Your Best Action Plan for Dealing With Complications from Plastic Surgery

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Anytime you undergo surgery—whether for your health or aesthetic reasons—there's always a chance of a less than ideal outcome or a complication. Any and every doctor should tell you this before a surgery. "While the risk of a complication in elective aesthetic (cosmetic) surgical procedures is low, if someone guarantees you a perfect result, leave that office, as there are many factors that are not totally predictable and out of the doctor’s control to be able to make the promise that there would be absolutely no complications," says La Jolla, CA, plastic surgeon and Chairman of the NewBeauty Editorial Advisory Board, Robert Singer, MD.

If you are considering an elective surgery for cosmetic reasons, the best way to diminish the risk of a complication is first to do as much research as possible beforehand. "In selecting a surgeon, if a member of my family was planning to undergo a procedure, first and foremost I would insist that he or she would make sure that the surgeon was board-certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery," says Dr. Singer. "Again, no one can guarantee you perfect results, but it at least gives you confidence that the doctor has had the appropriate training." He adds, “Full supervised training, proper patient selection, diligent preoperative planning, meticulous surgery and comprehensive post-operative care are all necessary to diminish the risk of problems; it is far easier to avoid problems than it is to treat them.”

Also, be truthful with your surgeon. Ask as many questions about the procedure as possible, request to see before and after photos and if possible, talk to patients of the doctor who have had the similar surgery. Also, make sure to ask your surgeon what would happen if there is a complication, how he or she has dealt with it in the past and what are the financial implications.

It is imperative that you follow all of the instructions since you are also responsible for your surgical outcome. If you do everything right and still run into a complication, these are the things you should know when dealing with it:

First, have a discussion with your surgeon. "Be honest and open about the complication and your expectations on how the surgeon can assist in fixing it. Don’t automatically assume that it is the surgeon’s fault. Make sure you understand the cause of the complication and take notes to reference your understanding," says Beverly Hills, CA, plastic surgeon Leslie Stevens, MD.

Then, if the problem is still aesthetic and not medical, consider revision surgery. "Consult with your surgeon about a second procedure to correct the complication. Identify the costs, risks and detail an ultimate plan of action," says Dr. Stevens.

If after discussing it with your surgeon, you are really unhappy with your results and the proposed treatment plan, and you choose not to undergo another operation with the same doctor, seek out another board-certified plastic surgeon that has experience with revisionary plastic surgery. Just keep in mind, you still won't be guaranteed a perfect result. "It is not clay, it is human tissue and there are many factors that affect outcomes. Results shouldn’t be guaranteed even in the best of hands," says Dr. Singer. You must be realistic before undergoing any procedure.

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