With 17.5 million procedures both surgical and minimally invasive in 2017, cosmetic and plastic surgery is on the rise.1 The appeal of plastic surgery is undeniable for many, whether to help you look better or recover from an injury or illness like breast cancer. What you should know is that, in spite of all the precautions you or your doctor might take, there are still some side effects that could cause discomfort or more serious issues if left unattended.
1. Anesthesia Side Effects
When you have to go under general anesthesia for your plastic surgery procedure, your mind is probably racing with thoughts of all the things that could go wrong. If that’s the case, you are not alone. In fact, psychiatrists say that about 30percent of people may even be more afraid about the anesthesia than the actual surgery itself! 2 The good news, though, is that you may not actually need to worry that much. These common side effects of anesthesia are temporary and will wear off in a couple of hours.3
No matter how rare, adverse side effects from plastic surgery do exist, so put the odds in your favor by working with only board-certified cosmetic surgeons and anesthesiologists at a reliable center.4
- Nausea or throwing up
- Feeling out of sorts
- Being very emotional
- Lacking inhibitions
- Slurring your speech
- Behaving in a very dramatic/exaggerated way
- Shivering/feeling cold
- Trouble urinating
As for those numbers on when things go wrong? A minuscule 0.01 – 0.016percent of all patients undergoing anesthesia – and this includes emergency procedures, not just elective plastic surgery – develop fatal complications. In fact, even in these cases, it is usually poor health in general, sickness, old age, smoking, or obesity that cause the complications with anesthesia. With plastic surgery which is planned and performed after a thorough risk assessment, your risk is even lower.5
2. Pain Or Numbness
If you’re undergoing rhinoplasty (a “nose job”), liposuction, a tummy tuck, or breast augmentation, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons warns of possible numbness and persistent pain as a side effect. Bring this to the attention of your doctor and they will suggest a suitable analgesic for you.6 You could supplement it with home care and natural pain management techniques like meditation.
PULL QUOTE: After undergoing a plastic surgery procedure, as with any surgery, you may experience limited mobility or might be asked to restrict your movement of the affected area. While this isn’t a side effect, it is something you need to be prepared for and plan ahead for so you can get help with your daily errands and chores. Some surgeries might need you to take a few days or weeks off to recover.
Scarring is another side effect of plastic surgery, but one that needn’t present a problem if your surgeon is skilled and the procedure goes to plan. If it goes awry, however, you may end up with a wound that doesn’t heal properly or with unfavorable scarring. With a breast augmentation surgery, for instance, you could wind up with something known as capsular contracture where very tight scar tissue forms around the implant, causing discomfort.7 Another possible undesirable side effect is hypertrophic scarring, which results in visible and elevated scars and can be itchy and even painful.8
Having a pre-existing bleeding disorder makes you four times more likely to have a bleeding complication.9
Since plastic surgery is at the end of the day a form of surgery, a little bleeding is normal. However, in some instances, the bleeding could be excessive and dangerous.10 Watch for signs of internal bleeding after a surgery. One study of primary plastic surgery procedures from 2008 to 2013 revealed that about 2.1percent of patients experienced bleeding complications.11 Internal bleeding could cause pain at the site, nausea, vomiting, pale/clammy skin, extreme thirst, tightness/swelling in the abdomen. Treat internal bleeding as a medical emergency and speak to your doctor right away.12
Though your doctor and the medical team will do everything before, during, and after the surgery to minimize the risk of infection, this is still a complication or side effect of plastic surgery – or any surgery for that matter – that you need to be aware of and prepared for. While bacteria remain the major cause, some infections may be caused by fungi, viruses, and mycobacteria that try to get into your system via the surgical wound.13 Depending on the nature of the infection (internal or external) and the severity, your doctor will suggest a course of treatment.
6. Nerve Damage
Nerve damage might cause a loss of sensation or tingling after a plastic surgery procedure. For instance, though not very common, you may experience nerve injury that is temporary or permanent when you undergo invasive aesthetic procedures of the face.14 After a breast augmentation surgery, some women experience a loss or alteration of sensation in the nipple area and breast.15
7. Hematoma Or The Buildup of Blood Below The Skin
According to one piece of research that studied 130,000 people who underwent aesthetic surgery, men may be much more at risk of developing hematomas than women. Those undergoing combined procedures and breast procedures are also more likely to see hematomas.16
Hematomas after a cosmetic surgery operation are among the most common complications or adverse side effects to watch out for. These pockets of blood that build up beneath your skin may look like large bruises at the surgical site where tissue was removed. They typically appear about 7 to 10 days after you’ve undergone surgery and often resolve on their own. When that fails to happen, the doctor may need to reopen the incision and surgically drain it out.17
8. Swelling And Pain From Seromas
A seroma occurs when clear fluid collects below your skin, leaving you with swelling and often pain as well. They tend to develop in the second week after your operation, quite often after procedures like an abdominoplasty/tummy tuck or mastectomy.18 They could result in infections and are usually dealt with by the doctor by draining them with a needle.
