KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Brazilian butt lifts (BBL), liposuction and breast augmentation are only a few cosmetic surgery procedures that have become commonplace in Jamaica and the world at large.
Done right, these procedures inspire confidence and self-acceptance in the people who undergo the surgeries. But there is a flip side; a dark side filled with all that can happen when cosmetic surgeries go awry.
Cosmetic Surgeon and Anti-aging physician Dr Sandra Swaby explained that a patient may come in for body enhancement surgery but end up in the morgue. She added that though the surgeon will focus on keeping the patient safe during the operation, there are unforeseen issues that could arise.
“You go in to get a BBL or tummy tuck and you don’t make it past the anaesthesia. It could be the surgeon's issue or it could be the patient’s issue. It is my belief that most of my colleagues take safety very seriously but in spite of that things can happen. Although, with a well-trained and experienced surgeon, it really shouldn’t,” Dr Swaby said.
She added that an oversight that results in death could be a congenital heart problem that neither the patient nor the doctor is aware of. Dr Swaby explained that this is sometimes the case as checks for congenital heart problems are not usually done prior to body enhancement procedures.
“We do a stress ECG (electrocardiogram), among other things but at the end of the day nobody is looking for something like a congenital heart problem. And so the first thing that can happen is death; you go in and you don’t come out alive,” Dr Swaby argued.
Other more common complications are infections. This complication, she said, is so common “every surgeon on the planet has had a patient with infection.” Dr Swaby explained that the reason is the fact that bacteria is everywhere, and that it does not matter the kind of surgery being done, the patient is always put on antibiotics.
“The infections are mostly easy to treat except for something like mycobacterium, which is in the tuberculosis family. This can take up to a year to treat,” the cosmetic surgeon stated.
Another major complication is deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which can result in a pulmonary embolism.
“If you do a tummy tuck for example, you are immobilised and your circulation is not maximised, you can actually get a clot in your leg in one of the large veins and a piece of this clot can break off and go straight to the lungs and then you can get a pulmonary embolism,” Dr Swaby stated.
She added that while the pulmonary embolism can cause death, patients are often saved because the condition is easily diagnosed and dealt with.
To prevent this, Dr Swaby recommends that patients pay attention to their body mass index (BMI) and if it is elevated, then she advises that the patient lowers their BMI with exercise before going in for body enhancement surgery. She added that to prevent DVTs in her practice, she does not operate on people over the age of 50 and those with a BMI higher than 30.
The surgeon told OBSERVER ONLINE that organ puncture is also a common complication that occurs during a liposuction procedure. This could also lead to sepsis, another complication which could put the patient in the intensive care unit (ICU).
“During liposuction, you can have organ puncture, meaning a blunt cannula is used to go through the fat to suction it but if the surgeon is not careful or if the person has an abdominal hernia that you did not know about, the cannula can go straight into the abdomen. If you have a bowel puncture, then the stool will enter the abdomen causing immediate sepsis and that will cause you to go to the ICU immediately,” Dr Swaby disclosed.
As for breast augmentation procedures, she said that the implant may get infected and the breast may need to be removed completely.
Dr Swaby, who has been in the cosmetic surgery industry for 10 years, said that the risks associated with body enhancement are many and include less traumatic ones like seromas which are pockets of liquid that are found in the areas where liposuction was done; irregularities, lumpiness, fibrosis which is the scar tissue, a-symmetry, and “of course the best one is that you think you don’t look good”.
She added however that many of the complications listed are not solely associated with cosmetic procedures but all surgeries. She also highlighted that, based on the latest findings, 98 per cent of cosmetic surgeries worldwide have favourable outcomes so “it is still a safe environment.”
Considering these possible complications of body enhancement surgery, one would wonder why people continue to have the procedures done. In Dr Swaby’s opinion, cosmetic procedures are some people’s only way to feel comfortable within their own body.
“I think that the specialty that I am in is actually God-sent. I believe it, I see lives change; I see persons go from 20 per cent to 100 per cent just from gaining body enhancement. The other thing is that if you don’t look good in the mirror it is hard to feel good,” Dr Swaby explained.
For added protection, Dr Swaby said that doing multiple procedures is not recommended as the risk of complications increases exponentially.