Plastic surgery procedures completed in accredited surgical facilities by board-certified plastic surgeons have a great safety record. A survey based on more than 400,000 operations performed in accredited facilities found that the rate of serious complications was less than half of one percent. Although plastic surgery has a low rate of complications, you should know the risks of plastic surgery before you undergo a procedure. It is advisable to do research on the potential risks and complications of your chosen procedure and discuss any concerns you have with your plastic surgeon.

Risks for Plastic Surgery

Complications from Anesthsia/Sedation

Some people experience serious complications when put under anesthesia/sedation. People with heart or lung disease or who are obese are at greater risk of complications due to anesthesia. To reduce your risk, tell your doctor about any medications you are on and let her know your complete medical history.

Possible complications include:

  • temporary paralysis
    • Temporary paralysis can occur if muscle relaxants have not fully worn off after surgery but it is generally considered easy to detect and treat by a medical professional.
  • abnormal heart rhythm
  • blood clots
  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • nerve damage
  • airway obstruction
    • Anesthesia can irritate the air passages, causing the vocal cords to spasm and block the airway. The anesthesiologist may need to insert a tube down the throat or cut into the windpipe to treat the airway obstruction.
  • brain damage
  • death
  • malignant hyperthermia


Aspiration is when a person vomits during surgery and the vomit is forced back into the lungs. Aspiration can cause mild discomfort and can also lead to infections, chronic cough, obstruction in the lungs, or even pneumonia.

Excessive Blood Loss

Some bleeding is normal with any procedure but if there is excessive bleeding, it can create major complications. Your surgeon and anesthesiologist will look for pooling blood or a dramatic drop in blood pressure. If excessive bleeding occurs after surgery, it can accumulate under the skin and require an additional surgery.

Blood Clots (DVT)

Blood clots are formed from a medical condition or being kept immobile such as in a surgery setting. A blood clot in the veins can be fatal and they are difficult to predict. To help prevent them, move around and flex your feet often during recovery. Be aware that patients who have liposuction in their legs are at higher risk for DVT; compression garments can help.

Drop in Blood Pressure

Blood pressure often decreases slightly during surgery but a sudden drop from blood loss can cause an irregular heart beat or even a heart attack.


Infection is actually a low risk at less than one percent of surgeries. Taking precautionary antibiotics can reduce the risk of infection dramatically but be aware that if infection does occur, it is very serious. People who smoke, take steroids, or have certain vascular conditions are at greater risk. The longer the surgery and the more blood lost increases the risk of infection.

Loose Sutures

If sutures come loose it can cause internal bleeding or a hernia which would require additional surgery.

Skin Death (or Necrosis)

Skin death usually follows an infection or hematoma and is most common among smokers. Necrosis is treated by surgically removing the dead skin which may affect the cosmetic outcome.


Moderate or severe asymmetries in results may require a second surgery. Mild asymmetry is normal.

Slow Healing

Slow healing can be caused by advanced age, skin type, failure to follow doctor’s advice or an auto-immune disorder.


Some patients experience temporary numbness or tingling after surgery. A permanent loss of sensation can result from an injury to the sensory or motor nerves.


Dimples, puckers, divots or other irregularities can appear in the skin due to surgical error, unusual healing, or body make-up.


Seroma is when fluid collects under the skin and can occur after breast augmentation, liposuction, or a tummy tuck.

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