After the death of a West Virginia woman, experts remind people considering cosmetic surgery that the procedures are still a serious medical operation.
If you’re thinking about having plastic surgery, you might want to do a little pre-op preparation.
The risks of cosmetic surgery have come under a spotlight after two serious incidents were reported this month.
A 29-year-old West Virginia woman and mother of two, Heather Meadows, died in early May after undergoing a Brazilian butt lift procedure at a South Florida clinic.
According to the medical examiner’s report, Meadows died from a fat embolism. That’s when fat enters the bloodstream, causing a blood vessel to clog.
A heart defect also contributed to Meadows’ death, according to the examiner.
Also in Florida, a mother this week spoke publically about the dangers. Mariela Diaz said her daughter suffered permanent brain damage three years ago while undergoing breast augmentation surgery.
The injury was caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain, state officials said.
The Miami Herald reported there were 46 office surgery deaths in Florida between 2000 and 2010.
“I tell the daughters and mothers to think it over before going to those clinics because they never know how they are going to come out,” Diaz told The Herald. “They should accept what they have naturally.”
The cases have prompted some cautionary advice from experts.
“Patients really need to do a lot of research in finding the right certified doctors before they undergo cosmetic surgery,” Dr. David H. Song, the president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, told Healthline.
Song explained that although a fat embolism is a known potential problem in plastic surgery, it’s a rare complication.
“That’s why it is extremely important that patients go to a board-certified plastic surgeon by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and who are members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons because we’re trained to deal with these things and, more importantly, to prevent them,” said Song.
He explained that many doctors are falsely claiming to be board-certified plastic surgeons.
“There are many people out there that are calling themselves board-certified, but they’re not,” said Song.
To be board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, a doctor needs at least six years of training and has to pass two rigorous examinations.
“It takes a good seven to eight years to become board-certified,” said Song.
Song stressed that it’s not safe for a patient to undergo cosmetic surgery with a doctor that has certification in another area of medical expertise.
“There are a lot of pseudo boards, someone can be board-certified in internal medicine and still call himself or herself a cosmetic surgeon and still say that they’re a board-certified cosmetic surgeon,” he said. “The training is vastly different and that’s the critical piece here that needs to be broadcasted.”
Patients can seek board-certified plastic surgeons by using the Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon Finder at plasticsurgery.org, a directory of American Society of Plastic Surgeon members.
NBC Miami reported that the clinic where Meadows underwent surgery, Encore Plastic Surgery, is fully licensed.
The clinic’s website states it has board-certified surgeons with experience in each of the procedures they perform.
However, the doctors listed on the Encore Plastic Surgery website are not listed on the Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon Finder.
A representative for the clinic ended an online conversation with Healthline when asked if the doctors at Encore Plastic Surgery are board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgeons.
“Patients spend more time looking for a hairdresser or buying a car than they do doing research for a plastic surgeon and that’s really a shame and potentially can be very dangerous,” said Song.
“It doesn’t mean that board-certified plastic surgeons don’t have complications, so patients do need to understand that this is real surgery with real potential complications,” he said.
Even when performing a minor surgery, board-certified plastic surgeons have been trained to spend much of their time going through the patient’s history, medications, and physical exams to prevent complications.
Song explained that there are many red flags when evaluating a patient before deciding whether or not they should undergo esthetic plastic surgery.
“Respiratory, breathing problems, childhood development, family history, medication interactions, previous surgical histories, reactions to any anesthesia, recovery, their activity level, their home environment, who’s going to help take care of them, all of these things play into how someone’s going to recover successfully and quickly,” he said.
Song said he turns away at least 3 out of 10 patients due to these potential complications.
He explained that when doing aesthetic surgery, everything has to be perfect.
“They have to be healthy. They have to be in ideal shape. They have to be in great shape mentally and emotionally. Also, for non-medical reasons, if a patient comes in with expectations that are unrealistic or motives that are not aligned with well-being, these are things that are very critical,” Song said.
He said that once a patient finds the right doctor, it’s important for them to be honest about their history, including drinking, smoking, drugs, medicines, and past medical procedures.
“This is your health and surgery, as minor as it may seem and appear on TV, is real surgery and has real and potential complications,” Song emphasized.