Health Risks of Plastic Surgery and How to Avoid Them

Health Risks of Plastic Surgery and How to Avoid Them

Posted on June 20, 2022 by Dr. Susan MacLennan

While plastic surgery is considered very safe in general, as with any type of surgery there are some associated risks. At Mountain Lake Plastic Surgery, our first priority is your health and safety. We take steps to help patients avoid common risks and make sure that you are informed and prepared for the procedure and recovery process. Below are a few health risks of plastic surgery and some things to know to avoid them.

Numbness

Numbness may occur after a plastic surgery procedure. One of the most common examples is the loss of nipple sensation after a breast augmentation, breast lift, breast reduction, or transgender top surgery. In most cases, numbness improves over time, but sensation may be permanently reduced for some patients. In some cases, the choice of incision pattern or surgical technique can help reduce the risk of numbness. During your consultation, we will review all of your options and the potential risks of each, helping you weigh the risks with the results that you want, so you can make the best decision for yourself.

Bleeding

Excessive bleeding can rarely occur after a plastic surgery procedure. We go to great lengths in the operating room to ensure that this will not happen, both with careful surgical technique and topical agents that promote stable blood clots, but it is equally important for the patient to do their part in the post-operative period. We will give you detailed instructions for recovery including activity restrictions and wound care. You will need to avoid activities that raise your blood pressure for a certain period of time then gradually resume activity. For patients with hypertension, strict blood pressure control with medications is important.

Infection

Post-operative infection is rare in cosmetic surgery procedures but a potential risk of any surgery. We use meticulous sterile techniques to prevent infection but it’s also important for patients to adhere to proper post-operative care instructions. Incisions must be kept clean and protected from pets and patients should avoid bathing in any contaminated water like pools or hot tubs. In some cases, antibiotics are prescribed as a preventative measure during your recovery process. We will review incision care with you during your pre-operative visit.

Seroma

A seroma is a fluid collection that can develop at the surgical site. Your body naturally produces clear fluid (swelling) with any type of trauma as a result of the inflammatory process. If too much fluid collects in a space, it can’t effectively be reabsorbed by your body and you will develop a seroma. We normally prevent a seroma by placing drains for a certain period of time or using quilting sutures to reduce any potential space where fluid can collect. This is only part of the equation; the other part depends on the patient and their activity level. The more active you are, the more fluid you will produce. Even if you are feeling great after surgery, is very important to adhere to the post-operative activity restrictions that we recommend in order to lower your risk of seroma. If you do develop a seroma, we typically address it by aspirating the fluid in the clinic at least 2 times per week until it resolves. Rarely, a seroma will require the replacement of a drain or surgical excision.

Scarring

All surgeries will result in some degree of scarring, despite taking care to create as little visible scarring as possible. During plastic surgery procedures, incisions are made in natural contours or folds of the body whenever possible to disguise any subsequent scarring. For example, blepharoplasty incisions are made along the fold of the upper eyelid or the lash line of the lower eyelid, so little if any scarring is visible.

While we take every possible precaution to produce the least visible scars, we cannot control the healing process and sometimes patients develop unfavorable scars, such as keloids, hypertrophic scars, or widened scars. If you do end up with noticeable scars, there are options available to improve them. This can range from topical treatments to injections to scar revision surgery. During your consultation, you should always let us know if you are prone to significant scarrings, such as keloids, before your procedure.

Post-anesthetic Complications

In general, anesthesia is very safe and predictable. The most common side effects of anesthesia include nausea, disorientation, confusion, or shivering after waking up from general anesthesia. You will be monitored in the post-operative care area until you are awake and alert before we allow you to leave the facility. Rarely, severe complications including stroke, heart attack, or lung infections can occur. These complications are more likely in patients with underlying medical conditions. It is very important to disclose all medical conditions to us during your consultation so that we can determine if it is safe for you to undergo anesthesia. For some patients, we may recommend IV sedation or local anesthesia rather than general anesthesia to minimize risks. Also, be sure to follow all instructions prior to your surgery, like avoiding eating, to help prevent anesthesia complications.

Pulmonary Embolism and Deep Vein Thrombosis

After surgery, it is possible to develop blood clots in the legs, also known as deep vein thrombosis or DVT. If these blood clots travel to the lungs, known as pulmonary embolism, it can cause difficulty breathing or even death. In order to avoid blood clots, patients are advised to gently walk around every 1-2 hours as they recover from surgery. This promotes good blood flow in the legs and prevents clotting. Abdominoplasty patients have a slightly higher risk of blood clots in the legs due to the increased pressure in the abdomen. For these patients, we may prescribe a blood thinner for improved DVT prevention.

Schedule a Consultation

If you have additional questions about a plastic surgery procedure you are interested in, we are happy to answer them. Schedule a consultation by calling Mountain Lake Plastic Surgery in Burlington, VT at (802) 231-4284 or contact us online.