The “plastic” in plastic surgery originated from the ancient Greek word, plastikos, which means “to mold or give form.” It describes the surgical specialty that improves appearance by repairing or reconstructing facial and body tissue. Plastic surgery can correct defects caused by illness, accidents or birth disorders. This type of surgery can restore and improve function in addition to appearance.
Plastic surgery can be done on any part of the anatomy, except the central nervous system.
When performed on the skin, plastic surgery is usually done to repair damage from skin cancer and burns, as well as to remove or improve the appearance of scars and birthmarks. Plastic surgery is also a method for removing tattoos.
Maxillofacial plastic surgery is often performed on the facial skeleton to improve disorders of the jaw and sinuses.
It is also used to correct congenital anomalies, or birth defects, that include misshapen ears, cleft palate and cleft lip.
Possible Plastic Surgery Complications or Mistakes
The potential for errors or negligence during plastic surgery procedures is basically the same as it is for other types of surgery.
Here is a summary of the most common mistakes involving surgery and anesthesia:
Surgical Mistakes also known as “Never Events”
- Wrong Site Surgery
This refers to a surgeon who operates on the wrong body part or organ. This kind of mistake happens when a procedure is performed on the opposite hand, foot, knee or hip; for example, replacing the right knee when the left knee is the one in need of replacement. There are also cases where the wrong limb is amputated, which is devastating for the patient and the family.
- Surgical Instruments Left in Body
When a hospital does not have a strict procedure for keeping track of surgical instrument and accessories, it is possible for instruments, sponges or other items to be left inside the body. This kind of mistake can require additional surgery to remove the item and can also cause infection or other serious complications before the problem is discovered.
- Operating on the Wrong Patient
If the wrong patient is operated on, that patient is subject to a variety of serious complications, depending on the type of surgery and that is performed. Misidentifying a patient can also result in the administration of medications that may be harmful to the person undergoing the surgery.
- Right Patient, Wrong Procedure
Charting mistakes or faulty communication can result in the wrong surgical procedure being performed; such as, removing the appendix of a patient who was scheduled for a tonsillectomy or other procedure. Besides having to undergo another surgery to correct the original problem, the patient has to recover from the first procedure, which could include unnecessary complications or scarring.
Other Surgical Mistakes
- Infection from Unsanitary instruments or Poor Sanitizing Procedures
Contaminated instruments, inadequate hand washing or unsterile operating room conditions can lead to serious or life-threatening infections, especially in elderly patients or those with compromised immune systems.
- Internal Damage caused by Careless Instrument Use
Accidentally puncturing or otherwise damaging an internal organ or surrounding tissue with a scalpel or other sharp surgical instrument can result in a life-threatening organ or tissue injuries, internal bleeding or infection.
- Nerve Damage
Severing or nicking a nerve or inadvertently damaging another body part, such as a disk, so that a nerve is adversely affected, can result in nerve damage, which can cause pain and loss of mobility. Some cases of nerve damage can be reversed through physical therapy and/or medication; however, some kinds of nerve damage can be irreversible, causing lifelong pain and/or disability.
Most surgical procedures involve some type of anesthesia; As a result, a certain number of mistakes that occur during surgery will be attributed to the anesthesia process. While most patients do not suffer ill effects from anesthesia, certain people, such as the elderly or those undergoing lengthy procedures, may have an increased risk of complications. These include postoperative confusion, pneumonia, or even stroke and heart attack.
Here a few of the errors that can cause a patient to have an adverse reaction to anesthesia:
- Failure to take patient’s history into account when administering and monitoring anesthesia
Because certain conditions may increase the risk of serious complications from anesthesia, the anesthesia team should be aware of the patient’s history and provide appropriate monitoring during surgery.
- Physician’s Failure to Convey Necessary Information to Anesthesiologist
It is the doctor’s responsibility to communicate information that can affect a patient’s reaction to anesthesia so appropriate precautions can be taken. Failure to maintain accurate records and convey necessary information could be considered negligence on the part of the physician.
- Incorrect Administration or Monitoring of Anesthesia
This can cause nerve damage or other serious complications depending on the patient’s condition or allergies to certain anesthesia medications.
- Depression/Disappointment over Results
If a patient expected a certain result or degree of improvement in appearance, a disappointing outcome can cause depression. This can be exacerbated if the surgery was performed to correct a disfigurement that was caused by an accident or incident that was accompanied by post-traumatic stress.
Cosmetic, or aesthetic, surgery, is usually done to improve or reshape otherwise normal structures of the body. As a rule, cosmetic surgery is not medically necessary. A patient usually elects to have a cosmetic procedure in order to enhance appearance rather than to correct a medical condition. Because it is elective, most cosmetic procedures are not covered by standard insurance policies.
There are some exceptions where addressing a medical problem also serves to improve the patient’s appearance. Examples are surgery to fix drooping eyelids that were interfering with the patient’s vision, and breast reductions where the size and weight of the breasts caused back, neck and shoulder pain or other issues.
The most common types of cosmetic surgery include:
- Breast enlargement or reduction
- Face, forehead, and brow lifts
- Rhinoplasty, or “nose job”
- Stomach surgery, or “tummy tuck”
Possible complications from cosmetic surgery include:
- Leaking breast implants
- Excessive or unsightly scars
- Burns from chemicals or lasers used for skin improvement procedures or hair removal
- Dissatisfaction with results
Proving damages, or injury to the patient, in a cosmetic surgery case, is more complicated than in a non-elective surgical procedure. There are usually extensive information and consent forms that the patient is asked to read and sign before the surgery is performed. Where the risks are carefully delineated.
Any medical malpractice case, including plastic and cosmetic surgical procedures, must be based on the fact that the patient suffered injury or harm, and that the harm was caused by negligence on the part of the surgeon, other members of the medical staff or the facility. Dissatisfaction with the result of a cosmetic surgery procedure is generally not a basis for a malpractice lawsuit.
The risks are usually delineated on the extensive information and consent forms the patient must read and sign before surgery is performed.
Despite the nature of the surgery, plastic and cosmetic surgeons are bound by the same duty of care as all surgeons and physicians. If you or a loved one has suffered harm as the result of negligence on the part of the surgeon, anesthesiologist, nurse or medical facility, contact us immediately for a free consultation.