Understanding Possible Complications Related to Plastic Surgery

Plastic surgery can offer transformative results, improving physical appearance and boosting self-confidence. However, it’s important for patients to be fully informed about potential complications. This article will outline general complications as well as specific risks associated with various plastic surgery procedures. There may be other complications not included in this article.


General Complications


  1. Hypertrophic Scarring: Thick, raised scars that can form along incision lines.
  2. Embolism: Blood clots that can travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism) or other parts of the body, potentially life-threatening.
  3. Infections: Can occur at the incision site or internally, sometimes requiring antibiotics or additional surgery.
  4. Wound Separation: Incisions can reopen, delaying healing and potentially leading to infection.
  5. Fluid Collections (Seroma): Pockets of clear fluid can build up under the skin.
  6. Severe Bruising: Extensive bruising can occur, particularly with more invasive procedures.
  7. Poor Healing: Factors like smoking, poor nutrition, or underlying health conditions can impair the healing process.
  8. Blood Loss: Excessive bleeding during or after surgery can occur, potentially requiring a transfusion.
  9. Anesthesia Complications: Reactions to anesthesia, ranging from mild nausea to more severe complications such as respiratory issues.

Procedure-Specific Complications

Breast Lift (Mastopexy)

Nipple Sensation Changes: Altered or lost sensation in the nipples and breast.

Asymmetry: Breasts may heal unevenly.

Inability to Breastfeed: Potential difficulty in breastfeeding post-surgery.

Skin Necrosis: Death of skin tissue due to poor blood supply.

Breast Lift with Implant

Implant Complications: Risk of implant rupture, shifting, or capsular contracture (hardening around the implant).

Double Bubble Deformity: When the implant drops below the crease, causing a double breast appearance.

Rippling: Visible ripples or wrinkles of the implant through the skin.

Breast Augmentation

Capsular Contracture: Hardening around the implant.

Implant Rupture: Implants can leak or rupture, requiring replacement.

Breast Implant Illness: A range of symptoms that some women associate with their implants, including fatigue and joint pain.

Breast Reduction

Loss of Nipple Sensation: Risk of reduced or lost sensation in the nipples.

Breastfeeding Difficulties: Potential challenges with breastfeeding post-surgery.

Fat Necrosis: Death of fatty tissue, leading to firm lumps.

Nipple Graft

Graft Failure: Nipple grafts may not take, leading to loss of the nipple.

Infection: Increased risk of infection at the graft site.

Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)

Hematoma: Blood pooling under the skin.

Nerve Damage: Temporary or permanent loss of sensation in the abdominal area.

Skin Loss: Necrosis of the skin along the incision line.

Asymmetry: Uneven appearance of the abdomen post-surgery.

Arm Lift (Brachioplasty)

Swelling and Asymmetry: Uneven results or prolonged swelling in the arms.

Nerve Damage: Potential for temporary or permanent numbness in the arms.

Persistent Laxity: Some loose skin may remain despite surgery.

Thigh Lift

Thigh Gapping: Thighs may not meet expectations for smoothness and contour.

Mobility Issues: Temporary difficulty in movement due to tightness or swelling.

Lymphedema: Swelling due to fluid buildup in lymph nodes.

Side Lift

Contour Irregularities: Uneven skin or fat distribution.

Scarring: Noticeable scars that may be difficult to conceal.

Mons Lift

Visible Scarring: Prominent scars in the pubic area.

Altered Sensation: Changes in sensation in the pubic region.


Contour Deformities: Uneven fat removal can result in bumpy or uneven contours.

Skin Laxity: Loose skin may remain after fat removal.

Fat Embolism: Fat enters the bloodstream and blocks blood vessels.


Nerve Injury: Potential for temporary or permanent facial nerve damage.

Hair Loss: Loss of hair around the incision sites.

Skin Necrosis: Death of skin tissue due to poor blood supply.

Neck Lift

Visible Scarring: Prominent scarring around the ears or hairline.

Nerve Damage: Potential for loss of sensation or movement in the neck area.

Eyelid Surgery (Blepharoplasty)

Ectropion: Drooping lower eyelid.

Dry Eyes: Reduced tear production or dry eyes.

Vision Changes: Temporary or permanent changes in vision.

Endoscopic Brow Lift

Numbness: Temporary or permanent numbness around the incision areas.

Hairline Changes: Alteration of the hairline position.

Nose Reshaping (Rhinoplasty)

Breathing Difficulties: Potential for obstructed nasal passages.

Nasal Asymmetry: Uneven appearance of the nose.

Septal Perforation: Hole in the nasal septum.

Ear Pinning (Otoplasty)

Overcorrection: Ears can be pinned too close to the head.

Asymmetry: Ears may not be symmetrical post-surgery.

Lip Lift

Scarring: Noticeable scars around the lip area.

