In 2017, Americans spent more than $6.5 billion on cosmetic surgery. From breast augmentation to eyelid surgery, procedures to change our appearance are becoming increasingly common. However, these surgeries don’t come without risks.
Hematoma is a pocket of blood that resembles a large, painful bruise. It occurs in 1 percent of breast augmentation procedures. It’s also the most common complication after a facelift, occurring in an average of 1 percent of patients. It occurs more commonly in males than females.
Hematoma is a risk in nearly all surgeries. Treatment sometimes includes additional operations to drain the blood if the collection of blood is large or growing rapidly. This may require another procedure in the operating room and sometimes additional anesthetic.
Seroma is a condition that occurs when serum, or sterile body fluid, pools beneath the surface of the skin, resulting in swelling and sometimes pain. This can occur after any surgery, and it’s the most common complication following a tummy tuck, occurring in 15 to 30 percent of patients.
Because seromas can become infected, they’re often drained with a needle. This effectively removes them, although there’s a chance of recurrence.
As with any surgery, some blood loss is expected. However, uncontrolled blood loss can lead to a drop in blood pressure with potentially deadly outcomes.
Blood loss can happen while on the operating table, but also internally, after surgery.
Though postoperative care includes steps to reduce the risk of infection, it remains one of the more common complications of plastic surgery.
For instance, infections occur in
The skin infection cellulitis may occur after surgery. In some cases, infections can be internal and severe, requiring intravenous (IV) antibiotics.
The potential for nerve damage is present in many different types of surgical procedures. Numbness and tingling are common after plastic surgery and can be signs of nerve damage. Most often the nerve damage is temporary, but in some cases it can be permanent.
Most women experience a change in sensitivity after breast augmentation surgery, and 15 percent experience permanent changes in nipple sensation.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition where blood clots form in deep veins, usually in the leg. When these clots break off and travel to the lungs, it’s known as pulmonary embolism (PE).
These complications are relatively uncommon, affecting only 0.09 percent of all patients undergoing plastic surgery. However, these clots can be fatal.
Abdominoplasty procedures have a slightly higher rate of DVT and PE, affecting just under 1 percent of patients. The risk of clots is 5 times higher for people having multiple procedures than it is for people having only one procedure.
Liposuction can be traumatic for the internal organs.
Visceral perforations or punctures can occur when the surgical probe comes into contact with internal organs. Repairing these injuries can require additional surgery.
The perforations may also be fatal.
Surgery typically results in some scarring. Since cosmetic surgery seeks to improve the way you look, scars can be particularly troubling.
Hypertrophic scarring, for instance, is an abnormally red and thick raised scar. Along with smooth, hard keloid scars, it occurs in 1.0 to 3.7 percent of tummy tucks.
Most people are satisfied with their postoperative outcomes, and research suggests most women are satisfied with breast augmentation surgery. But disappointment with the results is a real possibility. People who undergo breast surgery may experience contouring or asymmetry problems, while those undergoing facial surgeries could simply not like the result.
Anesthesia is the use of medication to make you unconscious. It allows patients to undergo surgery without feeling the procedure.
General anesthesia can sometimes lead to complications. These include lung infections, stroke, heart attacks, and death. Anesthesia awareness, or waking up in the middle of surgery, is very rare but also possible.
More common anesthesia risks include:
- nausea and vomiting
- waking up confused and disoriented
On the whole, plastic surgery complications are rare. According to a 2018 review of over 25,000 cases, complications occur in fewer than 1 percent of outpatient surgeries.
As with most surgeries, plastic surgery complications are more common in certain people. For example, smokers, older adults, and people who are obese are more prone to complications.
You can reduce your risk of unwanted side effects by fully vetting your doctor and their credentials. You should also investigate the facility where your surgery will take place.
Educating yourself about the procedure and possible risks, and discussing your concerns with your doctor, will also help you manage your expectations and reduce the risk of complications.