Cosmetic Surgery During The Coronavirus Pandemic: Is It Safe?
With social distancing the new norm and so many cities on lockdown, save essential retail and services, people are spending unprecedented amounts of time at home—sequestered alone or with family, looking at a stretch of endless weeks ahead of them out of the public eye. For anyone who's maybe a little bored and thinking about utilising this time to schedule an elective treatment, plastic surgery, or any cosmetic procedure that requires downtime and recovery—stop that train of thought right there. Because even though the idea of a secret procedure and built-in stay-at-home recovery time might seem tempting, the COVID-19 crisis is no time to be putting yourself and others at risk.
While we all know that hospitals in impacted areas are packed or bracing and preparing for a potential influx of coronavirus patients, it hasn't stopped some people from inquiring.
"Early on, when we were just beginning to have more cases of COVID-19 and before most closures, patients were asking for procedures so that they could recover from home," says Dr Gary Linkov, a facial plastic surgeon based in New York City and founder of CityFacialPlastics.com. "But as the pandemic worsened, especially in New York City, the state mandated that all elective surgery stop, which made it impossible to continue offering procedures even if patients requested them."
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What to do if you already have an elective cosmetic procedure scheduled
"For people who have long-standing scheduled procedures, broadly speaking, almost all types of procedures should be postponed," says Dr Constance M Chen, a board-certified plastic surgeon and breast reconstruction specialist practicing in New York City. "There is no reason to undergo elective procedures during the coronavirus epidemic."
The hidden dangers of plastic surgery during the coronavirus pandemic
"Surgery and other procedures place a patient in an immunocompromised state, which is not the right condition to be in to fight a global pandemic," Dr Chen says. "While weeks of self-isolation and quarantine might present a unique opportunity to undergo a procedure and recover in private, without the pressure to return to work or public life, it is overshadowed by far by putting a patient unnecessarily into an immunocompromised state. Furthermore, approximately 50 percent of people affected by the coronavirus are asymptomatic, so there is no guarantee that the surgical team in the hospital is virus-free."
What if something goes wrong?
"Even though doing a cosmetic procedure in an office-based operating room may be low-risk, the worry is that if the patient needed to go to the hospital for a complication, you wouldn't want to take a bed away from a COVID-19 patient that really needs it and shift it to a patient that was undergoing a totally elective, unnecessary procedure at the time," says Dr Jonathan Kaplan, a board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of Pacific Heights Plastic Surgery. "Additionally, operating on anyone, even a healthy patient, puts them in a transiently compromised state—so if a cosmetic patient caught COVID-19 after their procedure, they could conceivably become sicker than if they didn't just have a procedure."
What about routine outpatient procedures—are they safe during the COVID-19 crisis?
"People should not be trying new things at the doctor's office at the moment," Dr Chen says. "The skin is the largest organ of the barrier and it protects the body from outside invading organisms. A chemical peel intentionally violates that organ and destroys the body's protection against outside organisms—it is definitely not the procedure to seek during a global pandemic. There is no such thing as a routine outpatient procedure—all procedures have potential consequences and complications. Any procedure that requires healing and recovery should not be undergone during a global pandemic."
So what's the final word on plastic surgery during the coronavirus pandemic?
"The best advice right now is to stay home, stay safe, and use the time to do your research about a procedure or treatment that you have always wanted," Dr Linkov says.
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