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Preventing postsurgical dissatisfaction syndrome after rhinoplasty with propranolol: a pilot study.

Author(s): Gruber RP, Roberts C, Schooler W, Pitman RK

Affiliation(s): Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif., USA. rgrubermd@hotmail.com

Publication date & source: 2009-03, Plast Reconstr Surg., 123(3):1072-8.

Publication type: Randomized Controlled Trial

BACKGROUND: Rhinoplasty patients are commonly anxious about their result when the splint is removed. A small group of them, however, are overtly unhappy with their appearance despite objectively satisfactory early results, cannot be reassured about their favorable long-term prognosis, and remain dissatisfied despite objectively satisfactory end results. The authors have termed this symptom complex "postsurgical dissatisfaction syndrome." In these patients, it seems that persistence of the original negative image of their appearance at the time of splint removal fails to yield to an improved self-image as healing progresses. METHODS: The authors theorized that the syndrome is analogous to the persistence of negative emotional memories seen in posttraumatic stress disorder. In trauma-exposed patients, the beta-adrenergic blocker propranolol, when given within a few hours of the traumatic event, may reduce the subsequent emotional strength of the traumatic memory. The authors hypothesized that giving propranolol to postrhinoplasty patients with the above early symptomatology would reduce the likelihood of postsurgical dissatisfaction syndrome. RESULTS: A retrospective review of 1000 consecutive rhinoplasty patients identified 11 with early symptomatology. Of these 11 (not taking propranolol), nine (82 percent) developed postsurgical dissatisfaction syndrome. In addition, a prospective study was performed of nine additional patients with the same early symptomatology who were immediately treated with propranolol. In contrast, only three developed postsurgical dissatisfaction syndrome (p < 0.04). Results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 50 additional postrhinoplasty patients suggests that propranolol's effect is not due to anxiolysis. CONCLUSIONS: Propranolol given immediately after splint removal in anxious, unhappy cosmetic surgery patients may prevent postsurgical dissatisfaction syndrome. A double-blind study appears warranted.

Page last updated: 2009-10-20

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