5. Breast Reduction (Mammaplasty): Breast reduction in women, performed 160,531 times in 2005, closely follows tummy tuck as the 5th most popular cosmetic surgery procedure in the United States. It is directed at women with very large, pendulous breasts who are extremely self-conscious or may be experiencing other medical problems because of their large breasts. The procedure removes fat, glandular tissue, and skin from the breasts, making them smaller, lighter, and firmer -- the goal being to give the woman smaller, and better-shaped breasts in proportion with the rest of her body. ("Breast Reduction," 2007)
Frequency of Cosmetic Procedures by Age Group
Cosmetic surgery includes surgical as well as non-surgical procedures that are performed on people of all ages. In addition to the most popular surgical procedures discussed above, the most frequently performed "non-surgical" procedures include Botox injections (for removing frown lines), laser hair removal, Hylaform injection (for wrinkle removal), Microdermabrasion (for removing fine wrinkles and unwanted skin pigmentation), and Chemical Peel (for removing skin-blemishes). According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), out of the total 11.5 million cosmetic surgical and non-surgical procedures performed in the United States in 2005, the majority, i.e., 5.3 million procedures (or 47% of the total) were performed on people in the age-group of 35 to 50 years; the age group of 51 to 64 accounted for 23% (or 2.7 million) procedures; while another 2.7 million procedures (24%) were performed on patient's in the 19 to 34 age-group. The age-group of 65-year and older accounted for 530,139 procedures (or 4% of the total), and another 174,851 procedures (2% of the total) were performed on younger people aged 18 years or less ("Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Research," 2006).
The top surgical procedures for different age groups were as under: liposuction (Ages 35-50), eyelid surgery (51-64), breast augmentation (19-34), eyelid surgery (65 and over), and rhinoplasty (18 and under). The top non-surgical procedures for the same age-groups were Botox, Botox, Laser Hair Removal, Botox, and Laser Hair Removal respectively.
The Most Common Patient Complications
Significant advancement in medical and Cosmetic Surgical technologies in recent times has greatly reduced risks and complications previously associated with cosmetic surgery. However, every surgery carries a measure of risk. Similarly, a number of complications in cosmetic surgery still remain, some of which are discussed below:
Anesthesia / Sedation
Anesthesia and sedation used during surgeries sometimes cause serious complications. This kind of complication is not peculiar to cosmetic surgery alone but may occur during cosmetic surgeries especially if general anesthesia is used. Patients who have heart trouble, lung disease or are overweight are at greater risk of complications due to anesthesia. Complications associated with anesthesia include airway obstruction, blood clots, malignant hyperthermia, brain damage, heart attack, nerve damage, stroke, and temporary paralysis. (Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Basics, 2007) for example, the drugs used in anesthesia can sometimes cause spasms in the vocal cords resulting in blockage of the airways; temporary paralysis may occur if muscle relaxants have not fully worn off after surgery, or brain damage can occur if blood circulation is depressed to dangerous levels during surgery while under sedation. Malignant hyperthermia occurs when the body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate all rise to hyperactive levels (Ibid.). Some of the complications of anesthesia / sedation are so serious that they can even lead to death if not recognized and treated promptly.
The risk of infection in cosmetic surgery is low but quite serious when it does occur. At greater risk are people who smoke, take steroids or have certain vascular conditions. It is also linked to the type of surgery involved -- the risk for infection being greater in surgeries that last longer or ones in which the patient loses more blood (Ibid.).
Most infections are caused by the patient's "own" germs that normally live on our skins or in our guts without causing harm. During some of the cosmetic surgical procedures, these germs gain access to deeper tissues. In most cases, the body's immune system is able to destroy them before they can cause harm, but sometimes the organisms succeed in overwhelming the body's defenses, causing infection (Risks, 2007).
