Is plastic surgery safe?

Undergoing surgery of any type can make people feel apprehensive about their safety. Although plastic surgery has proven to be exceedingly safe, no medical procedure is without risks. This is true both during the surgery and the recovery time afterwards. Before scheduling an elective surgery, you should review the qualifications of the physician performing it.

The Pre-Surgery Exam and Consultation

To ensure safety and the best post-surgical outcome, patients must disclose their complete medical history to their plastic surgeon prior to surgery. This includes all prescription and non-prescription medication they are currently taking, past surgeries, current health conditions, and past health conditions. The surgeon will also conduct a comprehensive physical exam to make sure that no undiagnosed health conditions exist that would prevent a successful outcome.

Certain conditions increase the risk of developing a blood clot after plastic surgery. These include:

  • Being significantly overweight or clinically obese.
  • Having experienced a recent traumatic injury.
  • Disorders of the central nervous system, heart, or lungs.
  • A personal history of cancer.
  • Genetic issues or recurrent severe infections that contribute to blood clotting.
  • Using oral contraceptives now or in the recent past.
  • Currently undergoing hormone replacement therapy.
  • Smoking any tobacco product.

People aren’t necessarily disqualified from plastic surgery if they have any of these health problems, but they will need to weigh the risks against benefits more closely with their doctor’s assistance.

Plastic Surgery Risk Analysis

In the early 2010s, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery conducted a survey on the results of 400,000 procedures completed in an accredited clinic, hospital, or outpatient surgery setting. The results indicated that fewer than one percent of patients experienced serious complications either during their surgery or while recovering from it. This level of risk is comparable to the risk of any other type of surgery.

Potential Surgical and Post-Surgical Complications

Some people have a serious reaction to sedation or anesthesia, even without any previous history or risk factors. The level of anesthesia or sedation the plastic surgeon uses depends on the degree of invasiveness of the surgery. Complications typically occur with general anesthesia as opposed to local anesthesia or sedation. The use of general anesthesia is common in plastic surgery since it depresses the entire body. Nevertheless, patients should be aware of the following potential complications of anesthesia:

  • Blood clots
  • Brain damage
  • Heart attack
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Malignant hyperthermia
  • Nerve damage
  • Obstructed airways
  • Stroke
  • Temporary paralysis

Cosmetic surgery also carries general risks not associated with anesthesia. One of these is necrosis, or skin death, that develops after contracting hematoma or an infection. Since this is significantly more common in smokers, patients must be willing to give up smoking to undergo plastic surgery. The dead skin requires removal when necrosis occurs, which can defeat the purpose of plastic surgery. Other potential complications include:

  • Asymmetry: This refers to both sides of the surgical site being of equal proportions. Although mild asymmetry is normal, moderate or severe irregularities may require a corrective surgery.
  • Numbness: This is usually temporary, but in rare cases can result in a permanent loss of sensation.
  • Seroma: This term refers to fluid that can pool under the skin after a breast or abdominal surgery.

Patients may also experience slow healing when they do not heed all of their doctor’s advice. Other factors contributing towards slow healing include age, skin type, and health complications that neither the patient nor surgeon could have anticipated.

Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing relating symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.