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What are the Side Effects of Cosmetic Surgery?

Cosmetic surgery is a popular means to enhance appearance and boost self-esteem. While these procedures, ranging from major operations like tummy tucks to minimally invasive procedures like dermal fillers, offer transformative results, they are not without their risks. It is key for anyone considering it to understand the risks of plastic surgery.

Here, we look into the various side effects associated with cosmetic surgeries, aiming to provide a comprehensive understanding of what can be expected. The decision to undergo cosmetic surgery should be made with a thorough appreciation of both the potential benefits and the risks involved. We will provide you with the necessary information you need to make informed decisions about your cosmetic surgery journey.

Common side effects across various cosmetic surgeries

Cosmetic surgeries, whether complex or minimally invasive, carry a spectrum of potential side effects. Here are some common and general examples that are often associated with various cosmetic surgeries:

  1. Infection: even with the necessary sterilisation, there is still a risk of infection at the incision sites or, in some cases, within the body where the surgery was performed. Symptoms might include redness, swelling, pain, or discharge. It is essential to address these signs promptly to prevent further complications.

  2. Scarring: all surgical procedures inevitably result in some degree of scarring. While plastic surgeons strive to minimise and conceal these marks, the extent and visibility of scarring will vary based on the procedure, the individual's skin type, and the body's healing process.

  3. Pain and discomfort: post-surgical pain is a common side effect, often managed with prescribed painkillers. The intensity and duration of the pain will vary based on the nature of the surgery and the individual's pain tolerance.

  4. Swelling and bruising: almost all patients will experience some swelling and bruising in the operated area. While these are typically temporary, they can be significant and might take weeks or even months to fully subside.

  5. Dissatisfaction with results: not every cosmetic surgery results in the patient's envisioned outcome. Differences in individual healing processes and subjective expectations can lead to dissatisfaction, sometimes necessitating further corrective procedures.

  6. Emotional and psychological impact: the recovery period can be emotionally challenging. Some individuals might experience depression, anxiety, or regret following the surgery, particularly during the initial healing phase when the body might not look or feel as expected.

  7. Numbness or changes in sensation: depending on the type of surgery, some patients might experience temporary or, in rare cases, permanent numbness in the operated area. This can be due to nerve damage during the surgery.

Procedure-specific side effects

Certain procedures carry specific risks as well as the more general ones. Here, we explain side effects associated with popular surgeries like breast augmentation, tummy tucks, and minimally invasive procedures.

Invasive procedures

  • Breast augmentation: this popular breast surgery procedure comes with specific risks such as implant leakage or rupture, which may require additional surgery to address. Capsular contracture, where scar tissue forms around the implant, causing discomfort or changes in breast appearance, is another concern. Additionally, there might be temporary or permanent changes in nipple or breast sensation.

  • Tummy tuck: known for creating a flatter abdomen, this procedure carries risks like poor wound healing leading to conspicuous scarring or even skin loss. As with other major surgeries, there's a risk of blood clots forming, especially in the legs (deep vein thrombosis), which can be serious if they travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism).

  • Liposuction: while effective in removing fat, this procedure can lead to contour irregularities, numbness, or in some cases, infections.

  • Rhinoplasty (nose reshaping): patients might experience difficulty breathing, nosebleeds, or an unsatisfactory appearance, sometimes requiring revision surgery.

  • Facelift: complications can include hematoma (a collection of blood under the skin), nerve injury leading to muscle weakness, or asymmetry in the appearance of the face.

Minimally invasive procedures

Minimally invasive cosmetic procedures, such as Botox injections or dermal fillers, are generally associated with fewer risks. However, they are not devoid of side effects. Patients may experience:

  • Skin reactions: redness, swelling, or bruising at the injection site are common, usually subsiding within a few days.

  • Unsatisfactory results: as with more invasive surgeries, the results may not always meet the patient’s expectations, sometimes necessitating further treatments.

  • Allergic reactions: though rare, some individuals may have allergic reactions to the injected substances, manifesting as prolonged redness, swelling, or even more severe symptoms.

Role of plastic surgeons in mitigating risks

The expertise and experience of plastic surgeons (also known as cosmetic surgeons) play a pivotal role in minimising the risks associated with cosmetic surgeries. From the initial consultation to post-operative care, the involvement of a skilled surgeon is vital in ensuring a safe and satisfactory surgical journey.

  1. Choosing the right surgeon: it is vital to select a surgeon who is board-certified and has a proven track record with the specific procedure you are considering. A qualified surgeon not only brings a wealth of experience but also a deep understanding of how to personalise the procedure to your unique anatomy and needs.

