Disfigured by Brow Lift; Negative Review for Dr. Alejandro Lev - Costa Rica, CR

Disfigured by Brow Lift in Costa Rica I went to...

Disfigured by Brow Lift in Costa Rica
I went to Costa Rica for a facelift and upper/lower bleph in March 2013. During my only in-person consultation 12 hours before surgery, the doctor told me he needed to “anchor” my brows with a brow lift procedure. He showed me a post op photo of a woman with pencil-thin scars across the tops of her eyebrows and I told him that wouldn’t work for me because my skin doesn’t heal well. He then said he could make the cut on my head behind my hairline. Since he had just shown me a pencil-thin scar, I thought he was talking about a very thin cut on the top of my head.
From my research about blepharoplasty, I knew that brow lifts are sometimes done at the same time. I recalled seeing warnings that brow lifts are not appropriate for women with high hairlines, so I never read further. I told the doctor I had seen these warnings. I pointed out my naturally high hairline and said that I couldn’t risk it being raised. He said that any change would be insignificant. He told me he wouldn’t do the eye surgery without the brow procedure, so I felt I had to trust his experience.
I lost a great amount of hair during the surgery, including along my hairline. The doctor told me it was "shock loss" and that my hair would begin to re-grow in 3-6 months.  At about 3 weeks post op I started to recognize my former hairline – but it was much higher. I asked him to tell me exactly what he did in surgery, and only then (a month after surgery) did I learn that he removed half an inch of my scalp during the brow procedure. This explained my new huge forehead and massively receded hairline.
The disfigurement was severely traumatizing and my life came to a halt. Four months after surgery, after months of research and consultations, I had hair transplant surgery with Dr. Jerry Wong of Hasson & Wong in Vancouver, B.C. The procedure took 8.5 hours, during which 2,081 hair follicles were removed from the back of my scalp, dissected, and “planted” in new follicles created to restore my hairline. Dr. Wong has performed more than 8,000 hair transplants and is a master in the field. It has now been 5 months since my hair surgery and the new hair is starting to grow in nicely. It will take a year to see the full results.
Unfortunately, that’s not where the story ends. It’s now been 9 months since my surgery in Costa Rica, and I am still suffering from nerve damage from the brow lift.  The only type of brow lift that the doctor performs is the most extreme – the coronal brow lift, with a cut from one ear, across the entire top of the head to the other ear, removing half an inch of scalp and pulling the forehead up to close the cut. Even after 9 months, when most people have healed, I have intense neuropathy: numbing, clamping, hot and cold sensations, and pins and needles. No-one can tell me if I will recover. The right side of my head is healing nicely and it is not numb anymore, but the left side is improving very slowly. It’s distracting and uncomfortable all of the time, and often painful.
After seeing photos of my receded hairline when I returned to the U.S., perhaps the doctor finally realized he made a mistake. In any case, he offered to pay 100% of the cost for a hair transplant if I returned and had it done in Costa Rica. When I checked out the "transplanter's" website, I found that she didn’t even list hair transplants among her 20 or so cosmetic procedures and specialties. My doctor wanted me to risk this highly specialized procedure - and my only chance to correct the disfigurement that he caused - with a surgeon who doesn’t even specialize in hair transplants!
I’ve communicated with the doctor and his U.S. coordinator. The doctor insisted that I knew that the procedure would raise my hairline half an inch and that I had agreed to it. I pointed out that I never signed anything outlining the details and risks, or stating that I agreed to raise my hairline, nor did he provide any written information before surgery with the details and risks. His website also did not include a warning about the hairline. I reminded him that I expressed concern that the brow procedure would raise my hairline. I would never have given him permission to remove half an inch of my scalp, recede my hairline, or change my brow position. When I wrote his U.S. Coordinator to ask for a refund, she wrote me an irate letter telling me I was a big problem for her and that she was going to block my email.
Because of what happened to me, they now have a warning on their website (Eternallyvain.com) and require patients to sign a waiver. I urged them to put this up to make sure that other women do not suffer what I went through.
Please be careful in Costa Rica. If anything goes wrong, there is no recourse. The doctors know that you are flying home and can’t return easily if there are problems. Three out of five women I've stayed in touch with from the recovery center in Costa Rica had serious problems – one of them with this same doctor.
The internet is full of warnings by cosmetic surgeons that the Coronal Brow Lift is not appropriate for women with high hair lines. Even when I pointed out my high hairline, the doctor assured me it wouldn’t be affected. I will never understand how a cosmetic surgeon with over two decades of experience could have thought this procedure was appropriate for me. I have suffered unimaginably as a result of his gross negligence. He has not taken responsibility for his mistake, and has not dealt with me honorably.
Also, if anyone has anything to share about nerve regeneration, I’m very interested in your experience.

