Is comsetic surgery worth the risk?
2004, Top SanteView PDF
Nip’n’tuck ops are dramatically increasing but it’s easy to forget that the side effects can be fatal.
Olivia Goldsmith had millions of dollars and a successful career as a novelist. She also had some saggy skin under her chin. Her decision to have a facelift to remove it proved fatal – the author of The First Wives’ Club never regained consciousness after suffering a heart attack caused by the general anaesthetic. She was 54.
Like Denise Hendry, the wife of footballer Colin Hendry, who was in a coma for three weeks after developing septicaemia following liposuction, Goldsmith’s case is a stark reminder that cosmetic surgery carries risks – including death.
“Just because a procedure is cosmetic, it doesn’t mean the risks are less than for any other operation”, warns Harley Street cosmetic plastic surgeon Dr Angelica Kavouni. “The dangers associated with a general anaesthetic, for example, are the same.”
And while Dr Kavouni says the risk of dying as a result of a reaction to general anaesthetic is just one in 200.000, she estimates the risk of infection and other complications to be more like one in 100.
The easiest way to minimise your risk is to choose a skilled surgeon with a great track record (see Your Safe-Surgeon List, p52). You also need to make sure you’re not under the weather when you go under the knife. “A good cosmetic surgeon will check your general state of health with your GP before proceeding, but patients should take responsibility for their own pre-operative health, too,” says Dr Kavouni. But no matter what steps you take, no surgery is 100 per cent risk-free. And, according to a Top Sante Body Image Survey, 40 per cent of women aren’t happy with their results. So, whether you’re contemplating new boobs, a wrinkle-free face or a flatter stomach, the most important thing you need to ask yourself is whether even the best possible result is worth the risk.
Your safe-surgeon check list
Ask your GP to refer you to a cosmetic surgeon from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS). All BAAPS members are fellows of The Royal College of Surgeons and are specially qualified in cosmetic plastic surgery, as opposed to just plastic surgery (operations such as skin grafts)
Call BAAPS on 020 7405 2234 to check whether a surgeon is a member. Alternatively, consult a surgeon who comes highly recommended. Or call Dr Kavouni on 020 7486 9040.
Beware of clinics with seriously low fees. “If someone’s offering bargain-basement prices, the chances are they’re cutting corners by using inferior materials or lowering hygiene and aftercare standards, which increases the risk of infection”, says Dr Kavouni.
Choose a surgeon who specialises in you chosen procedure and ask how many times she’s performed it. After all, practice makes perfect.
Ask to see before and after pictures of previous patients and, if possible, to meet them, a surgeon with a good track record should have no problem with this.
Establish in writing that if something goes wrong, you’ll get follow-up surgery free of charge. Ask to see evidence of up-to-date medical indemnity insurance.
Before you sign on the dotted line
To make sure you avoid complications, in the weeks before your op you should:
- Be honest with your surgeon about your medical history.
- Stop taking the Pill at least one month before surgery to limit the risk of developing DVT afterwards.
- Give up smoking at least a month before your operation. “Not only will your wounds heal faster, you’ll also minimise your risk of necrosis”, says Dr Kavouni (see Assess Your risk, right).
- Visit your GP for a full check up to make sure you’re fit to undergo surgery.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet and get some exercise – a brisk 15 minutes walk a day will do.