When Picking a Procedure, Learn the Risks

When a Kansas woman recently sued a plastic surgery clinic and the manufacturer of the procedure she underwent, it raised some important questions about cosmetic procedures and their possible side effects.

The procedure in question was a popular fat-reduction procedure that kills fat cells without the downtime associated with traditional liposuction. The suit alleges that following the procedure, the patient became ill when she not only began to gain fat instead of losing it, but also developed a benign tumor in her liver. It’s a condition called paradoxical adipose hyperplasia, and it’s what happens when bulges of fat begin to appear in uncommon places around the body. But the suit claims the patient was not warned about these potential side effects prior to her procedure.

Dr. Bruce Chau is a plastic surgeon based in Berkeley, Michigan. He says that, while rare, conditions such as paradoxical adipose hyperplasia can and do occur.

“We don’t see a lot of this type of side effect with these procedures, but they do happen,” says Chau. “And because of that, it’s our job as doctors to make sure the patient understands there’s even a slight possibility of that.”

Chau says patients should treat cosmetic procedures just as they would any other medical procedure.

“Just because it’s an elective cosmetic procedure doesn’t mean you walk into it blindly, either.”

Chau recommends patients write down questions for their surgeon prior to scheduling the procedure and make sure they are comfortable with the answers before proceeding. He also recommends checking out the websites of professional accrediting institutes like the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) to learn more about a specific procedure.

“You wouldn’t buy a house without an inspection or a car without reading reviews, so do some research about your health, too,” says Chau.

Ultimately, however, Chau still puts the responsibility of patient education squarely on the doctor.

“Most patients didn’t go to medical school or receive extensive training on plastic surgery procedures – and most patients probably won’t research a procedure as thoroughly as a surgeon must,” he says. “That’s why it’s our job as the experts to educate them.”