“I didn’t have plastic surgery to improve my appearance,” said Gina Niles of Corinth, who had her first of 22 surgeries when she was just two months old. “I had surgery to better my quality of life.”

Niles was born with a host of medical challenges centering on a unilateral cleft lip and palate. “When you are born with facial disfigurement, life can be a bit of a challenge,” said Niles, “but after each surgery, I was healthier, and I gained more self-confidence.”

She underwent both plastic and cosmetic surgery, two procedures closely related, yet aiming for different outcomes. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), there are two categories of patients who are good candidates for surgery: patients who have a physical defect or cosmetic flaw that has diminished their function and self-esteem, and patients with a strong self-image who are bothered by a physical characteristic that they’d like to improve or change.

“There is a lot of hype in the field of cosmetic surgery,” said Dr. John McGill of Penobscot Valley Plastic Surgery and Skin Care Center, who has been practicing for close to 40 years. “The motivation of a person seeking cosmetic surgery needs to be ferreted out because that bump on the nose may not really be as obvious to the public as the patient may think.”

Cosmetic surgery often includes breast reduction to alleviate back or shoulder pain, breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, breast lift, tummy tucks, and body sculpting.

“Plastic surgeons are not problem solvers, but rather we try to come up with creative services,” said McGill. He said the practice became recognized back in WWI in trying to help soldiers with disfiguring injuries. From this evolved today’s certified plastic surgeons.

The industry has included a combination of dentists and ear, nose and throat specialists working with plastic surgeons. McGill stressed the patient needs to learn about their doctor, and the doctor needs to learn the reason behind the patient’s motivation for cosmetic surgery to be sure the course of action is well thought out.

Dr. David Branch of Bangor Plastic and Hand Surgery agrees. “The patient/physician relationship is extremely important when deciding to choose surgery,” he said. “Understanding the patient’s expectations and the realistic outcomes of a procedure is very important.”

Improving one’s appearance often includes BOTOX® or Liposuction. BOTOX® is used to soften wrinkles and diminish the formation of new wrinkles.

“It’s an injection of a group of medications designed to relax the muscles that can create the frown and scowl, but moreso it can eliminate neck-spasms,” said McGill. Both doctors say they have also seen amazing results with BOTOX® injections for people suffering from migraines and urge sufferers to consider the injections. The risks could include bruising or discomfort at the injection site and possible scarring.

Liposuction is another procedure that removes excess fat in a few ways. Green laser assisted Liposuction allows cells to release fat, the ultrasound technique heats the skin to create a tightening effect, and the water jet technique dislodges fat and the cells are suctioned out through small incisions in the skin. Patients then wear a compression garment after this procedure. No heavy or strenuous lifting is allowed.

“We see patients requesting Liposuction in areas such as the abdomen, upper arms, thighs, and buttocks,” said Branch. With a sensible diet and exercise, Liposuction results are usually permanent. “This procedure and follow through create a trimmer, smoother and more natural contour of the body,” he said.

As with any procedure, there are risks. A major risk in McGill’s eyes is the wrong match between patient and provider. “Patients need to educate themselves to understand the difference between a person practicing cosmetic surgery versus the educated, trained and certified practitioner,” he said.

Doctors like McGill and Branch find great satisfaction in this line of work. “Being a plastic surgeon is very rewarding,” said Branch. “The enjoyment comes from the ability to improve the lives of both men and women, persons of all ages, and ultimately changing a person’s life.”

McGill echoed the sentiment: “More than not, you…hit a homerun.”  

For Gina Niles, her team of doctors hit it out of the ball park. “This experience has made me the strong, outgoing, positive and determined woman I have grown to be,” she said. “There is no doubt in my mind I would repeat every surgery I had because I benefitted from all of them.”