The latest attempt? A rapid recovery breast augmentation method that some plastic surgeons are aggressively marketing, which claims you can return to work or leisure within just 24 hours -- a far cry from the typical seven to 10 day recovery most breast augmentations require.
While cosmetic surgery has gradually become more affordable and accessible to the working class, one challenge continues to stand in the way: not many are able to take the time off from work needed to fully recover from a procedure like a breast augmentation. And surgeons are increasingly offering options with this consideration in mind.
But does rapid really work? And more importantly, is it even safe?
Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Ashkan Ghavami is one of the doctors offering the rapid recovery method. A press release blast from Ghavami, touting "new boobs in a flash" recently found its way into my inbox. "The recovery is so painless that patients are even encouraged to take a shower the same day as their surgery, raise their arms, blow dry their hair, and even go out to dinner or a movie to celebrate! Many return to work the next day, or go out shopping!"
Having had a breast augmentation (you can view my before and after photos here), the prospect of lifting my arms above my head, showering and returning to work within 24 hours -- a bold claim made by this method of surgery -- actually made me shudder at the thought.
You see, in the days following my own breast augmentation, my elbows wanted to stay firmly planted to my sides. Raising my hands to suds up my hair would've seemed a Herculean task -- not to mention wielding a heavy blowdryer to style. And the only work I wanted to do was lift the remote control.
I had interviewed Ghavami on his intriguing and rather unique ethnic rhinoplasty procedure, so I knew the California surgeon wasn't opposed to riding the rails of controversy.
Ghavami says his method is based on the teachings of Dallas plastic surgeon Dr. John Tebbetts, who mapped out the common location of blood vessels in the breast, and figured out the least traumatic way to create a breast pocket for the implant. Tebbetts claims this controls any bleeding by not allowing it to occur in the first place.
"The ultimate key is that there is very little trauma and bleeding, therefore less pain and a quicker recovery," Ghavami tells StyleList.
The method also decreases the time it takes to do a breast augmentation from an average of one to two hours down to 30 minutes, claims Ghavami.
Yet immediate past president of The American Society Of Plastic Surgery (ASPS), Dr. Michael F. McGuire, says that a purported short surgery can be a red warning flag.
"Doing a breast augmentation in 30 minutes isn't necessarily a good thing. My main concern is that it could expose a patient to greater complication risks. You also can't get around the fact that it is a surgery, done under anesthesia, and the human body needs sufficient time to heal. Risks arise when you try to rush things just for the sake of saying you do it within a certain frame," says McGuire.
Even though the time and turnaround is what is most visually marketed in the method, Ghavami claims it's not his priority.
"Dr. McGuire is correct, but the goal here is not simply to be quick. Since the dissection is precise and there are no wasted maneuvers, and there is less trauma, then as a result, there is less anesthesia and surgical time," says Ghavami.
When questioning more experts on the time it takes to do a skilled breast augmentation, I encountered two conflicting schools of thought. One side argued that you need more time to do things correctly, and properly assess the surgical site, while producing an artistically attractive result that is unique to the patient. The other argued that if you know what you're doing, you can go in with a laser-like eye, and accomplish the mission in much less time.
Another point of contention is the whole showering issue. While recovery methods can vary, most breast augmentation patients aren't allowed to shower from a couple to a few days post-surgery. "It's a fact of human healing that a skin incision on the body takes about 48 hours to seal," says Wayne, New Jersey plastic surgeon, Dr. Parham A. Ganchi. "Taking a shower before this has happened could result in an infection."
After all, it's the presence of water and a moist environment that invites most infections to take root.
I personally left fine bandages called steri-strips on my incisions for weeks after my surgery, to guard against infection and allow the faint lines to heal into the seamlessly invisible marks they are today. And having seen photos of the raised and pinkish scars that weren't handled properly during healing, I can appreciate the time it takes for the body to do its thing. Yet Ghavami says he takes this all into consideration when telling patients that they can shower almost immediately following surgery.
"A glue that is waterproof is used on the incision, and it is covered with surgical dressings, which do not allow water to enter the wound. Not all shower the same day, but they can if they like, and this helps in recovery. I have not had a single infection using this technique thus far. If a breast lift is done at the same time, then the recovery and showering instructions are very different," says Ghavami, of the more involved procedure that uses multiple incision points.
Fortunately, if you've chosen a qualified and skilled plastic surgeon, and follow your healing instructions, you can dramatically decrease any risk of bleeding. But herein lies the most serious criticism of the rapid recovery method.
"The vast majority of patients who develop bleeding after breast augmentation do so in the first 24 hours," explains Ganchi. "Wouldn't it make sense to avoid any stimulation of the muscle, and therefore the blood vessels, until they have sealed? This only requires relaxing for a few days. I don't think this is too much to ask to prevent bleeding," says Ganchi.
The rapid recovery method seems to fly right in the face of this, encouraging patients to raise their arms, shower and move about at a regular pace, immediately following surgery. Ghavami claims hematoma isn't a heightened concerned, as the more precise methodology "pre-emptively controls bleeding."
And according to a helpful chart by Tebbetts that aims to distinguish between a "real" 24 hour recovery and an unskilled surgeon who is merely riding a wave of hype, the ability to be active and move about freely on the same day as your breast augmentation is crucial to his method's mode of recovery.
(As a side note, the chart claims that the authentic version is called '24 Hour Recovery,' while the buzzword "Rapid Recovery" is used by surgeons who are just capitalizing on the trend. I personally think it's a matter of semantics, as fully qualified surgeons I spoke with used both phrases interchangeably.)
Experts also tell me that the 24 hour recovery method hinges upon choosing a moderate sized implant, which works with the mechanics of how this procedure heals. Granted, 'moderate' is a size that can vary in opinion from person to person, but let's just say that Pamela Anderson's version doesn't qualify.
While not openly touting a rapid recovery method, many of today's most skilled plastic surgeons combine elements of the method with more traditional methods of healing, for what they say is the ultimate combination of a low-risk and easy recovery surgery.
For example, traditional breast augmentation created the space, or pocket, for the implant by cutting through muscle. Many surgeons today use a heat method called cautery, to dissolve through tissue without causing the same amount of trauma and risk of bleeding. While this is a trademark of the rapid recovery breast augmentation, it's also an increasingly popular strategy used by surgeons performing a more traditional style of augmentation.
As a breast augmentation patient and now adviser to other women who are considering the procedure, I can tell you that our greatest fear is of something going wrong. Sure, a quick no-frills way to get ample, perky cleavage sounds like a dream, but nearly no woman wants to do it at any kind of significant risk to her health.
If you're considering a plastic surgeon who uses the rapid recovery technique, do your homework to make sure you're getting the real deal. Make sure the doctor is board-certified by the American Board Of Plastic Surgery, which is recognized by the medical community as the most prestigious credential.
And from surgical plan to any risks like bleeding and infection, make sure your doctor addresses each point with expertise and detailed explanations that can be backed up by independent studies they're so familiar with, they can conversationally refer to them. You also need to feel a genuine sense of care from the surgeon.
Because unlike Cinderella, the choices you make as an empowered patient place your destiny into your own hands.