(Regarding the cost: $6,000 was the full amount I paid for surgery. They refunded $700 because of my dissatisfaction with the Brow Lift, but refused to refund the rest of my money.)

Negative Review of Dr. Alejandro Lev, Costa Rica

It has now been over 11 months since my surgeries with Dr. Lev. I still have debilitating pain from the crown of my head down the entire left side along the brow lift cut line. The neuropathy pain has decreased but not the extreme tightness, clamping, and heat that I experience. Sometimes it’s so bad that I have to lie down to relieve the pressure. It feels so tight that I’ve wondered if Dr. Lev removed too much of my scalp. The acupuncturist that I’m seeing believes that the scar tissue along the cut line is a part of the problem. The scariest part continues to be not knowing if I will ever fully recover.

I have continued to research brow lifts and especially the Coronal brow lift that Dr. Lev performs. There are so many surgeons speaking out about this procedure due to the numbers of people left with nerve damage and extreme hair disfigurement. Two surgeons who posted right here on Real Self had this to say:
“A Coronal brow lift is, in my opinion, a historical approach with very little relevance in contemporary facial rejuvenative procedures. Patients with an acceptable hairline can be addressed endoscopically, and patients with a high hairline can be addressed with a trichophytic approach. A coronal approach raises a hairline and requires a large incision. The only time I currently use a coronal approach is for trauma cases.”
“The coronal lift is a surgery performed by cutting from one ear to the other, all the way through the scalp. This makes a huge incision that damages the scalp and can cause permanent hair and sensation loss. Variations include moving the incision to along the hair line. Surgeons who still perform this debilitating surgery are insensitive to the damage they cause in their patients.There is almost no reason to perform the coronal brow lift. It is a surgery that appropriately frightens any reasonable person. The small incision brow lift is highly effective, with rapid recovery, and typically no loss of hair or sensation. Those who cling to the coronal brow lift use a variety of arguments to justify their choice. Don't be taken in by their charms or their arguments.”

I’ve uploaded photos of my hairline before and my hairline after, showing the severely receded hairline that Dr. Lev left me with, plus what I looked like right after the hair transplant surgery. You can see that I had a naturally high hairline that was receded significantly by the Coronal Brow lift. My hair tranplant in July 2013 was successful but some of it is just two inches long. It will take another 5 months for it to grow in and blend more, and then I'll be able to assess the final result.

Other issues:
Dr. Lev left me with clearly visible scars on the bottom of both earlobes from a shoddy stitching job. My right earlobe is now unnatural shaped (squared instead of rounded) and much smaller than the left one.
I have a scar on my left upper eye lid that is quite noticeable. That eyelid had too much skin removed and it makes my eyes appear assymetrical. He also removed too much tissue below my right eye which has left a long horizontal dent below my eye.
He completely removed my sideburns which were a strong feature on my face. My sideburns came down to the bottom of my ears and now they are gone. Again, he didn’t warn me or ask me. I am still shocked as it is tell tale sign of a facelift and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to wear my hair back or up.

Everyone here who has had hard experiences like I have knows the challenging psychological effects: depression, anxiety, etc. that one has to deal with daily. Thank you to those who sent me encouragement and shared your stories with me. I really hope my story will motivate other women to ask for the honest details of their procedures. Things like “where will the cuts be made”, “how much skin will be removed,” “how will you protect my sideburns,” “exactly how will this distort or change my hairline,” “what is the risk of permanent nerve damage”, “how much are you proposing to raise my brows”....every detail is an important one and your surgeon should inform you and get consent for every procedure. You should not learn about the details of your surgeries after you wake up from the procedures.

