“How SAFE is Cosmetic Surgery?”
While it is impossible to quantify the exact overall risk involved in aesthetic procedures, current estimates range anywhere from 1-10% risk of complication. The right procedure in a carefully chosen patient and with adequate anesthesia has an overall complication rate closer to 2%, with major complications around 1% overall. The verdict? Cosmetic surgery is safe, when properly planned and performed.
“Am I a Good Candidate?”
Knowing how to pick your patients is as important as knowing how to pick your surgeon. The highest risks in aesthetics come from performing the wrong procedure on the wrong patient. Not all patients are candidates for their desired procedures. Your surgeon should guide you through the decision making process, evaluate you thoroughly for each possible intervention, and design a treatment plan with the big picture in mind.
The key to elective cosmetic surgery is to maximize benefit while minimizing risk, weighing the likely result with the possible complications. In cases where potential complications outweigh the desired outcome, or where the aesthetic goal is unlikely to be met, the desired procedure should be deferred.
What is “High Risk”?
When your doctor evaluates you for surgery, he or she will determine your risk level. There is no such thing as no risk, but most elective cosmetic surgery occurs at a low risk to the patient. Low risk patients are generally healthy, non smokers, with no major cardiac or respiratory issues. Low risk can also mean that the patient has no history of complications with similar procedures, and no bleeding or infectious concerns.
As a general rule, risk increases with age over 55, a higher number of procedures performed simultaneously, longer surgical times (notably over 6 hours), and in patients of male gender and high BMI. Smokers in particular are at high risk of wound healing problems, and diabetic patients are at a higher risk of infection. In rare cases, the risk profile of the patient outweighs the potential cosmetic benefit, and they are therefore not a good candidate for the surgery.
Technology Isn’t always SECSI
Every year, countless new machines and devices hit the market, promising to deliver the simplest, fastest, and most short-cut route to aesthetic happiness. But most of these machines are technologies rather than healthcare tools. They are aggressively marketed to patients, who then request the treatments from their doctors. While many of these new inventions have promise, not all are really what they are cracked up to be.
Patients often come in requesting the “non invasive” alternatives to existing surgical procedures. Everyone likes the idea of less downtime, no scarring, and quick results. All of those things are alluring and desirable, but if they were truly achievable as presented, surgery would no longer exist. If you could get the same result as with liposuction by waving a magic wand, all of those suction cannulas would be tossed in the trash by now. But liposuction continues to be one of the most popular and widely performed procedures in all of aesthetics; because it is tried and true, safe and reliable, and in the right hands, delivers predictable results.
One of the most frequent and frustrating experiences for patients in today’s high tech world is the repeat failure of short cut procedures. Patients who are hesitant to undergo anesthesia are lured towards non invasive alternatives, with the promise that multiple treatments will get them to the same end point. In some cases, the magic wand works, but in many cases it’s just not enough. Multiple treatments, and multiple payments later, they regretfully find that the results are just not there- and neither is their wallet.
Every patient and every problem is different. There is no one solution that fits all molds. Your surgeon’s job is to analyze and identify the problems and potential solutions, and help you find the tailored treatment that is right for you. It is their job to give you realistic expectations, and to let you know if your preferred procedure is likely or not to get you to your goal. Your surgeon will let you know if a little filler is the right method for resolving your laugh lines, or if the facelift is finally unavoidable. The question should be “which procedure is right for me?” and your surgeon should guide you to that end. The curved TV and 3-D imaging may be sleek and cool (and most importantly new!), but that doesn’t mean that they will automatically deliver a better experience than your old-school high definition flat screen. Newness may be attractive, but effectiveness is SECSI.
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