Sending Selfies Could Help Prevent Plastic Surgery Disasters

Love them or hate them, those auspiciously angled self-portraits known as “selfies” are here to stay. Typically taken on a smartphone and then plastered on social media sites like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, selfies run the gamut from just plain vain to endearing, depending on who you ask. But now these popular photos are being used for more than just to attract “likes” — they may even save a life.

According to a study published in the June 2017 issue of Aesthetic Surgery Journal, patients who sent selfies to their plastic surgeon following their procedure were found to have a higher level of satisfaction with their post-operative experience than those who did not. Plastic surgeon Dr. Bruce Chau of Berkley, Michigan, explains why.

“The photos were used as a tool to help the surgeon check up on the healing process of the patients who sent them,” says Chau, who does not currently use selfies as part of his surgical aftercare procedures. “They were used in lieu of the patient returning to the surgeon’s office the next morning for a follow-up exam.”

Doctors who participated in the study cited certain surgeries, such as breast lifts, as ideal surgeries for selfie follow-up because these procedures normally require the patient to return to the office the day after surgery.

“By sending a selfie, it saves the patient a trip that could otherwise be very painful,” says Chau. “Most people don’t want to go anywhere the first few days after surgery, let alone the first 24 hours.”

If the photo looks good, the patient is given the all-clear to stay home and rest, and if it raises concerns, Chau says the surgeon could have the patient come in to see if emergency revisions need to be made.

“Many procedures are time-sensitive, so skipping the follow-up isn’t an option, but sending a photo is a really smart compromise,” he says.

Chau believes more practices will incorporate selfies into their aftercare routines as soon as HIPAA guidelines can be established.

“We want our patients to be satisfied with their procedure, but also to be comfortable, so if we can find a way to keep people comfortable and still do our job, it’s a win for everyone,” he says. “But there also needs to be clear standards for how to receive these photos, and how to safeguard them once they’re delivered.”