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What are the Risks of Cosmetic Surgery?

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 15 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
Risk Plastic Surgery Complications

Plastic surgery can be a life-changing experience. But nobody wants it to change their life in a negative way. Every surgery has its risks, and cosmetic surgery is no exception. Before you go down this road, it´s important to be ready both physically and psychologically, and to do your homework beforehand. Know what to expect but keep in mind that in part, the risks depend on the individual and the surgery being undertaken.

Keep in mind that most plastic surgery internet sites will seek to assure you that there are virtually no risks and that their safety record is spotless. They are probably right, but there is always the chance of something going wrong with any operation. Being forewarned is being forearmed.

Risks With Surgery in General

Sometimes patients experience complications due to the anaesthesia used. General anaesthesia has the most complications, but some people have reactions to other forms of anaesthesia or sedation. Possible complications include:

  • Arrythmia or abnormal heart rhythm
  • Risk of airway obstruction during administration of anaesthesia
  • Nerve damage and subsequent numbness etc
  • Paralysis, either temporary or permanent
  • Mild or severe brain damage
  • DVT, deep-vein thrombosis, or other blood clots
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Death

Other complications associated with any type of surgery include:

  • Aspiration. If you vomit during surgery and it is forced into the lungs you can suffer chronic problems later, as well as pneumonia etc.
  • Blood loss. Heavy bleeding can have serious complications. The more blood you lose during surgery the greater the chance of infection, although antibiotics now reduce the risk greatly.
  • Blood clots. Can lead to stroke and death.
  • Blood pressure drop. A severe drop can lead to a heart attack.

Risks With Plastic Surgery

  • Seroma: This is a build-up of fluid under the skin, can occur after tummy tuck, breast augmentation or liposuction.
  • Slow Healing: This can occur in older people, or because of skin type. It also occurs when patients do not follow their surgeon´s recovery advice to the letter.
  • Irregularities. These are not that uncommon and can be due to the surgeon, healing irregularities or other factors.
  • Sensory Damage: including numbness or tingling. Often this is short-term as the result of temporary nerve damage but can be permanent.
  • Noticeable Tissue Damage: This happens with facial surgery and can lead to unnatural-looking features as well as premature ageing.
  • Skin Death or Necrosis: Following an infection, this is common with smokers. The skin will have to be cut out and this may affect the outcome of the procedure and thus its appearance.
  • Asymmetry:This occurs sometime either due to surgeon error or other reasons, can affect boob jobs, nose jobs etc.

Reducing the Risks

You can help reduce the risk by discussing potential problems with your GP and surgeon beforehand. In particular, because of the risk of blood clots, they may advise you to avoid having plastic surgery if possible if you are:

  • A heavy smoker
  • Someone with diabetes or other conditions
  • Morbidly obese, unless you are having weight loss surgery
  • Any heart disorder or disorder of the central nervous system or lungs
  • Someone with a specific blood clotting disorder
  • Someone with a recurring infection or who has a history of cancer
  • Someone with specific allergies
  • A woman taking oral contraceptives - you may have to wait a while after ceasing taking them to be safe
  • A woman who is on HRT or hormone replacement therapy

You Can Also Reduce the Risks in General By:

  • Checking the credentials of your surgeon and only using one who is a member of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, The General Medical Council, The British Association of Cosmetic Surgeons or the equivalent.
  • Knowing about the procedure beforehand and what to expect, and doing your homework.
  • Choosing your surgeon and clinic carefully, and not making a decision based solely on cost-savings.
  • Asking the right questions, including about your surgeon´s safety and success record.
  • Having a complete physical and blood test beforehand to determine whether you are a suitable candidate for surgery.
  • Going with your gut instinct.

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