in the virtual image.
So, how else can you get a sense of what to expect? When you, the consumer, is ‘looking around’ to get ideas of what procedure would produce the goals you want to achieve, where do you look?
Most of you—and we mean, patients by the millions—look at pictures of other people.
The ‘Wish Pic’
You look at them for the features or proportions you would like to have, if possible. These are the “Wish Pics.” And Plastic Surgeons everywhere are used to seeing them every day. In fact, sometimes we feel we don’t need to subscribe to the latest popular magazines or websites featuring celebrity news- because our patients keep us up to date on them all! So, you can feel free to ask us about so-and-so’s nose, or lips, chin, or derriere.
If the only photos you’re viewing are Wish Pics, it’s time to change your viewing habits.
It’s good to have a goal or even a fantasy. But, it’s much better to have a realistic idea of what plastic surgery can accomplish; and even more importantly, what’s possible and what’s best for your body and your features.
For instance, maybe you’re captivated by actress “Jane Doe’s” short, narrow, upturned nose. Can someone reproduce that nose shape and size on your face? Maybe. But … unless your face has the exact dimensions of Jane’s and unless you have the same skin type, thickness, and tone, and unless your other features (eyes, lips, ears, chin, jawline, hair, etc.) are identical to Jane’s, your results might look like you—with somebody else’s nose.
Your plastic surgeon knows
This is the part where we tell you to place some trust in your Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon. We have spent years working to understand anatomy, aesthetics, and surgery, and we develop a sense of what will complement your face and body. We’ll tell you when we think you’re ‘pushing the boundaries’ of what’s best for you. Patients don’t always agree, but most do.
The Before and Afters
In addition to good communication with your surgeon, you’ll also be “looking” at lots and lots of photos of patients who’ve had the procedure or procedures you’re researching. And, that’s a good and wise thing to do.
What Should I Look For?
- First, find a surgeon who offers a good number of Before and After photos of patients, especially in the procedures you want to explore. Many patients recognize similarities to themselves in the Before and After photos, and experience an “I have that same thing happening” moment. Our practice provides access to a Before & After gallery with a wide range of surgical results to view, as do most others.
- It’s true you won’t see your “exact” body or your exact situation in someone else’s photos, but you may be surprised at how closely some may resemble your case. You’ll be able to see the patient before surgery, and probably a couple of months after surgery.
That’s helpful in another way. You’ll be able to see the stage or stages of healing a short time after surgery, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the early appearance of scars following procedures.
Sometimes, but not always, patients do come back after a longer period, for an updated photo. This gives an even more complete view of how any scarring has resolved, and any swelling present in the early stages of recovery has gone away. Today, there are also many online forums where patients share their plastic surgery stories on their own, with photo and video journals, and commentary.
None of this is possible without the consent and satisfaction of our wonderful patients! And, that gives us a great sense of satisfaction too. If you’re at the “looking stages” of your plastic surgery story, we’re happy to help you get a better understanding and a better picture. Best wishes!
[Dr. Vincent Lepore is a board-certified plastic surgeon in San Jose, California. Consultations for Cosmetic Surgery procedures are offered free of charge. Please call (408) 356-4241 to schedule your appointment]