16-month update on brow lift disaster with Dr. Lev in Costa Rica

Very sad to report that next week it will be 16 months since my surgery with Dr. Lev and the nerve damage/pain still prevents me from working or having a normal life. I still have intense clamping, pressure and sometimes burning pain along the coronal cut line on the top and left side. The entire left side of my head was and still is numb, from below my ear to the top of my head. I have been having some success with Cold Laser Therapy and am having some longer periods where my head feels looser. It is clear that I suffered nerve damage on the left side.

There is a large depression on the top left side of my head along the coronal cut. The depression is the diameter of a golf ball and it is sunken down about a quarter of an inch. There is also a very pronounced ridge along the rest of the coronal cut, especially on the top. The hair in this area and along the rest of the scar lines is severely damaged/retarded. It is not anything like normal hair and will not lay correctly because the dents and ridges make the hair turn. The hair on the rest of my scalp has also suffered greatly – it is now thin and damaged, and I’ve lost a great deal of it. It’s an extra layer of trauma and sorrow that I’ve suffered as a result of the Coronal brow lift.

The tight “chin strap” and choking feeling lasted about a year. Now, at 16 months, if I bend my head and look down, I still get a choking sensation; If I try to look up at the sky, there is not enough skin under my chin to fully extend my neck. When I smile or laugh, the Coronal cut line on the left feels like it wants to split open, and my skin is extremely/unnaturally tight on my temples and forehead. My jaw line is also unnaturally tight and unlike anything I've ever looked like. It is masculine looking - not flattering. The softness and original shape in my lower face is gone.

My left eye:
The outer corner was pinched when it was sewn up and it doesn’t lay or close right and is a constant irritation. The eye slants upward in a strange position when I smile. I now have a large eye-lid showing on the left eye. I was very clear with Dr. Lev that because my upper eyelids have been full my entire life, I've never had exposed eyelids and didn't want any now. There is a vertical dent in the upper lid where the doctor made an extra vertical cut. And most of the eyelashes on my lower eyelid are gone, giving the eye a naked appearance.

My right eye has a large horizontal depression running the entire length of the eye underneath the lower eyelid.

The scars on my earlobes have not healed smoothly. The left ear lobe has a nice shape to it but the scars are visible - big frankenstein like stitches with uneven skin. The right ear lobe is much smaller and has a square shape instead of a rounded one. It doesn’t match the other one at all and does not look normal. It too has large visible scars from the bad stitching.

When I tuck my chin down towards my chest, there is now a large bulge on the right side of my neck, below my jawbone and above my neck. I have no idea what to expect from this in the future.

Didi insists that Dr. Lev is a man who discloses every detail and would never do anything without the patients full understanding. My neighbor at the recovery center who had the exact procedures with Dr. Lev the day after me told me recently that she also didn't come for a brow lift but that she agreed to it during her consultation when the doctor told her she needed one. She said she was also shocked to learn after surgery that she was cut ear to ear. We are two examples of patients that did not have anything near proper discloser about the Coronal Brow Lift, despite our asking for them. To each of us, he made it sound like it was a small cut up behind the hairline. Had we heard the reality, we would never had agreed to this procedure.

Dr. Lev has never apologized nor did he return my money. I am happy for everyone who has had great results with Dr. Lev, but I am not one of them. With all of the amazing testimonials about his precision and stitch work, it makes me wonder if an intern was working on me that fateful day. Also I think it's clear what kind of care you can expect from Didi if you have any problems. Right here on my review she attacked my character, threatened to post my before and after photos, and exposed confidential client information that she had no legal right to do. She claimed she had to repeat things over and over to me during 6 months of email correspondence when we actually met for the first time only 6 weeks before my surgery. Just be aware of who you're dealing with.

