Why Plastic Surgery Recovery Time for Men is Often Longer Then it Is for Women

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Beth Longware Duff, Medical Editor

Beth Longware Duff is an experienced writer and reporter whose work on a wide variety of topics has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines. Her health and medical writing credits include nationally distributed videos for the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, and she is the recipient of numerous awards including an American Cancer Society Media Award and a New England Press Association Award for Health Reporting. She holds a degree in Communications from Ithaca College.


December 08 2008

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Plastic Surgery and Recovery Time for Men

The differences between men and women run more than skin deep when it comes to cosmetic surgery. There are both physiological and psychological disparities that separate the guys from the gals and these create unique challenges during the postoperative period for men and their surgeons.

One good example of these gender differences is fat, both type and location, which requires a different approach during a procedure like liposuction to achieve optimal results in men. "Men and women have very different anatomic components to body fat," explains Jack Fisher, MD, a Nashville plastic surgeon. "Men tend to have more fibrous fat that's more difficult to remove, especially on the hips and love handles." He adds that it can be difficult to get good results from liposuction to the neck in men due to the fact that male skin is thicker and less pliable than female skin. As a result, men often experience more postoperative discomfort and a longer healing time than women.

Another area where Dr. Fisher alters his technique for men is the face. "When doing a face lift on a man, the skin can often be more difficult to work with and you have to worry about hair follicles," he says. "I have to tell many of my male patients that they'll need to shave behind their ears because I'm taking some of the bearded skin from the front and putting it behind their ears."

While Dr. Fisher reports less postsurgical bruising in his male face lift patients because their skin is so thick, he says they often experience more swelling and puffiness, which can delay their return to their normal routine.

There are also a number of psychological reasons why men don't fare as well postoperatively as women. According to Kenneth Dickie, MD, Director of the Bahamas Institute of Plastic Surgery and a Fellow of Canada's Royal College of Surgeons, many men are more interested in negotiating a good deal for the procedure than in the practical details. "Because of that, they are not always realistic about results – or the amount of healing time required to achieve them," the plastic surgeon wrote on TheBahamasWeekly.com. Unrealistic expectations are among the most common reasons why cosmetic surgery patients are dissatisfied with their results.

Additionally, Dr. Dickie contends that "men are less patient than women with the entire cosmetic surgical process", that they "don't listen as well as women" to pre- and postsurgical instructions, and that "they tend not to have a support system to help them during recovery." "Men think they won't need any help, so they don't ask for it," he elaborated. "And because they don't want to wear concealing makeup, men often are unrealistic about when they can return to ‘normal'. As a result, they get depressed and frustrated faster than women."

Dr. Fisher says his experience has been that each patient's recovery is influenced by their personality and, most importantly, their expectations. However, he continues that some of the stereotypes associated with men recovering from surgery hold true. "Men whine and complain more – no question about it," he says. "Men are terrible patients. Women are willing to hide out until they've recovered, but men want to have a major operation and be back at work the next day."

For best results, men who are considering plastic surgery should choose a board-certified plastic surgeon with extensive experience treating men and an understanding of the special challenges they face during and after surgery. All prospective patients should use their consultation to ask questions about the procedure and listen carefully to the surgeon's answers. In particular, they should ask specifically about the recovery period so that they are prepared for what lies ahead, and they should be realistic in their expectations of what plastic surgery can accomplish for them.