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How to Know When Real Surgery Is the Answer

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With so much happening in the aesthetic industry, it can feel like every day there’s some new noninvasive technology that can erase the effects of aging and turn back the clock. That promise of no surgery necessary can be awfully appealing, but will your results be satisfactory and stand the test of time? How do you know for sure when a noninvasive treatment will work wonders for you, or when you need to go under the knife to achieve your goals?

We spoke with Reno, NV plastic surgeon Tiffany D. McCormack, MD to learn how experts determine what treatment or procedure will provide the best, longest-lasting results, and how she knows when a patient’s goals require a surgical approach.

The Gold Standard of Age Reversal

When it comes to treating multiple concern at one time, there is a clear winner: surgery.

“Real surgery is considered the gold standard when several factors such as skin laxity, excess skin and excess fat all need to be addressed at once,” Dr. McCormack explains. “Many less-invasive options will only address one of these factors such as liposuction for fat which leaves loose skin behind, or skin tightening that does not address the fat.”

Minimally invasive and noninvasive treatments may need more than one pass to do the job fully, meaning more appointments, or may need to be combined with other treatments to fully resolve excess skin and fat.

That can add up quickly, as well as extend your rejuvenation timeline long past a surgical recovery. Spacing out treatments by your doctor’s recommendations may mean you have several months to a year before your goals are met. With surgery, you’ll have more intense downtime that requires serious rest, but afterwards, you’re set.

The Downtime Difference

If time is of the essence, you need to consider exactly what kind of downtime you’re looking at. Do you have the time to be out of work for two weeks to meet your goals, or do you require that spread-out approach with less-intense downtime?

“The recovery from surgeries such as the tummy tuck, brachioplasty and thigh lift are longer than with less-invasive procedures,” Dr. McCormack says. “Typically, there are longer incisions that need time to heal. I recommend 2 weeks of very limited activity including time off of work.”

That may sound intimidating, but it’s necessary for your body to fully bounce back after a more intense procedure.

“The initial 2 weeks is time for the body to devote all of its energy toward healing which means there is a lot of resting in this initial stage,” Dr. McCormack explains. “I recommend slowly resuming the normal activities of daily living from weeks 2-6, but still avoiding any strenuous activity until after week 6.”

How to Know When You Need Surgery

When you’re investing in rejuvenation, you want to know that your results will last. And when compared to noninvasive or minimally invasive approaches, surgery wins out here too.

“Minimally invasive options will often address very mild changes in the face and will not provide a long-lasting result,” Dr. McCormack explains. This makes them more attractive options to younger patients who have yet to show serious signs of aging. “They may be appropriate early on, especially in combination with neuromodulators and fillers.”

As your face ages, signs of laxity in your skin and facial muscles begin to drag down from fine lines into deeper wrinkles. Noninvasive and minimally invasive methods typically focus on skin laxity, leaving the facial muscles and displaced fat to remain in its lax state.

“A facelift will address sagging skin, laxity of the fascia and muscles and displacement of the facial fat compartments all in one surgery,” Dr. McCormack says. “I determine the best course based upon the physical signs of aging that are present such as visible jowls and neck laxity. These changes are very hard to fix with less-invasive options but may be readily corrected with a facelift.”

It’s important here to have an accurate understanding of how much of a change you want to reach your goal. Small tweaks and minor improvements are where these noninvasive and minimally invasive treatments shine, but they won’t substitute for surgery where one is needed.

Understanding Expectations

While patients may be put off by the idea of surgery, there is a non-zero chance that devoting yourself to multiple non-invasive or minimally invasive treatments will produce no noticeable result at all.

“It is disheartening to see patients exhaust a substantial amount of money toward nonsurgical procedures that provide very little result,” Dr. McCormack says. “I believe it is important to be evaluated by a board-certified specialist before devoting any time or money toward treatment. This way, you can be sure that you are putting your time and money toward the appropriate care.”

Ultimately, you may still choose a nonsurgical method, but speaking with a board-certified surgeon will leave you better prepared for your results.

“Some patients will still choose a less-invasive result to avoid surgery, and this is okay, but it is important to understand the difference in the results you will achieve ahead of time so that the right expectations are set,” Dr. McCormack explains.

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