Surgeon-driven preoperative psychiatric evaluation of plastic surgery patients

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Phillipa van Essen
Natasha Keillor
Randall Long
Nicola Ruth Dean


psychopathology, plastic surgery, reconstructive surgical procedures, body image, psychiatry


Objectives: Dissatisfaction with body image is common in patients seeking corrective plastic surgery. However, surgery may not be suitable for every patient. Surgery can enhance quality of life in mentally healthy patients but those with psychopathology such as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) tend to have poorer outcomes. For these patients, surgery is not always recommended and psychiatric care can have a useful role. This paper aimed to estimate the rates of psychopathology in a select group of elective plastic surgery candidates and discuss the role of preoperative psychoplastic referral in triaging these candidates.

Method: A retrospective cohort study of patients considering elective surgery at Flinders Medical Centre in South Australia referred by their surgeon for psychoplastic evaluation from 2010 to 2016. Medical records were reviewed to determine compliance with psychiatric referral, the number and types of psychiatric diagnosis and rates of subsequent surgery.

Results: We found 83 per cent (54/65) of surgical candidates assessed by our psychiatrist had a mental illness. Post-traumatic stress disorder (n=19, 34.5%) and major depressive disorder (n=19, 34.5%) were most common. Nine patients (13.6%) were diagnosed with BDD. A total of 57 (87.7%) patients were considered to need some kind of psychiatric care to improve potential surgery outcomes.

Conclusions: In our study, the rate of psychopathology in patients referred for psychiatric evaluation suggests that careful screening is important for clinical decision making. A combined surgical /psychiatric approach is effective in ensuring vulnerable patients are identified and managed appropriately.


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