Risks and Complications of Plastic Surgery and Cosmetic Surgery
All plastic surgery has risks. Part of a successful recovery period is understanding the risks and knowing what you can do to minimise or prevent them. However, it is also important to recognise that some complications and surgery risks occur randomly despite having a leading plastic surgeon, hospital and best practice procedure and wound care.
Plastic surgery is invasive, meaning your skin will be incised surgically, and your tissue will either be readjusted or removed. Surgical risks may be minor or severe, and it is important to discuss the specific risks pertaining to your surgery with your surgeon.
Further, all information on this page is general in nature. Please attend a consultation for more specific advice regarding your personal condition and surgical options.
Risks of General Surgery
There are general risks associated with surgery, as well a plastic surgery, include:
General Anaesthesia Risks
- Prior to surgery, you will be provided with the details of your anaesthetist. This will allow you to discuss any specific concerns you may have. Most healthy patients respond well to general anaesthesia.
- Sometimes following surgery, a collection of blood may pool at the surgical site. Should this occur, a visit to the operating theatre may be necessary to remove the hematoma or other potential bleeding problems.
Fluid Build-Up (Seroma)
- There is a risk of an accumulation of fluid or seroma formation.
- Should an infection develop following surgery, your surgeon will prescribe antibiotics as appropriate and monitor your progress closely.
Delayed Wound Healing
- Delayed wound healing may occur. This is often more likely in patients who are overweight, have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, or who don’t follow good nutrition. It is also found in smokers, or where an infection develops. Your surgeon and nurse coordinator will manage the healing process. They will be able to take the necessary steps if delayed wound healing occurs.
- All surgery leaves a scar, and plastic surgery is no different. To minimise scarring for some procedures but not all, you may be recommended for Fraxel Laser scar treatments following surgery.
More Serious & Lift Threatening Risks
Deep Vein Thrombosis
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a serious condition. It can occur when a blood cot occurs in a vein located deep inside the body, typically in the thigh or lower leg. It is important to inform your surgeon right away if you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of DVT so appropriate medications and therapies can be prescribed immediately.
Additional Surgical Risks
There are some additional risks from having surgery that may apply to certain patients. Risks and potential complications have higher risks rates due to:
- Obesity or overweight/ high BMI which can also increase your risks
- Underlying health conditions, allergies or sensitivities
- Substance use or lifestyle factors like smoking or bacteria-laden environments or improper wound care
- Smoking, which can cause higher complication risks at all stages of your procedures
Smoking and Surgical Risks
Your overall health will impact your healing processes, including your inflammation levels. However, smoking is one of the greatest risk factors when it comes to plastic surgery. Smoking interferes with your health as well as your skin health and its healing capacities. Further, it is recommended that you are open with your surgeon regarding your smoking habits, even if you are a closet or social smoker. It is generally recommended you do not pursue surgery until you have quit smoking for an extended period of time.
Breast Surgery Risks
Breast procedures come with their own particular complications. Common side effects of breast surgery include discomfort, skin sensation changes, bruising and swelling. Most resolve over a period of weeks but skin sensation changes can last longer. More serious risks can include:
- Nipple sensitivity can occur. You may lose nipple sensation permanently; however, this is very rare. Most patients lose nipple sensation temporarily and as nerve endings start to re-connect underneath the skin, sensations will return to the area
- Nipple Loss/Necrosis is a rare complication that occurs often in smokers. It may affect all or part of the nipple
- The ability to breastfeed may be affected
- Allergies to tape, suture materials and glues, blood products, topical preparations or injected agents
- Poor scarring, including keloid scarring (more common in patients with higher skin pigmentation/darker skin)
- Breast implant issues if you have a breast lift with an augmentation using breast implants (skin wrinkling, implant rupture)
- Capsular contracture if having a combined breast lift with augmentation
- Asymmetry (uneven breasts or nipples)
It is important to do your research in order to understand the risks associated with your chosen surgery. Surgical risks will also be covered in your consultation with a qualified plastic surgeon and before you proceed with surgery. Further, risks are also on your consent forms.
Be sure to ask your chosen surgeon for a detailed list of potential plastic surgery risks or potential complications, including risks, specific to certain procedures. It is also important to read all materials provided to you regarding your procedure. Further, ensure you follow your surgeon’s advice carefully to help reduce risks where possible.
Finally, understand that not everything in surgery will go as planned but choosing one of Australia’s top plastic surgeons and an accredited private hospital will place you in good hands should something not go to plan.