Know how to get answers to post op questions – Before the surgery

An 3D illustration of a question mark.

Patients often ask for post operative advice on the web. I think the web is a great information gathering tool, but in the post-operative period, it is not a good place to start.

Why is this?

Giving you advice on any medical conditions depends on many things. These include:

  • intimate knowledge of what procedure was performed
  • detailed familiarity with symptoms
  • a physical exam

Clearly, none of these 3 conditions can be found in an internet correspondence. At best, you will be getting well-intentioned, but possibly misguided information. At worst, you could be delaying proper treatment.

The best person to answer questions about your surgery is the surgeon who operated on you!

It is in the doctor’s best interest to make sure all post operative issues are handled quickly. The only way that can happen is if you communicate with him. You should always try to contact your surgeon first, rather than go online to get answers. If your problem occurs outside of normal office hours, his answering service should be able to get in touch with him within the hour.

Do not be afraid to be insistent in getting in touch with him.  The doctor may be at home with his pager or phone in another room. Sometimes the doctor may simply not hear the phone ring. Call again.  The doctor’s answering service should have several back up numbers which include the doctor’s cell phone number, home phone number, and in some cases even his spouse’s phone number. A doctor’s spouse can sometimes tell the answering service where to find the doctor or when to expect a call back.

If you have a problem or a question in the postoperative period you should be able to have immediate access to your surgeon. If after two calls to the answering service you do not get an answer, demand to speak with someone from the practice.  Only if you are unsuccessful after doing this should you consider going online to get answers.

In certain instances that you can not find your doctor, you should call 911: If you are having shortness of breath, a high fever (above 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit), or extreme pain, then you need to go to the emergency room. Once there, let the emergency room physician know your Plastic Surgeon’s answering service number so he can inform your doctor of your condition. Sometimes hospitals have more effective ways of getting to the surgeon. Remember, your Plastic Surgeon can give the emergency room physician very important information and clues about what to be on the lookout for, so keep him in the loop.

The best way to make sure this does not happen to you is to find out the protocol for getting in touch with your doctor after surgery. You should ask this question at your pre-operative appointment, if the information is not provided at that time. If no information about post op communication is given to you, tell the surgeon that you expect to be able to access him/her in the postoperative period. You want a commitment from your surgeon that you will get prompt access. If the surgeon appears uncomfortable or evasive, that is a red flag.

Personally,I give my cell phone number to all my patients for their use during the post operative period. The beauty of it is that patients will text me for more routine questions, but telephone me if they are experiencing problems. Alternately, others will send pictures over the phone and ask if it looks OK. Digital photos are a great communication tool. It is the best of modern technology combined with personal access.

By Dr. Ricardo L. Rodriguez MD Board Certified Plastic Surgeon Cosmeticsurg Baltimore, Maryland Ricardo L. Rodriguez on American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

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16 thoughts on “Know how to get answers to post op questions – Before the surgery”

    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Linda: Thank you for your kind and considerate remarks about gender issues in my blog. I stand corrected. Many women are surgeons, and they do a great job. As far as spouses go, the answer is a little more complex. I really don't know in how many jurisdictions homosexual marriage is legal, so in the strict meaning of the word I don't know if there are many places in the world where one can refer to a homosexual partner as a spouse. Yet, in places where homosexual marriage is legal and the homosexual partners are indeed legally married, the answer is that a spouse need not only be heterosexual, evidently. Thank you for your keen interest in the subtext of sexual mores in my posts, a new and refreshing reaction.
  • Linda says:

    "Do not be afraid to be insistent in getting in touch with him." Is it true that only MEN can do this job?
  • Cosmetic Surgeon Boston Dr. Christopher Davidson says:

    Yes, it's very true that your doctor is the best person to answer these questions. It's important to pick a surgeon who is not only skilled at their chosen medical specialty but is also approachable and interested in their patients' well-being. A great way to do this is thorough research and personal recommendations from former patients; who would know better than they, after all?
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Dear Zhana: I googled "spiral thighplasty" and it seems close to what I do. I do like to reshape the thigh a lot by rotation and elevation, which is safer and has less complications than a straight elevation. It is perfectly safe to do before pregnancy, as it does not involve any structure involved with childbearing. Contact Kelly at, we'd love to hear from you!
  • Lauren Underwood says:

    Hi Dr. Rodriguez, I am doing much better in North Carolina. My inner thigh incisions have completely closed as of this weekend. What a mothers day gift for me. I just wanted to let all of your followers know what a fantastic doctor that you are. As you said in this blog a doctor should keep up with the post op of their patients. This is in fact something that you do. I am so thankful for you and the follow ups with you over the phone and via emailed photos even after I left Maryland and came back to North Carolina. I have to say that I felt more like somewhat of a family member than just a patient. I have bragged on you to all of my friends and family and told all of the medical professionals here about how wonderful you are!! I cannot say it enough. I actually miss you and your staff. Hello to Vanessa and everyone else. Hope all is well with you and I will see you again in about 4 months for scar revisions. I feel great and everything is looking good. I'm so fortunate that I chose you! You are a find!! Lauren Underwood
  • Natasha says:

    Hi again Dr. Rodriguez, I was wondering if you have a technique for lifting the bottom lip like you do the top lip (lip lift). Thanks. -Natasha
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Natasha: There are procedures to add volume to the lip, but I'm not aware of any procedures to "lift" the lower lip.
  • Natasha says:

    That is true. However, if I do have my surgeries with you and they go well, you can be assured that I would be thrilled to have them posted on your website!
  • Natasha says:

    This is a very good point made and I think one that people often overlook when excited about the surgery itself. I really think you send a good message with your blog, and as a doctor you seem like a very good-hearted person who cares about his patients. I honestly can't wait to have my consultation with you when I have the money for my future surgeries. The only thing I'd personally suggest is to put more photos on your website.The few ones up there are great! I'd love to see more of a variety though. Thank you! -Natasha
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Natasha: Thank you for your nice comments. As for the photos, that is not as easy as it seems. First, you have to get patients to agree to have their pictures broadcast to the world. Then you have to have somebody format them and submit them. It is a project. You are right, we need more photos, and we will work on it at some point. Have a great weekend!
  • deleted says:

    It is true, the best way is to find out from your surgeon but I have found that women visit my site to know information about their cosmetic procedures from a neutral source or a source different to their doctors. There is a lot of comments around that do not let patients trust 100% their doctors, maybe because of the money involved. What would you say?
    • Dr. Ricardo L Rodriguez says:

      Dear readers: The post you see below is an actual post I got from a "neutral source". I actually visited the site, and it was full of commercials and Google ads. Sites like these make money by having people click through them and they are mainly interested in increasing traffic through their site. I doubt they vet their information. You want your questions answered by Plastic Surgeons, not "neutral sources" who may be well intentioned but not as knowledgeable as a real surgeon. If you want your questions answered by other surgeons, there are sites that specialize providing answers to your specific questions by Board Certified Plastic Surgeons, such as and