Dr. Christopher Johnson: Enhancing Surgical Outcomes Through Mind-Body-Spirit Balance

Dr. Christopher Johnson: Enhancing Surgical Outcomes Through Mind-Body-Spirit Balance

Once considered exclusive to the rich and famous, plastic surgery is now mainstream. Its rising popularity, social acceptance, and improved techniques and technologies have made procedures safer and more effective. Like all major life-changing decisions, plastic surgery should be approached with balance and mindfulness. We chatted with Dr. Christopher Johnson, a top plastic surgeon practicing in New York City, who is writing a book on building resilience before and after surgery. This topic instills hope and optimism in patients.

Q

Can you provide insights into how individuals can align their inner and outer selves in preparation for plastic surgery?

A

Patients who prepare physically, mentally, and spiritually for surgery experience faster recovery, less pain, and better outcomes. Intuitively, they know that losing weight, reducing fat, and increasing muscle improve their bodies' readiness for surgery. They should also understand that practicing mindfulness helps their mental and emotional resilience. Studies show that pre-surgery mindfulness can enhance recovery and reduce complications, yet this is often overlooked by surgeons. These techniques build resilience and the capacity to recover from surgery.

Q

What practices or techniques are recommended for achieving physical harmony before plastic surgery?

A

Exercising before surgery, especially high-intensity interval training, weight lifting, and cardio, is highly beneficial for pre-op patients. It's important to consult with your surgeon and primary care physician when planning your exercise regimen. Similarly, dietary adjustments can improve surgical outcomes. Avoiding red meat, refined sugar, fried foods, dairy, white bread, white rice, and white potatoes before plastic surgery is also helpful.

Q

Do you think cosmetic surgery is for everyone (mentally & emotionally)? Are there times when someone should wait?  What are some examples?

A

Not everyone is mentally or emotionally suited for cosmetic surgery. Patients with low resilience, measured through simple questionnaires, should avoid non-urgent procedures. Those with moderate to severe depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress are particularly at risk for postoperative complications and prolonged recoveries. Financially stressed patients should also be discouraged from undergoing cosmetic surgery. Surgery should only be considered once these conditions are resolved. A thoughtful surgeon who considers their work's physical and mental aspects can significantly reduce complications. Teaching resilience assessment and building in medical school would greatly benefit pre-op patient care.

Q

What techniques do you recommend after surgery?

A

Getting eight hours of sleep daily has been shown to improve surgical recovery. Meditation, yoga, chanting, and prayer can further enhance recovery. Additionally, journaling, staying connected with a support group, volunteering, and spending time in nature have all been shown to reduce complications, decrease the need for pain medication, and increase post-surgery energy levels. Numerous studies show that mindfulness practices improve recovery for patients undergoing surgery. Using these techniques to supercharge recovery is a new concept that should be taught to all trained surgeons and included in medical school curricula. Unfortunately, it isn’t intuitive for patients to practice these techniques, as they often don't see the connection with outcomes.

Q

Why is mindfulness and balance important to you as a plastic surgeon?

A

Balance and mindfulness are essential to me as a surgeon because I took a sacred oath: "Primum non nocere" - "First, do no harm." As cosmetic surgeons, we must ensure we do not harm patients by thoroughly screening those who might be adversely affected by a procedure. Every patient can benefit from techniques that enhance resilience. Numerous studies show that mindfulness practices improve recovery for patients undergoing surgery. Most of these free techniques can be done in the comfort of one’s home or neighborhood. The benefits are clear; we hope to see more surgeons offering resilience-building before any elective operation.

Courtesy of Dr. Christopher Johnson

Dr. Johnson is an empathetic and compassionate surgeon who views giving back as an obligation. He has performed over 2,000 pro bono medical procedures on service trips to developing nations, including Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Haiti, Tanzania, and Zaire. Notably, he has performed numerous cleft lip and palate repair surgeries. Dr. Johnson resides in Manhattan, NY, and practices reconstructive, cosmetic, and plastic surgery in Manhattan and Brooklyn. He speaks several languages, including Spanish, Russian, French, and Greek, and travels extensively to source new approaches to beauty enhancements. For more information, please visit: www.cljohnsonmd.com

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