Cosmetic surgery is a range of procedures that reshapes or restores the form of the body. Although the term is usually associated with beautification procedures, it actually includes a broad range of practical operations including reconstructive surgery, craniofacial surgery, burn treatment, and more. Whatever the motivation, the decision to undergo surgery should never be made lightly — one must always review the potential risks and rewards.
As with any surgery, plastic surgery carries risks. People have had surgery that has resulted in scars, disfigurement, or worse. While the worst outcomes are rare, such risks are nonetheless a reality. While each type of surgery bears its own risks that are specific to that particular procedure, certain risks are common to all surgical procedures such as pneumonia, loss or change of sensation, infection, paralysis or less severe nerve damage and sometimes even excessive bleeding.
The potential for nerve damage is present in many different types of surgical procedures. Numbness and tingling are common after plastic surgery and can be signs of nerve damage. Most often the nerve damage is temporary, but in some cases it can be permanent. Most women experience a change in sensitivity after breast augmentation surgery, and 15 percent experience permanent changes in nipple sensation.
Liposuction can be traumatic for the internal organs. Visceral perforations or punctures can occur when the surgical probe comes into contact with internal organs. Repairing these injuries can require additional surgery and sometimes these perforations from cosmetic surgery procedures may also be fatal.
Surgery typically results in some scarring. Since cosmetic surgery seeks to improve the way you look, scars can be particularly troubling. Hypertrophic scarring, for instance, is an abnormally red and thick raised scar. Along with smooth, hard keloid scars, it occurs in 1.0 to 3.7 percent of tummy tucks.
Though post operative care includes steps to reduce the risk of infection, it remains one of the more common complications of plastic surgery. For instance, infections occur in 1.1 to 2.5 percent of people who undergo breast augmentation. The skin infection cellulitis may occur after surgery. In some cases, infections can be internal and severe, requiring intravenous (IV) antibiotics.
Unexpected Beauty Botches
Any time you tamper with the body’s balance, you risk creating new problem areas. One recent study found that liposuction may slim one problem area while creating another. Women who suction fat from their thighs and lower abdomen ultimately destroy those fat cells. When they eventually put weight back on, it distributes unevenly—often to less flattering areas like the upper abdomen, back and arms.
Damaging Peer Reactions
Perhaps the most insidious threat of a cosmetic surgery is the response by others. Coworkers may perceive you as vain, manipulative or threatening. Other men may interpret a male colleague’s new head of hair as an unfair advantage, or women may decide a female’s new, larger breasts are an abuse of sexual power. Finally, the hidden hazards within the family may be worst of all. Children who watch a parent or close relative take the drastic measure of surgery can develop a skewed vision of their own bodies that they may never escape. Likewise, women who hope a procedure will help their romantic relationship often receive a rude awakening.