Plastic surgery ranks among the top surgical procedures in the medical field. With continual progress made in innovative technologies and surgical techniques, plastic surgery is consistently reliable and generally considered safe.
Although complications from plastic surgery are rare, there are still a number of existing risks and complications, just like any other surgical procedure.
The degree of plastic surgery complications and risks is highly dependent on the specific surgical procedure(s) performed, and the patient's own health condition and physiology. Smokers, the elderly, people with diabetes, heart conditions and certain allergies are more likely to experience complications that others.
Obviously the type of procedure will determine plastic surgery dangers that may be present. This page will serve as a summary to general plastic surgery risks and complications. Comprehensive coverage of risks and complications to specific plastic surgery procedures can be viewed by following the links in the top navigation to the procedure that interests you.
Before you undergo plastic surgery it is important to have blood tests and a physical done to ensure that you are a good candidate for surgery. Additionally
you should make sure to look into the procedure you are considering and learn about the risks involved so that you can be as prepared as possible for your
The following lists some "general" risks and complications associated with cosmetic plastic surgery.
Bleeding is quite common within the first 24 hours following surgery and can lead to complications. Blood can pool and collect under the skin to form a hematoma which will be firm in feel, and may turn the overlaying skin blue or purple. The area can cause pain but usually becomes reduced when your body's' own clotting mechanism takes over and reabsorbs the collected blood. However, if the hematoma continual to grows, it will compress the tissue and prevent oxygen from circulating around that area. This may result in skin death, and a return to the operating room is required to drain out the excess blood. Further, a large hematoma can increase your risks of other complications such as infection, wound separation, and necrosis.
During surgery and within 72 hours, you become more susceptible to secondary infections since bacterial and viral pathogens have easier access via open wounds, sutures, or drain sites. That is why antibiotics are usually taken during and following the procedure. Typical signs of infection are fever, redness in a local area, foul odor, and/or thick yellow or white discharge.
Seromas are similar to hematomas, except it is a collection of tissue fluid, rather than blood. Seromas can occur usually in operations where tissue is removed (i.e. tummy tucks) since the body will attempt to fill the empty space created between separated tissues. Seromas can be recognized by enlargement, heaviness, weight gain, and even sloshing of fluid. They also increase the risk of secondary infections. Seroma are treated with compression or with drainage with a needle and syringe.
Since sutures are foreign substances, it is not unusual to have an immune reaction against it. If the body rejects the suture, it may try to get rid of it by pushing it to the surface of the skin. This can be manifested as a spitting suture, which can occur within weeks to a months following surgery. The body may produce scar tissue surrounding the suture to separate it from the body. This may result in a suture granuloma, which is seen as a bump under the skin. If bacteria enters the area around the suture and causes infection, a suture abscess may result. This is discernible as redness, tenderness, and pus around the suture. This may cause further infection of the skin if left untreated.
If you have experienced these problems with previous surgeries, it is important to inform your surgeon prior to the operation. This way, they may be able to make the necessary changes (suture material, surgical technique) to minimize the risk of problems.
Anytime an incision is made, there is a probability that it will not seal properly, leading to wound separation. Many factors such as bleeding, nicotine use, excessive movement, steroid medication, uncontrolled blood sugar, hematoma, and infection can contribute to poor wound healing. The surgical technique, the amount of tension placed on the wound, and premature suture removal are also contributing factors. If your wound separates, it may be possible to re-suture the incision immediately (especially within 24 hours of surgery), otherwise your surgeon may prefer to let it heal on its own without tension and then revise the scar once it's healed.
Necrosis is the death of tissues and is generally caused by insufficient oxygen reaching the affected areas. In most cases the risk of necrosis is barely there but with higher risks plastic surgery procedures such as face lifts, tummy tucks, and breast reductions, during which flaps are created separating the skin and its blood supply from underlying structures, the possibility of necrosis is at hand. The risk of necrosis increases with dramatically noticeable swelling. Unsurprisingly, smokers have a higher incidence of necrosis due to blood vessel constriction and a decreased oxygen supply. Signs of necrosis are a blue, purple, or gray cast to the skin, and pain will be all too obvious. In its later stages, the tissue will turn gray or black, and may smell or become infected. Necrosis is generally treated at its earliest stages with therapy including relieving compression by releasing sutures and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
In extreme cases, nerve damage can occur from the surgery or simply from the injection of anesthesia. If nerve damage occurs, you may notice numbness, tingling,
or changes in sensation. Weakness or paralysis to the affected muscles may be noticeable after damage to nerves controlling muscle. Usually, any nerve damage
is temporary and sensation will return to normal within 6 months to a year, although sometimes it can take 2 to 3 years for complete regeneration. As the
nerve regenerates, itching, shooting pains, or electrical shock sensations may be experienced. If the nerve is severed completely then numbness and inability
to move the affected muscle is permanent. Reconstructive surgery to give support to the affected muscle may be required.
Although some plastic surgery procedures do not require the use of anesthesia, some of the more extensive procedures do require the use of general anesthetics. Adverse reactions to anesthesia are generally rare but nevertheless complications are still there. Risks differ depending on the individual with factors varying from your health beforehand and the seriousness of your operation. Nausea is relatively common and is treated with appropriate medication. Sore throat associated with breathing tube placement is also quite common, but usually only lasts a day or so. Of course, there are a number of infrequent, less serious complications, such as pain and bruising at the site of injections, headaches, and dental damage. These are usually easily treatable, get better quickly, and are also quite rare. In very rare cases, adverse reactions could become serious with documented cases of seizures and heart attacks and high temperatures leading to death. But overall, most people do not suffer any complications.
Scarring is one of the most common risks that people considering plastic surgery should be aware of and is closely related to wound healing ability and suture reactions. During the process of healing, visible thickening of the skin edges and new red, bumps called granulation tissue form in and around the shrinking wound resulting in a scar. For the following weeks and months following surgery, healing around the scar tissue will usually diminish. However, if that is not the case, scar remodeling can be performed to cha change a thick, red, raised scar to a thin, flat, white scar over a period of months to years.
Most surgeons will try to hide incision lines in places where they aren't noticeable, like under the crease of the breast in breast augmentation plastic surgery or beneath the swimwear line in tummy tuck operations.
Nerve damage is a serious complication that people considering plastic surgery must be aware of. Some people who undergo plastic surgery will lose feeling
in the area that was operated on while others may experience problems moving muscles in the area where the surgery was performed.
Plastic surgery is generally safe, although like any other medical procedure, there are associated risks. Gathering from the increasing amount of men and women who are willing to undergo operation, the benefits from the plastic surgery are multi-faceted.
To fully realize the potential beneficial and detrimental effects of plastic surgery, this website hopes to provide you with as much useful information as possible to assist you with your research into plastic surgery. Please look around and learn your options.
Should you rather schedule a private meeting with a board certified surgeon to learn your options, simply fill in your contact details in the contact form on the right hand side of this page and we will get back to you shortly.