Beauty may be skin-deep, but when it comes to cosmetic surgery, the scope for aesthetic enhancements goes much deeper. On the surface, changing your physical appearance may improve your overall well-being, but it won’t decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease or prevent diabetes. For egos that need feeding, however, the nip and tuck business shows no sign of slowing down in Dubai. Here, more than Dhs370 million is spent on plastic surgery each year, according to renowned plastic surgeon Dr David Alessi, who is currently dividing his time between Los Angeles and the UAE. In our health issue, we aim to cover all facets of well-being and with bikini season looming, we debunk some of the common myths about going under the knife. From the use of blood-sucking leeches in reconstructive plastic surgery to downtime for cosmetic tweaks, here are some of the things they don’t tell you.
A gastric band won’t help you lose weight…
Well, it will initially. But it requires a life-long commitment from the patient. Dr Fawaz Torab, bariatric (or obesity) surgeon at American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery Hospital says: ‘The surgery is the first step of the treatment – it’s not the treatment. It’s followed by a follow-up programme, where the patient must maintain a special diet, modify their lifestyle with exercise and undergo repeated assessment of their nutritional status. The drastic weight loss [40 percent of excess weight with a gastric band and 70 percent of excess weight with a gastric sleeve or bypass] is not easily tolerated by the body. We need to support it with vitamins, supplements and continuous monitoring of how the liver and kidneys are functioning. If the patient is not following this programme, the surgery will be considered unsuccessful.’
You may come into contact with a bug…
That might sound terrifying, but don’t worry, it’s not a nasty one. ‘Leeches are nowadays used in reconstructive surgery because they release a substance known as herotin, which increases the blood supply to the part of the body the leech is placed on,’ explains Dr Rahul Tandon, reconstructive surgeon at Burjeel Hospital. ‘It basically acts as a blood thinner. When we do microsurgery to rejoin fingers to the hand, for example, a leech is sometimes used to increase the blood supply. In certain circumstances it’s more commonly used, for example if the patient is diabetic or hypertensive. Wherever microsurgery work occurs, it is certainly something that is always kept in mind when working on such cases.’
It will take longer than you think to recover…
Recovery times have improved enormously over the past decade, with the introduction of new techniques and procedures. According to Dr Maurizio Viel of the London Centre of Aesthetics Dubai, healing times vary from patient to patient and depend on the area of the body the operation is performed. ‘The most common surgery we do in our clinic is breast augmentation and the recovery time is relatively fast. After 48 hours, patients can drive, after two or three days there is no pain and after four days they can go back to work.’ If you’re active, however, healing time could seem like an eternity. ‘To resume exercise and their normal life, patients need to wait a month. We place our implants on top of the muscle and we do the operation under sedation. It’s a one-day procedure so they go home the same day. The dressing I apply on the breast must stay on for five days,’ he says.
‘For liposuction, it’s a different matter, and it’s important to identify the pain tolerance of each individual patient. Generally speaking, the first three or four days are difficult because all patients experience some sort of pain and discomfort. For the first week they will feel quite stiff and quite rigid and after this first week they can resume their normal life and go back to work. They’ll also need to wear a support garment for one week,’ he adds.
‘With a face lift, after ten days the patient can go back to their normal social life. Again, the technique we use causes less swelling and bruising, and after ten days we remove the sutures. Ladies can cover the incisor if they have long hair. In our hands, the bruising is quite minimal, but if there is any it’s mainly towards the base of the neck,’ Dr Maurizio says.
You’ll put on weight in weird places…
Liposuction involves the removal of fat cells in the targeted area, which means that when you start gaining weight you may notice other areas growing larger, faster. Dr Maurizio explains: ‘Because we remove fat cells from the area being operated on, there are less fat cells there compared with other parts of the body. So if you gain weight, it will be less noticeable in the area operated on. Fat distribution in the body varies from patient to patient. Each person has a weak link where they tend to accumulate more weight and more fat. During the consultation it’s important for us to find out which area that is so we can address it more than others when we do the body sculpturing, to prevent the discrepancy in distribution later on.’
One surgery may not be enough…
You may not need to replace breast implants every decade, but Dr Maurizio explains there is still some level of maintenance required in most surgeries. ‘Nowadays, with the latest American implants that are available on the market, the manufacturer gives a lifetime warranty on breast implants,’ he says. ‘So the quality of the implants is so improved that in theory they shouldn’t need to be replaced. But your natural breast may change with ageing or if you gain or lose weight. So the implant could be perfectly fine, but the breast is not as good as it was before. What you may find is that the implants and the breasts no longer match, and further down the line, you may need to have another operation to improve the appearance of the breast.’
Fillers can permanently damage your face…
‘I always recommend that my patients only use fillers that are made of hyaluronic acid, which makes them dissolvable,’ says Dr Maurizio. ‘Never use permanent or semi-permanent fillers because they can cause problems and in due course can cause side effects, such as lumps.’
Facts and figures
Most popular surgeries locally
● Breast augmentation
● Nose job
Number of people visiting Dubai for surgery
107,500 medical tourists
Most popular non-surgical surgery in the world
Number of nose jobs carried out globally
Most popular surgery in the world
Bottom augmentations and neck lifts
Percentage of male patients undergoing plastic surgery in the UAE