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Surgery risks and complications

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Before any surgical procedure, you will thoroughly discuss the risks and complications with Dr Mark Hanikeri, including how they can be minimised, prevented and managed.

All procedures can be associated with some form of risk. As a Specialist Plastic Surgeon, Dr Hanikeri will work to minimise risks throughout the procedure process, including informing patients on important preparation and recovery instructions.

Risks Associated with Plastic Surgery

The specific risks and complications of each surgical procedure can vary slightly. Some of these risks are more serious or severe than others. Temporary experiences immediately after surgery, such as swelling, can be expected to subside as the body heals. However, serious complications can require medical intervention, such as treatment or additional surgical procedures.

Dr Hanikeri will discuss all of the risks associated with your chosen procedure, including their severity and what would be required if they occur.

Generally, surgical procedures can be associated with the following risks:

  • Swelling: Swelling is a common post-operative symptom that might last a few weeks. It is generally a normal response to tissue trauma and manipulation during the procedure. It’s caused by increased fluid and white blood cells entering the surgical site, aiming to support healing. Swelling can persist as the body gradually resolves inflammation and restores tissue balance through natural healing.
  • Bruising: Bruising can occur around the surgical site. Bruising after surgery occurs due to blood vessel damage during the procedure. Leaked blood from damaged vessels triggers an inflammatory response, leading to discolouration. As the body gradually clears the blood and repairs vessels, the bruise fades over days to weeks.
  • Scarring: All surgeries result in some level of scarring, which can vary based on factors like genetics and wound healing. The level of scarring will depend on the particular incision type or pattern that your surgeon will use to perform your procedure, which will be discussed during your consultation so that you can know what to expect.
  • Numbness: Temporary or permanent numbness or tingling might occur due to temporary or, in some cases, permanent damage to nerves during the procedure. Nerves might be stretched, compressed, or cut during surgery, leading to altered sensations. As healing progresses, nerves may regenerate, and sensations can return, but it can take time for the nerves to recover fully, and in some cases, complete sensation might not be regained.
  • Pain: Pain and discomfort are expected after surgery but are usually manageable with pain medications. Your surgeon may prescribe you medication and instruct you on how often to take it.
  • Infection: Surgical sites can become infected, requiring medical treatment and antibiotics. Infections occur when bacteria enter the surgical site, which can result from compromised sterilisation, poor wound care, or weakened immune response. Symptoms of infection include redness, swelling, warmth, pain, and discharge. Infections can usually be treated with antibiotics, but severe cases might require additional interventions to prevent complications.
  • Delayed healing: Some individuals might experience slower wound healing, leading to prolonged recovery. Delayed healing after surgery can occur due to poor blood circulation, underlying medical conditions (like diabetes), or an individual’s overall health. It might result in slower tissue repair, prolonged inflammation, and an increased risk of complications. Patients with delayed healing might require extended recovery time, specialised wound care, and close monitoring to ensure proper healing eventually takes place.
  • Haematoma: A haematoma is a blood collection that accumulates in a tissue or organ after surgery due to damaged blood vessels. It appears as a localised swelling often accompanied by pain and discomfort. Haematomas can vary in size and severity. While small haematomas might resolve independently, larger cases might require drainage to prevent complications such as infection or pressure on surrounding tissues.
  • Seroma: A seroma is a buildup of clear or slightly bloody fluid that collects in a cavity or tissue after surgery. It forms when tissue layers separate or fluid accumulates due to disrupted lymphatic drainage. Seromas can lead to swelling, discomfort, and pressure in the affected area. Small seromas might resolve independently, but larger or persistent seromas might need to be drained using a needle and syringe to relieve symptoms and promote proper healing.
  • Skin irregularities: Skin texture changes, pigmentation changes, or unevenness might occur at or near the surgical site. These might result from factors like scarring, variations in healing, or the skin’s natural response to trauma. Depending on the extent, these irregularities can improve over time, but in some cases, additional treatments might be needed to address them.
  • Asymmetry: Surgery can sometimes result in minor differences between the sides of the body. Some degree of asymmetry is normal and might not be noticeable, while significant discrepancies might result from surgical techniques or individual healing. Surgeons aim for balance, but complete symmetry is not always achievable.
  • Allergic reactions: Some individuals might experience allergic reactions to anaesthesia, sutures, or other materials used during surgery. These reactions range from mild to severe, with symptoms like rash, itching, swelling, hives, or even anaphylaxis—a life-threatening allergic response characterised by difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, and loss of consciousness. Surgeons take precautions to minimise the risk of allergic reactions by reviewing patients’ medical histories and using hypoallergenic materials when possible.
  • Anaesthesia complications: Anaesthesia can lead to allergic reactions, respiratory issues, or adverse drug interactions. Anaesthesia is carefully administered and monitored by an Anaesthetist to minimise these risks. he Anaesthetist will review and discuss with the patient their medical history to identify potential risks and tailor the anaesthesia approach accordingly.
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): DVT is a serious complication that can occur after surgery, including plastic surgery. It involves the formation of blood clots in deep veins, commonly in the legs. If a clot forms and breaks loose, it can travel through the bloodstream and potentially block blood vessels in the lungs, causing a life-threatening condition called pulmonary embolism. Preventive measures, such as compression stockings and blood-thinning medications, are often used to minimise this risk after surgery.
  • Excessive bleeding: Excessive bleeding can occur when blood vessels cut or manipulated during the procedure, fail to clot properly, leading to prolonged or heavy bleeding. This can result from surgical technique, clotting disorders, or improper wound care. In severe cases, excessive bleeding might require surgical intervention to control, such as cauterisation, sutures, or even blood transfusions. Surgeons take precautions to minimise bleeding during surgery and closely monitor patients post-operatively to promptly address any signs of excessive bleeding.
  • Nerve damage: Permanent nerve damage can occur during surgery, leading to sensory or motor deficits. It can occur when nerves are stretched, compressed, or accidentally cut during the procedure. This can cause altered sensations, such as numbness, tingling, or pain in the affected area. While some nerve damage might be temporary and improve as the nerves heal, more severe cases can result in permanent sensory or motor deficits. Your surgeon will take precautions to minimise the risk of nerve damage, but it’s an inherent risk of any surgical procedure involving delicate structures like nerves.
  • Organ damage: Some procedures can inadvertently damage internal organs, leading to complications that require further treatment. It can occur if surgical instruments or procedures inadvertently cause harm to internal organs near the surgical site. Depending on the procedure and its proximity to vital structures, organs like the liver, intestines, or bladder might be at risk. Organ damage can lead to pain, bleeding, infection, or dysfunction of the affected organ. Surgeons are highly trained to avoid such complications.
  • Complications from implants: Implants used in procedures like breast augmentation can rupture, leak, cause infection, or be affected by capsular contracture, malposition, displacement, extrusion, allergies, or implant failure. Surgeons take measures to minimise these risks, but patients should understand potential issues and long-term considerations associated with implants.
  • Poor wound healing: Poor wound healing after surgery, including plastic surgery, can result from infections, diabetes, smoking, malnutrition, age, medications, poor circulation, health conditions, tension, or foreign bodies. Preventing it involves proper care, managing health issues, following instructions, and minimising risk factors. Surgeons will work to reduce these risks and promote sufficient healing.
  • Unsatisfactory results: The final outcome might not meet the patient’s expectations due to various factors. Unsatisfactory results in plastic surgery may arise due to mismatched expectations, individual anatomy, healing variations, procedure limitations, complications, or unpredictable responses. Minimising this risk involves clear communication, realistic expectations, experienced surgeons, and considering individual factors.

