Dr. Kirby's Blog

Worried About Your Plastic Surgery Recovery? Here’s How Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) Has Changed Things for the Better.

Published June 29, 2021 by Kirby Plastic Surgery

Woman Recovering in Hospital Bed Following Plastic Surgery ProcedureBefore plastic surgery, every patient wants to know how long their recovery will take. While all plastic surgeons provide a range, very few go above and beyond to minimize the time you spend in recovery. At Kirby Plastic Surgery, we use Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocols, and we see real results: our patients feel more alert, mobile, and comfortable after their procedures.

Wonder how a dramatically better recovery is possible? The answer is patient-centered, customized protocols that make surgical recovery quicker and more comfortable.

How can I speed up my plastic surgery recovery?

To speed up your recovery, choose a surgeon who uses Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocols. ERAS is a set of research-based protocols used before, during, and after surgery, typically combining non-narcotic pain and nausea medications with techniques that have been proven to help patients recover more quickly and comfortably. Here are the basic ideas of ERAS you can apply to enhance your surgical recovery:

  • Pre-operative visits: Meet with your plastic surgeon’s team to go over pre- and post-operative protocols known to support speedy healing.
  • Nutritious diet: Eat a nutritious diet before and after surgery. Stay well hydrated before and after surgery.
  • Surgical techniques: Choose a surgeon who incorporates well-studied surgical techniques that lead to less inflammation, less discomfort, and faster recovery from plastic surgery.
  • Nerve blocks for pain management: A nerve block is a numbing medication that is injected at the surgical site to help reduce your pain during recovery. Look for a surgeon who incorporates nerve blocks, such as the abdominal TAP block for tummy tuck, when appropriate.
  • Reducing narcotic medications: Choose a surgeon who applies a mixture of non-narcotic pain medications and anti-nausea medications, among others. Our ERAS protocols use small doses of multiple different types of medications. In many cases, your surgeon may direct you to begin taking certain medications ahead of surgery.
  • Movement after surgery: Begin ambulating, or getting up and walking around, within hours of surgery, and continue to do so gently at regular intervals, focusing on avoiding holding tension in the shoulders and back

By contrast, many traditional recovery plans include only a prescription for narcotic pain medication to be taken as needed after surgery. Most patients are surprised to learn that narcotics don’t prevent pain where it arises, and narcotics often cause nausea and constipation, which can slow down overall recovery. The medications and blocks used in ERAS protocols are designed to prevent pain as it arises, avoiding the need to narcotize the entire body (and brain) after surgery.

How was ERAS developed?

ERAS was first used in 1997 for general surgery patients and has since influenced other surgical specialties, changing how surgeons help their patients recover after a variety of procedures.

Many surgeons were skeptical of the first surgeons to pioneer ERAS principles: If other surgeons found that patients took 10 days to recover, how was it possible for another surgeon to recover patients after just 2 days?

The answer is found in the ERAS protocols for best practice. Each medication and technique works with one another to optimize patient recovery in a unique way, coordinating together for full effect. ERAS is now widely adopted—many surgeons use at least some of its principles, and the ERAS Society® is now an international medical society devoted to improving recovery across all types of surgery, including plastic surgery.

What is enhanced plastic surgery recovery like?

Patients who undergo ERAS report being pleasantly surprised by their tolerable levels of discomfort. When compared with narcotic pain medication used alone, ERAS makes the biggest difference during the first few days of recovery in a few ways:

  • Patients may feel more comfortable heading home to recover sooner after surgery.
  • Patients are unlikely to experience nausea and vomiting after their procedure.
  • Patients typically do not feel tired or drowsy the day after surgery, which is a stark contrast with traditional pain management.
  • ERAS patients are unlikely to need narcotic pain medication.
  • Patients are comfortable moving throughout the first 3 days after surgery—a time when movement can be taxing for many other patients.

Why is it better to avoid narcotics after surgery? Won’t I be in pain?

We have found that it is good to minimize narcotic intake for two major reasons: the unpleasant side effects and the risk of dependence. Since we have many other ways to fully treat most patients’ pain, we can prescribe certain non-narcotic pain medications to treat the pain “multimodally,” or by using multiple methods at once. Patients benefit from less drowsiness, constipation, and nausea, some of the uncomfortable side effects of narcotic pain medications.

Why should I ask my surgeon for an enhanced recovery?

You may be especially interested in a plastic surgeon who prioritizes ERAS if:

  • You want to be alert and mobile soon after surgery.
  • You want to minimize your intake of narcotic pain medication.
  • It is important to you to reduce your recovery time away from work or family.

When you are researching or meeting with a plastic surgeon, do not be shy about asking what they will do to help improve your recovery.

What else can my surgeon do to help me recover better?

In addition to using enhanced recovery protocols, such as ERAS, your surgeon should operate in a fully accredited surgical center or hospital, work with efficiency in the operating room, and take your comprehensive medical history into account.

To promote your safe, expedited recovery, Dr. Emily Kirby performs all procedures in our private AAAASF-accredited City Surgery Center with an elite, highly qualified surgical team; operates with efficiency and strict focus; and takes your previous surgeries and all medications and supplements into account when planning your procedure.

Visit board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Emily J. Kirby for ERAS recovery in Fort Worth

To provide you with the best possible care, Dr. Emily Kirby and her surgical team have established Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocols for all surgical procedures at Kirby Plastic Surgery. Based on years of first-hand clinical research, our protocols provide individualized pain management guidelines for every plastic surgery procedure we offer. To learn more and schedule your consultation with Dr. Kirby, contact us today by calling or texting 817-292-4200.

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