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Facial Feminization Surgery Recovery

Recovery from any form of facial surgery is primarily related to how much swelling occurs and how long it takes to go away. Thus recovery is more appearance-related than it is of functional limitations. This recovery period will be highly influenced by the  number of FFS procedures that are performed.  While there are some patients who only have one or two procedures that take a few hours of surgery, it is also not common that multiple facial procedures are done that can involve six to eight hours of surgery.

As a general guideline 50% of the facial swelling subsides by 10 to 14 days after surgery, two-thirds is gone by three weeks after surgery and it takes up to six weeks before most of the swelling is fully gone. It takes longer for the facial swelling and whatever bruising may occur to resolve than most patients realize although the FFS patient seems to be more aware of this longer recovery time than many other types of facial surgery patients. These are no physical restrictions after surgery and one can shower and wash their hair within 48 hours after surgery and every day thereafter. But when one feels comfortable being out in public or returning to work after surgery depends on how one feels about their facial appearance. The results of any facial surgery can not be fully assessed until 3 months or so after the surgery when both the swelling has subsided and the overlying soft tissues have contracted back down. Despite this somewhat long recovery period, most FFS patients can see some of the positive changes early on in the recovery period.

Complications and Risks

The potential complications from FFS surgery can be divided into medical and aesthetic risks. The most significant medical risks are that of infection, scars and permanent numbness of the sensory nerves around the operative sites. Any motor nerve weakness is rare although not an impossibility. These medical risks are, fortunately, not very common. Even the infection risk in the face and skull is very low due to its superb blood supply.

The aesthetic risks of FFS surgery are more common and are fundamentally about how the facial appearance has turned out in terms of degree of change, symmetry and smoothness of the results. There is always some risk of the need for revision of the procedures to optimize their aesthetic outcomes. As a general guideline it is wise to assume that any single operation has a 15% need for aesthetic revision. As multiple procedures are combined, as is common in FFS surgery, this risk is additive….meaning the each procedure adds to the risk in a cumulative fashion. It is fair to assume that in a multiple procedure FFS surgery some revision surgery will almost always be needed.

Facial Feminization Surgery Cost

Costs for FFS surgery vary widely and depends on the number of procedures being done and the operative time it takes to do them. Each treatment plan is individualized from which the cost of surgery is determined after a consultation is completed. Such evaluations today can be done by a virtual consultation process based on photo analysis and computer imaging. This is a simple process that can occur quite quickly by sending in some facial pictures for assessment and arranging a treatment priority list of primary, secondary and tertiary facial concerns/objectives.

In some cases, FFS surgery may be covered by insurance. This is determined by a preoperative insurance predetermination process, a written submission by the plastic surgeon which contains all pertinent information for the insurance company to evaluate and make a coverage decision. While more insurance companies are providing coverage for transgender procedures than ever before, some still don’t and not every FFS surgeon participates in insurance programs.

Consult a Qualified FFS Surgeon

Here are some tips to consider when consulting a surgeon about FFS:

  • Create a list of the facial changes you think would be most helpful for the best transformation to discuss with your surgeon. This will help the surgeon understand your expectations and develop a treatment plan.
  • Ask where the surgery will be performed, the extent of the procedure and whether it is going to be done as an outpatient or overnight stay.
  • Ask about complications and possible side effects of the procedure. (they can and do happen)
  • Ask the recovery period and your activities after surgery so you can plan properly for the time needed.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

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