The telltale signs of such infection are swelling, redness and tenderness, which is sometimes accompanied by pus-like drainage from the wound and/or fever. Infections are more likely to occur in surgeries of areas that have a high bacterial count such as the abdomen and groin as compared to surgery of areas that have a richer blood supply such as the face and scalp. Chances of infection during cosmetic surgeries are reduced, though marginally, by the prophylactic use of antibiotics before surgery. Treatment of post-operative infection consists of wound drainage and treatment with appropriate antibiotics after performing culture tests. (Ibid.)
Bleeding that occurs during cosmetic a surgical procedure is easily controlled in most cases. However, sometimes significant bleeding may resume post-operatively. Such bleeding may collect in the areas between tissues created during cosmetic surgery and result in the development of a firm, tense clot within the tissues, known as hematoma. The hematoma or the clot usually causes significant pain and may be accompanied by hard swelling and discoloration in the area (Risks, 2007).
The chances for post-operative bleeding are relatively high in patients who have high blood pressure or clotting disorders, are aspirin or excessive alcohol users. Premature resumption of strenuous activities after the surgery can also cause bleeding. In case of post-operative bleeding and formation of clots, re-opening of the wound or re-surgery is usually required for removal of the clots. (Ibid)
Some cosmetic surgery procedures such as breast augmentation or facial uplifts may involve the introduction of a foreign body inside a patient's body. This could consist of implants used in breast augmentation, or chin, cheek or nose implants used to improve face profiles. Although inert material that is compatible with human tissue is normally used for cosmetic implants to eliminate the chances of body rejection, on rare occasions, a patient's body is unable to cope with the introduction of a foreign body and results in rejection of the implanted body.
When such rejection is suspected, characterized by severe infection in the patient, the patient has to be put on immunosuppressive drugs and the implant has to be removed.
The Most Common Doctor Mistakes
Despite the great improvements in cosmetic surgery techniques in recent decades, mistakes continue to be made by doctors during such surgeries prompting legal malpractice cases against doctors and frequent stories of cosmetic surgeries gone horribly wrong. Some of these patient testimonials based on real life stories are discussed below:
Donni-Jay De-Ville's Experience with Cosmetic Surgery
Donni-Jay, a belly dancer, underwent a tummy-tuck surgery at the age of 26 to remedy loose skin over her lower tummy. A short time later, she gained considerable weight and the doctors discovered that an under-active thyroid was the cause of her weight-gain. Liposuction was advised and performed. She was informed that fat removal as a result of the liposuction would be permanent, which was not the case. Just two years later, Donni-Jay had regained her pre-surgery weight despite a strict regimen of low-fat diet. She had to have another liposuction operation.
Some years later, Donni decided to have another liposuction performed on her slightly puffy lower eyelids. She later realized that her left eye was almost exactly the same as it was before the surgery, as the surgeon had not removed enough fat from the eyelid. Moreover, Donni thinks she probably never needed the liposuction in the first place but the surgeons did not advise her against the operation. She is convinced by her experience with cosmetic surgery that surgeons "will take a patient on, even if the surgery is unnecessary." (De-Ville, 2004)
Botched Overseas Surgeries
2006 report in "The Age," Australia issues a warning about how "cheap" cosmetic surgery overseas can go wrong. It gives the example of a young Australian woman who returned with a two-centimeter bald strip across the top of her scalp after a botched eyebrow-lift surgery in Thailand. It also narrates the story of another woman who returned home from an overseas breast enlargement procedure with no cleavage as a result of a surgical error. Both had to have the mistakes corrected through further plastic surgery in Australia. ("Warnings on Plastic Surgery Mistakes," 2006) the report further informs that a number of Australian surgeons were currently involved in treating complications of cheap overseas cosmetic surgery such as "hideous scarring, infections in breast implants and failed tummy tuck." (Ibid.)
Beware of Bargain Surgeries
An article in Click2 Houston.com, titled "Plastic Surgery Mistakes Leave Patients Scarred," warns about the dangers of looking for bargains while contemplating cosmetic surgery. It quotes the experience of Gina Hern, a Houston-based professional makeup artist and spa owner who got breast implants at a clinic in Mexico for just $2,000 as compared to the average price of $6,000-8000 for a similar implant in the U.S. However, the results of her "cheap" implant…