  2. Comprehensive consultations: prior to any surgical procedure, thorough consultations are key. This is the time for surgeons to evaluate your medical history, discuss your expectations, and outline the potential risks and benefits of the surgery. It’s also an opportunity for you to ask questions and develop a clear understanding of the recovery process and the realistic outcomes you can expect.

  3. Technical skill and precision: the technical proficiency of a plastic surgeon directly impacts the success of the surgery and the minimisation of risks such as scarring, infection, or unsatisfactory results. Skilled surgeons employ the latest techniques and adhere to the highest standards of care during the procedure.

  4. Post-surgery follow-up: a dedicated surgeon ensures meticulous post-operative care. This includes monitoring your recovery, managing any complications that may arise, and providing clear instructions on wound care, activities to avoid, and signs of potential problems to watch for.

  5. Setting realistic expectations: a responsible plastic surgeon helps set realistic expectations, ensuring that patients have a clear and balanced understanding of what the surgery can and cannot achieve. This approach not only prepares the patient mentally but also contributes to post-operative satisfaction.

Long-term considerations and lifestyle factors

While the expertise of a skilled plastic surgeon is vital, the success of cosmetic surgery also hinges on long-term considerations and individual lifestyle factors. Understanding and managing these elements can greatly influence not just the immediate outcomes, but also the longevity and satisfaction of the results.

Lifestyle factors influencing surgical outcomes

  • Smoking: immediately before or during the following healing period, smoking can significantly impair healing, increasing the risk of complications such as poor wound healing and infections. Surgeons often advise patients to quit smoking well in advance of the surgery and during the recovery period.

  • Medications and supplements: certain medications and supplements can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anaesthesia. Disclose all medications and supplements during the pre-surgical consultation.

  • Nutrition and fitness: a balanced diet and a healthy fitness level can aid the healing process. Proper nutrition supports tissue repair and overall health, while a stable weight ensures the longevity of the surgical results.

Long-term care and maintenance

  • Follow-up appointments: regular follow-up appointments are essential to monitor the healing process, assess the results, and address any concerns promptly. These appointments are an integral part of the post-operative care plan.

  • Sun protection: for surgeries involving the skin, such as facelifts or other facial procedures, protect the skin from sun exposure to prevent scars from becoming more noticeable and to maintain the quality of the results.

  • Future touch-ups: some cosmetic procedures may require touch-ups or additional surgeries in the future. For instance, breast implants might need to be replaced after a number of years, or the effects of injectable treatments may diminish over time, requiring repeat sessions.

Understanding the emotional journey

  • Patience during recovery: recovery can be a gradual process, and it is important to have patience and realistic expectations about the timeline for seeing final results.

  • Emotional fluctuations: the emotional journey following cosmetic surgery can be complex. It’s not uncommon to experience a range of emotions, from excitement and satisfaction to anxiety or disappointment, particularly in the early stages of recovery.

Cosmetic surgery is an emotional journey that requires careful consideration and management of various long-term factors. A comprehensive approach, considering both the surgical procedure and the patient’s lifestyle, is essential for a successful outcome and enduring satisfaction.

While cosmetic surgeries offer the potential for significant aesthetic enhancements, they are medical procedures with inherent risks. An informed decision, coupled with the guidance of a skilled plastic surgeon and a responsible approach to post-operative care and lifestyle management, is key to ensuring a safe and satisfying cosmetic surgery experience.

Contact us

The consequences of a cosmetic procedure going wrong can be devastating, leading to physical, emotional and financial suffering. All of our claims are no win, no fee, meaning you do not have to worry about paying us anything if your claim is unsuccessful.

Our expert team of specialists have dealt with all kinds of cosmetic surgery negligence claims and has successfully claimed compensation for a wide variety of cases including breast surgery, facelifts, nose jobs, dental surgery, liposuction, dermal fillers and more.

Only once starting the claims process can we begin working on your behalf. To find out if you have a compensation claim, call us on 0808 231 7432 or complete our online enquiry form to request a call back.

Contact us today

If you have experienced problems following eyelid surgery and think they are the result of negligence, you may be entitled to make an eyelid surgery claim for compensation. Talk to our expert cosmetic surgery negligence team today. Call 0808 273 2903 or request a callback by completing the contact form.

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Mike Saul


Michael Saul is a partner at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors, where he brings his extensive specialist legal expertise and passion for helping people to the forefront of his work. With a proven track record of success in cosmetic surgery negligence cases, Michael has dedicated his career to providing clients with the highest level of representation and achieving favourable outcomes.

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