Plastic Surgery: Is It Worth The Risk?
by Jennifer Wider, MD
(Washington DC, 2/5/04): Want to look young, thin and attractive? Who wouldn't?
Cosmetic plastic surgery offers a world of possibilities for the young, old
and those unhappy with their appearance. But the surgery is not without risk.
Magazines, movies and advertisements are filled with images of a youthful and
trim America, but are these images realistic?
In the movie, " The First Wives Club," mega-lipped Goldie Hawn gets nipped,
lifted and tucked to avenge her husband who has left her for a younger woman.
The film portrays a discarded generation of women who need to appear young and
fit to keep their husbands' attention. "It's the 90's," Goldie Hawn's character
said, "plastic surgery is like good grooming."
Good grooming? Maybe for some. But these high cost procedures can be dangerous.
In a recent, tragic twist, Olivia Goldsmith, the author of the book "First Wives
Club," died of complications from anesthesia during plastic surgery. Despite
the glamorization of cosmetic surgery in the movie, surgery of any kind comes
along with risks. And even though the end result of cosmetic procedures may
be alluring, people need to consider the hazards.
There are risks or complications associated with any surgical procedure including
bleeding, infection, ugly scarring and anesthesia-related risks. "Each plastic
surgery procedure carries it's own risk," Todd M. Wider, M.D., a plastic surgeon
at St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, said. "It is essential that
the patient understands these risks fully before he/she proceeds with the surgery."
One of the most popular procedures is breast augmentation, which received significant
bad publicity years ago with the silicone implant scare. The procedure has seen
a resurgence in popularity using implants filled with saline or salt-water.
Currently, silicone implants, which were continuously used in the rest of the
world, are staged to make a comeback in the United States as the Food and Drug
Administration considers allowing their return to the American market. Breasts
implants have been linked with changes in nipple and breast sensation, the possible
inability to breast-feed, hardening of the breast and asymmetry. Recent studies
have suggested that implants may interfere with mammography, possibly hindering
early detection of breast cancer.
Another common procedure is liposuction. Although most patients walk away satisfied,
serious complications can occur. The most feared is fat embolism syndrome, when
fat gets loosened during the procedure and pieces lodge in the lungs, potentially
causing death. Other complications include: numbness, burns, waviness, and accidental
organ puncture. "When considering liposuction, it is important to find
a plastic surgeon who has significant experience with the procedure because
most of the complications can be avoided in experienced hands," explains
Since FDA approval in 2002, Botox injections have become increasingly popular.
Botox stands for botulinum toxin, the same offender of food poisoning outbreaks.
When used cosmetically, it can stop muscle contraction and eliminate frown lines.
There are risks associated with the use of Botox including: headache, flu-like
symptoms, redness at the injection site and muscle weakness. If the wrong facial
area is injected, a patient can walk away with drooping eyelid muscles that
could persist for several weeks. The results of Botox aren't permanent, and
people need to get injected every six months to avoid frown lines.
Despite the risk, plastic surgery is as popular as ever and women are the largest
consumers. Approximately 6.6 million people had cosmetic plastic surgery in
the United States in 2002 and almost 85 percent of them were women, according
to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
For women, the leading surgical procedures in order of popularity are: breast
enlargement, liposuction, nose reshaping, eyelid surgery and facelift. In the
non-surgical category, Botox injection, chemical peel, micodermabrasion (used
to reduce fine lines, scars and age spots), sclerotherapy (used to treat varicose
and spider veins) and laser hair removal topped the list.
By contrast, the most popular surgical procedures for men were nose reshaping,
liposuction, eyelid surgery, hair transplantation and ear surgery.
"Plastic surgery has the potential to significantly improve a person's life,
but it is vital to be an educated consumer and know what you are getting into
before going ahead," Wider cautioned.
The Society for Women's
Health Research is the nation's only not-for-profit organization
whose sole mission is to improve the health of women through research. Founded
in 1990, the Society brought to national attention the need for the appropriate
inclusion of women in major medical research studies and the resulting need
for more information about conditions affecting women. The Society advocates
increased funding for research on women's health, encourages the study of sex
differences that may affect the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease,
and promotes the inclusion of women in medical research studies. Dr. Donnica
Moore has been a member of the Society since 1990 and is a past member of its
Board of Directors.
Created: 2/5/2004  - Jennifer Wider, M.D.
Reviewed: 2/6/2004  - Donnica Moore, M.D.