Surgery Preparation Instructions for Minimising Risks

You will receive personalised preparation instructions from your surgeon, but some general surgery preparation instructions that can help minimise risks and promote sufficient healing after surgery can include:

  • Complete medical evaluation: Undergo all required medical tests and evaluations to ensure you are a suitable candidate for the procedure.
  • Disclose medical history: Provide your complete medical history, including allergies, chronic conditions, medications, and previous surgeries, to your medical team.
  • Stop smoking and alcohol consumption: Avoid smoking and alcohol in the weeks leading up to surgery, as they can hinder healing and increase risks.
  • Follow a healthy diet: Eat a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals to support your immune system and healing process.
  • Stay hydrated: Proper hydration aids in optimal recovery. Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol intake.
  • Discontinue medications: Follow your surgeon’s advice on discontinuing certain medications, such as blood thinners, before surgery.
  • Follow pre-op skin care: If advised, follow proper skin care routines to minimise infection risks.
  • Follow fasting guidelines: Adhere to fasting guidelines provided by your surgical team to prevent anaesthesia-related complications.
  • Adhere to hygiene recommendations: Follow guidelines for showering and personal hygiene provided by your surgeon.
  • Ask questions: Don’t hesitate to ask questions or express concerns about the surgery or the recovery process.

Recovery Instructions for Minimising Risks

Your surgeon will provide you with personalised recovery instructions, but here are some general guidelines for a successful recovery after surgery that can help minimise risks and promote healing:

  • Pain management: Take prescribed pain medications as directed to stay ahead of discomfort and prevent pain from worsening.
  • Inspect incisions: Regularly check incisions for signs of infection such as redness, swelling, warmth, or discharge. If you notice anything unusual, contact your surgeon immediately.
  • Prioritise rest: Get plenty of rest and aim for quality sleep to aid your body’s healing process.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink enough water throughout the day to help your body heal and stay hydrated.
  • Eat a nutrient-rich diet: Consume a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins, minerals, and protein to support healing.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking: Refrain from alcohol and smoking during recovery, as they can hinder healing.
  • Ease back into activities as advised: Gradually reintroduce light activities based on your surgeon’s recommendations. Avoid strenuous exercise until advised.
  • Wear compression garments if advised: Wear compression garments to minimise swelling and encourage proper healing if your surgeon recommends it.
  • Shield surgical areas from the sun: Keep surgical areas protected from direct sun exposure to prevent scarring and pigmentation issues.
  • Resist picking or scratching: Avoid picking scabs or scratching incisions to prevent infection and promote proper healing.
  • Opt for comfortable clothing: Choose loose-fitting clothing that will not rub or irritate surgical sites.
  • Adhere to lifting limits: Stick to your surgeon’s lifting restrictions to avoid straining surgical areas.
  • Attend follow-up appointments: Attend all scheduled post-operative appointments for proper monitoring and assessment.
  • Engage in physical therapy if recommended: If your surgeon suggests it, participate in recommended physical therapy exercises to regain strength and mobility.
  • Care for scars: Follow your surgeon’s scar care instructions to minimise scarring and encourage healing.
  • Hygiene matters: Maintain proper hygiene around surgical areas. Follow guidelines for bathing and wound care from your surgeon.
  • Manage stress: Employ relaxation techniques to manage stress levels, which can positively impact your recovery.
  • Recognise warning signs: Be alert to any signs of complications like persistent pain, fever, increasing redness or swelling, and immediately inform your surgeon.

Further Information on Risks and Complications of Each Procedure

For more details about the risks and complications of the specific procedure you are undergoing, please get in touch with our team or book your consultation with Dr Mark Hanikeri.