Plastic Surgery: Is it safe to get plastic surgery procedures amid the Coronavirus pandemic?
At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, hospitals and even outpatient procedure centers canceled all elective procedures. Anything that could be delayed was put on hold in order to free up staff, beds, and equipment for the critically ill patients flooding into hospitals each day.
Furthermore, since we had a poor understanding of how coronavirus was spread at that time, providing optional services was deemed too risky. That was the state of affairs back in March and April, but as the months have worn on, conditions have changed, and a growing number of facilities are once again offering plastic surgery. But the question remains: is it safe?
Safety Rules Apply
These will vary depending on the facility, but at minimum you will be asked to wear a mask, may have significant restrictions on visitors, and will have your temperature taken when you arrive at the facility. The American Society of Plastic Surgery also recommends pre-procedure PCR testing for COVID-19. Since asymptomatic carriers can still infect others – especially if they are being intubated for surgery – having fast, accurate testing is important.
Another factor that both patients and providers need to consider when scheduling plastic surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic is the current rate of community transmission. These numbers have been fluctuating for the past six months throughout the country, and tend to spike based on behavioral and policy changes.
Many are also expecting increased COVID spread during the winter months, as socializing outdoors becomes more difficult and people risk simultaneous flu and coronavirus infection, leading to even more severe illness. That may mean doctors need to start postponing procedures again as the seasons turn, in order to minimize infection risk and maximize space for critical cases.
Procedure Type Matters
The majority of the plastic surgery requests during COVID-19 have not been major, invasive procedures. Instead, they’ve been for facial rejuvenation, Botox, and fillers.While taking proper precautions is obviously one of the more important parts of planning for plastic surgery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not the only factor.
The type of procedure you’re planning is also very important, especially since plastic surgery is such a broad field. Invasive surgical interventions are obviously much riskier than injections of products like Botox or fillers. Such brief, outpatient procedures can be performed safely with appropriate PPE.
The Plastic Surgery Rush
There are two main camps in the debate over performing plastic surgery during the coronavirus pandemic. On the one hand, there are those who strongly believe that such procedures represent an unnecessary risk and should remain on hold. Then there are those who have taken the current pandemic as the optimal time to undergo elective procedures, in part because these procedures are less likely to interfere with their day to day lives. Indeed, interest in plastic surgery has increased so much that many have dubbed it a top COVID-19 trend.
The majority of the plastic surgery requests during COVID-19 have not been major, invasive procedures. Instead, they’ve been for facial rejuvenation, Botox, and fillers. Among the handful of surgeries that have spiked are facelifts and blepharoplasties, which is a procedure that addresses drooping eyelids. These procedures are on the rise because of the ways the pandemic has reorganized our lives.
Because people spend much of their days interacting with others on screen or looking at masked faces, we’ve all become increasingly sensitive to our facial appearance. It’s an understandable fixation, but it may also be driving some people to pursue plastic surgery who might not have considered it otherwise.
Putting Safety First
Overall, most plastic surgeons feel generally confident that they’re providing safe conditions for their patients, but it’s important that everyone remain cautious.
Overall, most plastic surgeons feel generally confident that they’re providing safe conditions for their patients, but it’s important that everyone remain cautious.To that end, plastic surgeons should minimize face-to-face appointments as much as appropriate by providing services via telehealth, eliminate or significantly space out waiting room use, and install barriers in areas where patients and staff interface.
Patients also have a responsibility to carefully consider the risk involved in seeking plastic surgery. That means screening surgeons regarding their safety protocols, following social distancing guidelines, wearing a mask during consultations, and carefully monitoring their own health.
One of the central elements of this pandemic is the need for everyone to take responsibility for each other. Feeling under the weather? Stay home. Have doubts about the safety of an activity? Better to be more cautious than to put yourself or others at risk.
At this point, we understand enough about what activities present the greatest risk of COVID-19 infection to accurately gauge the safety of activities, and most hospitals have sufficient PPE to take on more than just emergency care. Still, patients should be prepared to have to reschedule any procedures that are scheduled at this time.
Local risk factors and demands on the health system can change, and it’s important to remember that when a doctor reschedules a procedure, they’re doing so to keep everyone safe. Plastic surgery may not carry an increased risk right now, but our medical systems are carrying a heavy burden – plastic surgery isn’t a priority, even if it’s a possibility.