Lip Asymmetry: Uneven lips post-surgery.

Altered Lip Function: Difficulty with certain lip movements.

Vaginal Tightening

Painful Intercourse: Post-surgery discomfort during sexual activity.

Altered Sensation: Changes in sensation within the vaginal area.

Labia Plasty

Chronic Pain: Persistent pain in the labial area.

Scarring: Prominent or uncomfortable scars.

Infection: Increased risk of infection at the surgical site.

Buttock Lift

Fat Necrosis: Death of fat cells leading to lumps or firmness.

Contour Irregularities: Uneven shape or contour of the buttocks.

Buttock Implant

Implant Displacement: Shifting of implants from their original position.

Infection: Higher risk of infection due to the implant.

Capsular Contracture: Hardening around the implant.

Nose Implant

Implant Extrusion: Implant pushing out through the skin.

Infection: Increased risk of infection around the implant.

Cheek Implant

Implant Shifting: Movement of the implant from the intended position.

Infection: Risk of infection around the implant.

Fat Transfer to Face

Fat Absorption: Transferred fat may be reabsorbed, reducing volume.

Lumps and Bumps: Uneven fat distribution can lead to lumps or bumps.

Acceptance of Risks and Post-Operative Care

It is crucial for patients considering plastic surgery to thoroughly understand and accept the risks of complications associated with their chosen procedure. Patients should engage in detailed discussions with their surgeons about these potential risks and make an informed decision.

Should complications arise, it is imperative that patients seek prompt medical attention. Early consultation with healthcare providers can significantly mitigate the severity of complications and improve outcomes.

Satisfaction and Expectations

Finally, it is important to acknowledge that satisfaction with plastic surgery results is not guaranteed. While many patients achieve their desired outcomes, some may be unhappy with the results. Factors contributing to dissatisfaction can include unmet aesthetic expectations, complications, and individual healing responses.

Patients are encouraged to have realistic expectations and to discuss their goals and concerns with their surgeon beforehand to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the possible outcomes.

Always choose a board-certified surgeon and adhere to pre- and post-operative instructions to minimize risks and enhance outcomes.


Special Considerations for Plastic Surgery After Massive Weight Loss

Massive weight loss, whether achieved through bariatric surgery or lifestyle changes, is a significant accomplishment that can greatly improve health and well-being. However, it often leaves behind excessive, sagging skin that can hinder mobility and affect self-esteem. For these patients, plastic surgery can offer a solution to remove excess skin and enhance body contour. Nonetheless, there are special considerations to keep in mind.

Skin Quality Issues

One of the primary concerns for patients who have experienced massive weight loss is the quality of their skin. After significant weight loss, the skin often becomes stretched, thin, and damaged. This compromised skin quality can affect surgical outcomes in several ways:

Poor Elasticity: Post-weight loss skin may lack the elasticity needed to conform smoothly to the new body shape, potentially leading to unsatisfactory results.

Thin Skin: The skin can become so thin that it struggles to support underlying tissues and any implants, increasing the risk of complications such as implant visibility, rippling, or even displacement.

Fragility: Damaged skin is more prone to tearing and other injuries during and after surgery, complicating the healing process.

Specific Challenges and Expectations

For patients undergoing procedures like body lifts, tummy tucks, arm lifts, or thigh lifts, the presence of large amounts of excess skin can make achieving smooth, taut contours more challenging. Surgeons need to carefully plan and execute these procedures to minimize visible scarring and achieve the best possible aesthetic outcome. Despite these efforts, some patients might not be entirely satisfied with their results due to the inherent limitations posed by poor skin quality.

Breast Surgeries

Patients considering breast augmentation or lifts face additional challenges. Thin and weakened skin may not support the weight of implants well, increasing the risk of complications such as bottoming out (where the implant slips below the natural breast crease). This can lead to additional surgeries and adjustments, making it crucial for patients to have realistic expectations and thorough consultations with their surgeons. It’s not uncommon for post massive weight loss patients undergoing plastic surgery, to have to undergo revision surgeries especially for breast surgeries. Many patients opt for implants to achieve a more feminine look, however due to the poor skin elasticity it’s common for this group of patients to undergo breast revision surgeries more frequently compared with non-massive weight loss patients.  

Post-Surgery Care and Realistic Expectations

Post-operative care is critical for these patients. Given the delicate nature of their skin, they need to follow their surgeon’s recommendations meticulously to promote healing and reduce the risk of complications. Additionally, understanding that their skin condition may limit the extent of achievable improvements is vital for maintaining realistic expectations.


Consultation with Surgeon


Ask questions about expected result, complications and other important healing factors when you consult with your plastic surgeon. Be aware that complications may happen even in the cases where you as a patient follow all the guidelines. Plastic surgery is elective surgery and if you as a patient cannot accept the risks associated with surgery, then you should not undergo elective surgery.

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