9. Deep Vein Thrombosis Or Blood Clots
Plastic surgery may also, in a small fraction of cases, cause blood clots in the body which can prove dangerous. You may know it as DVT or deep vein thrombosis, where clots form in the deep veins of your legs, groin, or arm. The problem arises when these clots break away from these sites and head to your lungs, triggering a pulmonary embolism that could prove fatal. But don’t let this terrify you. Remember, the instances of this happening are rare. Research suggests that the 12-month possibility rate for venous thromboembolism stands as follows for the various types of plastic surgery:19
- Abdominoplasty: 0.57 percent
- Hernia repair: 0.32 percent
- Face procedures: 0.28 percent
- Thigh lift/brachioplasty: 0.28 percent
- Liposuction: 0.20 percent
- Breast procedures: 0.12 percent
What is important to remember, however, is that if you are having multiple surgeries, like say liposuction and an abdominoplasty, the risk increases to as much 0.81 percent.
10. Psychological And Emotional Side Effects Of Plastic Surgery
A lot of this may depend on the kind of surgery you’ve had and why you needed it, as well as your perception of the outcome. If all goes well and you are happy with the results, it may result in an improved body image of yourself and that could play out as improvements in quality of life overall. On the flip side, you may wind up with anxiety or depression, especially if you have unrealistic expectations of the results. Having a prior history of anxiety and depression makes you more susceptible to this too.
Some people face adjustment issues after plastic surgery, become socially isolated, and have problems with those around them, like their families. They may direct anger at their doctor and staff or indulge in self-destructive behavior. Some may even become suicidal. Which is why the pre-surgery psychological assessment for elective surgeries is so important. The surgeons use this to spot any potential signs of a problem which could result in adjustment issues or psychosocial or psychological issues after surgery.20
|↑1||New Statistics Reveal the Shape of Plastic Surgery. American Society of Plastic Surgeons.|
|↑2, ↑4, ↑5||What is it Really Like to Undergo General Anesthesia?. American Board Of Cosmetic Surgery.|
|↑3||General anaesthesia. National Health Service.|
|↑6||Cosmetic Procedures. American Society of Plastic Surgeons.|
|↑7||What are the risks of breast augmentation?. American Society of Plastic Surgeons.|
|↑8||Rabello, Felipe Bettini, Cleyton Dias Souza, and Jayme Adriano Farina Júnior. “Update on hypertrophic scar treatment.” Clinics 69, no. 8 (2014): 565-573.|
|↑9, ↑11||Thomas, Analise, Ronnie Shammas, Adam Glener, Eugenia Cho, and Scott Hollenbeck. “An Analysis of Bleeding Complications in Plastic Surgery.” Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Global Open 5, no. 4 Suppl (2017).|
|↑10||Plastic Surgery Overview. National Health Service.|
|↑12||Bleeding. Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia.|
|↑13||Gravante, G., R. Caruso, A. Araco, and V. Cervelli. “Infections after plastic procedures: incidences, etiologies, risk factors, and antibiotic prophylaxis.” Aesthetic plastic surgery 32, no. 2 (2008): 243-251.|
|↑14||Azizzadeh, Babak, and Grigoriy Mashkevich. “Nerve injuries and treatment in facial cosmetic surgery.” Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Clinics 21, no. 1 (2009): 23-29.|
|↑15||What are the risks of breast augmentation?. American Society of Plastic Surgeons.|
|↑16||Kaoutzanis, Christodoulos, Julian Winocour, Varun Gupta, Nishant Ganesh Kumar, Konrad Sarosiek, Blair Wormer, Christopher Tokin, James C. Grotting, and K. Kye Higdon. “Incidence and risk factors for major hematomas in Aesthetic Surgery: analysis of 129,007 patients.” Aesthetic surgery journal 37, no. 10 (2017): 1175-1185.|
|↑18||Baroudi, Ricardo, and Carlos Alberto Affonso Ferreira. “Seroma: how to avoid it and how to treat it.” Aesthetic surgery journal 18, no. 6 (1998): 439-441.|
|↑19||Saad, Ahmad N., Ralitza Parina, David Chang, and Amanda A. Gosman. “Risk of adverse outcomes when plastic surgery procedures are combined.” Plastic and reconstructive surgery 134, no. 6 (2014): 1415-1422.|
|↑20||Plastic surgery: Beauty or beast?. American Psychological Association.|