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The uncertain nature of cosmetic surgery – risk factors to consider

Posted: 13/01/2017


When elective surgery is performed by a qualified plastic surgeon, complications are thankfully infrequent and usually minor. However, individuals vary greatly in their anatomy and healing ability and the outcome is never completely predictable. As with any surgery, complications can occur. These may include infection; excessive bleeding, such as hematomas (pooling of blood beneath the skin); significant bruising and wound-healing difficulties, as well as problems related to anaesthesia and surgery.

There are factors that may increase the risk of complications in healing. In general, a patient is considered to be a higher risk if he or she is a smoker, has a connective-tissue disease, areas of damaged skin from radiation therapy, decreased circulation to the surgical area, HIV or an impaired immune system, or poor nutrition. Patients who regularly take aspirin or some other medication that affects blood clotting are likely to be asked to stop a week or two before surgery.

Sometimes complications arise from poor surgical technique, and in these cases it may be possible and appropriate to pursue a claim for clinical negligence. For example, a 38-year-old woman received £19,500 in damages for a breast injury sustained following an elective breast enlargement operation. The claimant suffered a diathermy burn to her right breast, which caused an infection and considerable pain. She underwent surgery to eliminate the infection but further surgery was required and she was left with a 4 cm scar on her right breast, which was visible above the normal bra line. She also suffered from a moderately severe psychiatric adjustment disorder, which lasted for around six months.

The claimant brought an action against the defendant alleging that he was negligent in using the diathermy so vigorously as to cause a full thickness burn to her skin. It was also alleged that the burn had not been treated appropriately as the claimant should have been given broad-spectrum antibiotics and been reviewed on a regular basis. It was maintained that had the burn not occurred, she would not have required any further surgery. Liability was denied but nevertheless the claim resulted in a settlement.

If you have suffered a poor result from cosmetic surgery and have concerns that the treatment you received may not have been to a satisfactory standard, please do get in touch with us for some initial advice regarding your options.


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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP