What Are the Risks of Cosmetic Surgery?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 25 January 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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Risks of cosmetic surgery include heart or lung problems related to anesthesia, excessive bleeding or the formation of blood clots, and infection. Surgeon error might cause nerve damage or unsatisfactory results. Depression after a procedure represents one of the common risks of cosmetic surgery. Risks of cosmetic surgery are greater for patients with certain health problems, such as diabetes, smokers, and patients who take certain medications.

When multiple procedures are done at once, the risks of cosmetic surgery increase because patients must remain under anesthesia for longer periods of time. A disruption in normal heart rhythms occurs in some patients as a reaction to general anesthesia. Circulation problems might lead to brain damage if severe. Obese patients and people with heart problems face greater risks of cosmetic surgery linked to anesthesia. As with any surgery involving anesthesia, death is possible, with the death rate higher in patients seeking surgery at outpatient cosmetic surgery clinics.

Risks of cosmetic surgery might also increase if a patient’s airway becomes obstructed during the operation. If the airway swells, a tube might be inserted to ease respiration in the operating room. Aspiration of vomit into the lungs during surgery represents another risk and might cause pneumonia, coughing, and infection.


One of the risks of cosmetic surgery considered serious involves blood clots that might form in the legs, called deep vein thrombosis. This complication typically occurs during the recovery period, when patients are inactive and blood begins to pool in veins. Surgeons cannot predict which patients will develop this condition, but patients who receive liposuction on their legs face higher risks of cosmetic surgery complications related to blood clots.

Certain medical conditions also increase risks of surgery linked to blood clots. Patients with a history of cancer, or those with genetic conditions that affect blood clotting, might wear elastic stockings before, during, and after an operation as a preventative measure. Certain heart, lung, and central nervous system disorders also increase the risk, along with using hormone replacement therapy drugs and oral birth control pills. Surgeries to the buttocks and pelvic regions increase the risk of blood clots.

Infection is rare but considered one of the risks of surgery that can be serious if it leads to skin death. This condition might completely alter the appearance a patient hopes to achieve. Plastic surgeons commonly prescribe antibiotics to reduce the chance of infection. Smokers, patients with vascular diseases, and patients who use steroids face higher risks of infection.

Surgeon error might permanently damage nerves, leaving patients with a tingling or numb sensation in certain parts of the body. Asymmetrical results, especially with breast augmentations or other implant surgeries, are possible if an unskilled surgeon errs. Other mistakes might produce skin puckering or dimpling. Fluid could collect under the skin after liposuction, breast augmentation, or a tummy tuck due to doctor error.

Depression represents a common condition in patients after cosmetic surgery. It might stem from anesthesia, medications used after the operation, or trauma of the surgery itself. Some people feel guilty about the cost of an operation to improve appearance and find it difficult to deal with family and friends who might react with criticism. Others have trouble adapting to physical changes in appearance, but depression generally eases over time.



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