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The Ugly Risks and Realities of Cosmetic Procedures

On Behalf of | May 8, 2017 | Medical Malpractice |


While the majority of cosmetic surgeries are considered elective procedures, that does not bar patients from pursuing claims of medical malpractice. Indeed, cosmetic surgeries and the surgeons who perform them are held to the same standards as those performing life-saving procedures. The number of people undergoing cosmetic procedures has reached an all-time high and in 2016, Americans spent nearly $8 billion on everything from Botox injections to breast lifts and tummy tucks. As the number of people undergoing cosmetic procedures rises, so too have the number of people who have been injured during these operations.

The Most Dangerous Cosmetic Procedures

While every surgery carries the risk of errors, there are some cosmetic procedures that are more dangerous that others. The most dangerous cosmetic procedures include:

  • Gluteal Implants. This relatively new procedure involves inserting gluteal implants beneath the skin. The risks of gluteal augmentation include rupture of the implant, swelling, prolonged bleeding, and nerve damage. In one now infamous case from 2011, the implants provided to a patient by a fake cosmetic surgeon in Florida were found to contain cement and fix-a-flat. These “ingredients” caused serious injury and infection that nearly claimed the patient’s life.
  • Liposuction. The procedure involves removing unwanted and excess fat deposits from within the abdominal cavity. Because these deposits are located near vital organs, any damage to these systems can be fatal. Common complications of liposuction can include perforating the stomach wall, blood clots, and infections that spread throughout the body.
  • Facial Reconstruction. These procedures are often complex and involve working in close proximity to the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Any damage to these areas can cause permanent loss of vision, hearing, taste, and smell. Moreover, because of the number of blood vessels located in the region, the risk of blood clots and systemic infection is enhanced.
  • Body Lifts. Body lifts are considered to be the most intensive cosmetic procedure. In fact, a full body lift may involve up to five separate procedures, and between 4-8 hours to complete. During this time, the patient is under general anesthesia. These procedures carry a high risk of allergic reaction to anesthesia and systemic infection. They can also cause permanent damage to the regions being operated on, including the buttocks, belly, thighs, genitals, and breasts.     

Common Injuries from Cosmetic Procedures

Even minimally invasive cosmetic procedures such as Botox injections can come with a wide range of side-effects and risks. Indeed, injuries from cosmetic procedures are the same as other invasive procedures and can include:

  • Excessive Bleeding/Hematomas. These occur in between 1-6% of procedures and are most common in facelifts and breast augmentations.
  • Acquired Bacterial Infection (including Sepsis). Serious infections occur in between 2-4% of procedures.
  • Tissue Necrosis & Scarring. In particular, hypotrophic scarring which occurs in between 2-5% of breast augmentation procedures.
  • Nerve Damage. It is estimated that roughly 15% of patients who undergo breast augmentations will experience a significant loss of sensitivity following the procedure.
  • Organ Damage. Procedures such as liposuction can cause perforations and lacerations to organs. These injuries can require further surgery to correct, and if left untreated can cause fatal injuries to the patient. 
  • Allergic Reactions to Anesthesia. Allergic reactions to anesthesia can cause strokes, heart attacks, and serious infections. These injuries can cause brain damage, tissue loss, and even if prompt treatment is applied, they can be fatal  

These injuries can take considerable amounts of time and financial resources to treat and recover from. In some cases, the damage may be permanent and will create a long-term impact on the patient’s quality of life and enjoyment of life. In severe cases, these injuries may even lead to permanent disability and reduced life expectancy.

Standing up for the Standards of Care 

Cosmetic surgeries are held to the same standards applied to medically necessary procedures. This means that patients have the right to pursue a medical malpractice claim against a cosmetic surgeon. In order to do so, the plaintiff must establish that a doctor-patient relationship existed and that the surgeon made errors that breached the standard of care which subsequently caused harm to the patient.

Examples of harm caused by the procedure can include permanent disfigurement, loss of limb function, loss of sensitivity, extensive pain, infection, etc. One of the most important things to establish in a medical malpractice case stemming from cosmetic surgery is that the injury goes beyond patient dissatisfaction with the aesthetic results of the procedure. Unless the results of the procedure caused significant disfigurement, this is rarely enough to establish medical malpractice.

A medical malpractice lawyer in Illinois can help patients recover damages caused by cosmetic procedures. In Illinois, individuals may file claims for medical malpractice up to two years after the date they became aware it occurred. Exceptions to this statute of limitations may be made in cases involving fraudulent concealment of malpractice or the discovery of foreign objects during a subsequent medical procedure.