Is it necessary to take antibiotics after surgery?

I'm having a facial procedure next week and my surgeon's office initially said they would give me a prescription for antibiotics the day of surgery. When I requested a prescription beforehand so I wouldn't have to worry about filling it right after having surgery in an unfamiliar city, they refused but said they could give me the pills the day of surgery. I am aware of how bad antibiotics are for the gut/body, but will take them if necessary. I guess my question is, how necessary are they?

Doctor Answers 13

Facelift - Are antibiotics needed ?

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Thank you for your question. The risk of infection following facelift surgery is very low. In an effort to further lower the risk of infection, many surgeons prefer to prescribe prophylactic antibiotics for peri-operative use. Many of those surgeons would argue that any temporary negative effects due to such prophylactic antibiotic use is outweighed by the possibly greater likelihood of avoidance of the potentially catastrophic effect of a significant surgical infection. Such an infection can negatively influence the result and your appearance. Speak with your surgeon about your concerns. 


Los Angeles Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 137 reviews

Prophylactic antibiotics for elective cosmetic surgery are probably of no value.

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Most plastic surgeons give a perioperative dose of an antibiotic before a facelift. There is no clinical evidence to support this particular practice. The antibiotics do not decrease the risk of infection which is extremely low in the facelift anyway.

Antibiotic timing and surgery

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Non-discriminate use of antibiotics is irresponsible and potentially dangerous from the public health perspective.  However, surgical practice guidelines do support the use of limited prophylactic dosing.  For elective, non-contaminated procedures, we provide a single dose of antibiotics within an hour of starting your procedures.  This is given prophylactically to cover risk of bacterial exposure during the procedure.  As long as the surgery is performed without accumulating excessive bleeding, or tissue damage, the risk of infection is very low.  No additional doses of antibiotics will be needed unless symptoms of infection appear.  These will usually show up several days later as clinically increasing redness, pain, swelling, local tissue heat, or fever. 

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Taking antibiotics after surgery is definitely recommended.

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It’s true that antibiotics kill off some good bacteria in your system as well as the bad. However, this is a minor inconvenience compared to the risk of a serious infection after surgery, the likelihood of which increases dramatically if you don’t take antibiotics. Although every effort is taken to make sure the operating environment is as sterile as possible, your body is busy healing after surgery and doesn’t have as much energy to devote toward fighting off infections. That’s where antibiotics come in to help out. You can also repopulate digestive flora pretty easily with probiotics and prebiotics, so don’t let those concerns keep you from doing what’s right for your health.

Glenn M. Davis, MD, FACS
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 77 reviews

Antibiotics for Facelift

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Dear Noel, thank you for your question.Facelift surgery can dramatically improve the cheeks, temple area, jawline, and neck.  Preop and Postop instructions vary from surgeon to surgeon. In San Diego, we routinely prescribe antibiotics, but you should follow the advice of your qualified surgeon. Consult with a board certified facial plastic surgeon who can offer a variety of options. Good Luck!

Roy A. David, MD
San Diego Facial Plastic Surgeon

Antibiotics After Facelift Surgery

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I do usually recommend antibiotics, especially if my patients have drains in place. Check with your doctor about any questions you may have.

Babak Azizzadeh, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Facelift and antibiotics

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Antibiotics may be beneficial at the time of surgery, however the benefits after the procedure have not been fully demonstrated.  I usually give my patient s all of their prescriptions prior to surgery so that they do not have to worry about any thing the day of surgery as it already may be a stressful time.

Antibiotics following Surgery

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Prophalactic (preventative) antibiotics are warranted to minize the chance of infection. As it is being used as a preventative studies show that  only 24 hours or less are indicated for most plastic surgical cases such as a facelift (most clean surgeries for that matter). The first dose is always given just prior to your surgery. By using such a short time span there is less risk of problems with your gut/body. If you are concerned use a probiotic such as yohgurt with active cultures while on antibiotics.

Prophylactic antibiotics should be administered at the time of facelift surgery

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Prophylactic antibiotics are commonly given during elective plastic surgery procedures such as facelift.  The most optimal time to provide prophylactic antibiotics is intravenously at the time of your surgery.  Many surgeons choose to provide oral antibiotics for a period of 4-5 days after surgery which is entirely elective and depends on the preference of your surgeon.

Is it necessary to take antibiotics after surgery?

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Antibiotics are necessary when you have an infection. Otherwise you are taking them prophylactically to prevent something that might happen. Whether or not you take them is up to you but most surgeons recommend a short course when doing complex facial surgery.

Ronald V. DeMars, MD
Portland Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.