Understanding the Risks and Complications of Surgery
It is important to understand your risks of surgery are and what you can do to minimise or prevent them. However, it’s important to state that some complications and surgery risks may occur randomly, despite having chosen the best surgeon, top hospital and best practice procedure and wound care. Despite evidence-based medicine, all surgery carries risks.
Risks of Surgery
There are general risks associated with surgery, as well a plastic surgery, include:
General Anaesthesia Risks
Prior to surgery, you will be provided with the details of your anaesthetist. This will allow you to discuss any specific concerns you may have. Most healthy patients respond well to general anaesthesia.
Sometimes following surgery, a collection of blood may pool at the surgical site. Should this occur, a visit to the operating theatre may be necessary to remove the hematoma or other potential bleeding problems.
Fluid Build-Up (Seroma)
There is a risk of an accumulation of fluid or seroma formation.
Should an infection develop following surgery, your surgeon will prescribe antibiotics as appropriate and monitor your progress closely.
Delayed Wound Healing
Delayed wound healing may occur. This is often more likely in patients who are overweight, have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, or who don’t follow good nutrition. It is also found in smokers, or where an infection develops. Your surgeon and nurse coordinator will manage the healing process. They will be able to take the necessary steps if delayed wound healing occurs.
All surgery leaves a scar, and plastic surgery is no different. To minimise scarring for some procedures but not all, you may be recommended for Fraxel Laser scar treatments following surgery.
More Serious and Life-Threatening Risks
Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a serious condition. It can occur when a blood cot occurs in a vein located deep inside the body, typically in the thigh or lower leg. It is important to inform your surgeon right away if you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of DVT so appropriate medications and therapies can be prescribed immediately.
Additional Surgical Risks related to individual factors or lifestyle
There are some additional risks from having surgery that may apply to certain patients. Risks and potential complications have higher risks rates due to:
- Obesity or overweight/high BMI which can also increase your risks
- Underlying health conditions, allergies or sensitivities
- Substance use or lifestyle factors like smoking or bacteria-laden environments or improper wound care
- Smoking, which can cause higher complication risks at all stages of your procedures
Smoking and Surgical Risks
Your overall health will impact your healing processes, including your inflammation levels. However, smoking is one of the greatest risk factors when it comes to plastic surgery.
Smoking interferes with your health as well as your skin health and its healing capacities. Further, it is recommended that you are open with your surgeon regarding your smoking habits, even if you are a closet or social smoker. It is generally recommended you do not pursue surgery until you have quit smoking for an extended period of time. You must NOT Smoke after surgery for at least 4 to 6 weeks to allow the wound to heal properly.
Breast Surgery Risks
Breast procedures come with their own particular complications. Common side effects of breast surgery include discomfort, skin sensation changes, bruising and swelling. Most resolve over a period of weeks but skin sensations changes can last longer. More serious breast surgery risks can include:
- Changes to Nipple sensitivity can occur. You may lose nipple sensation permanently; however, this is very rare. Most patients lose nipple sensation temporarily and as nerve endings start to re-connect underneath the skin, sensations will return to the area
- Nipple Loss/Necrosis is a rare complication that occurs often in smokers. It may affect all or part of the nipple
- Your ability to breastfeed may be affected
- Allergies to tape, suture materials and glues, blood products, topical preparations or injected agents
- Poor scarring, including keloid scarring (more common in patients with higher skin pigmentation/darker skin)
- Breast implant issues if you have a breast lift with an augmentation using breast implants (skin wrinkling, implant rupture)
- Capsular contracture if having a combined breast lift with augmentation
- Asymmetry (uneven breasts or nipples)
- A risk of BIA-ALCL – a rare type of lymphoma associated with textured breast implants
Dr Sackelariou will cover your surgical risks and potential complications in detail during your consultation as part of the informed consent process.