Thank you for the notes I continue to receive from lovely people I've met here. I appreciate your support, care, and continued prayers for this painful healing journey.
Dr Alejandro Lev

The internet is full of warnings by cosmetic surgeons that the Coronal Brow Lift is not appropriate for women with high hair lines. Even when I pointed out my high hairline, the doctor assured me it wouldn’t be affected. He raised my hairline by at least half an inch, severely disfiguring me. I had to undergo a grueling 8.5 hour, $10,000 hair transplant surgery to restore my hairline. I will never understand how a cosmetic surgeon with over two decades of experience could have thought this procedure was appropriate for me. I have suffered unimaginably as a result of his gross negligence. He has not taken responsibility for his mistake, and has not dealt with me honestly or honorably.

1 out of 5 stars Overall rating
4 out of 5 stars Doctor's bedside manner
1 out of 5 stars Answered my questions
1 out of 5 stars After care follow-up
1 out of 5 stars Time spent with me
3 out of 5 stars Phone or email responsiveness
3 out of 5 stars Staff professionalism & courtesy
3 out of 5 stars Payment process
4 out of 5 stars Wait times
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Hello Ladies,

This review is now being closed to any future comments as it is no longer helpful or supportive for the reviewer, or the wider community. This means that while the review and subsequent comments can be viewed, no further comments will be accepted.

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We understand that people have had different results than "jhealer" but a review is the place for you to share your personal story. You cannot continue to be unsupportive, simply because someone's results were different to yours. People are allowed to have different opinions and different experiences, and each is relevant and accepted on RealSelf.

If you have any questions, please send me a PM.

Thank you so much for following up on this Kirsty. I agree with you completely and badgering someone for sharing their story/pain is simply not helpful to anyone. It seems to me that the patient coordinator contacted several people and asked them to come on and discount jhealer's experience. Lack of compassion helps no one.
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Who would be happy with their surgery with their hairline permanently gone? This affects a woman's appearance as much as anything on the face. IF the doctor had explained that he was going to permanently excise a 3/4 inch strip of hair, ear to ear, do you really think jhealer would have agreed to the procedure? When she was already self conscious of her high forehead? I'm guessing she's not posting pics because she's been through enough trauma to want to have her facelift Before/After pics spread across the internet. I really appreciate the women on this site who do that, but most of us wouldn't. I won't defend a doctor, no matter how good of a surgeon he is for some people, who told a prospective Coronal Browlift patient that the hair loss from a coronal browlift would be "no mucho". Whether intentional or not, he messed up with this patient and needs to take responsibility.
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Dear Seeit, Glad you didn't mind your forehead being raised from your browlift. Am guessing your forehead was not as high to begin with as jhealers. But there is no way the scalp/hair removed from a browlift will grow back in; it's been excised. Jhealer could have waited 10 years and it wouldn't have grown back in. There was absolutely no harm in doin the hair transplant when she did. She went to a world class hair transplant surgeon who knows that. I think jhealer was being proactive and trying to move forward by getting that hair fixed as soon as possible. Also, I disagree that "no mucho" was an appropriate explanation of how much hair would be taken out of jhealer's scalp! That is not informed consent. And it's really difficult due to lighting and angle to see the change in a picture to someone after a coronal. But as someone who had one, believe me, it is noticeable in real life and ages a person's look dramatically. I agree that we should research before any plastic surgeon but jhealer didn't even know the doctor would only do the bleph she was there for if she also agreed to a coronal. She trusted this doctor and was not given informed consent. Bottom line (and please ask any reputable face surgeon): no woman with a high hairline is a candidate for a coronal brow lift. Finally, understand you like this surgeon, but that doesnt give anyone the right to question jhealer or 'hijack' her post. The purpose of her post has been to warn others of a coronal brow lift. She doesn't owe us any before/after pics, and frankly not too many people would post those on the internet! Please, respect this woman's right to her opinion.
Meant doesn't give anyone the right to Dismiss jhealer's experience.
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Clearly Didi was in the room with me and Dr. Lev and knows exactly what took place and what was said. And 6 months of dealing with me? Didi contacted me on email for the first time on February 1st, not even 6 weeks before my surgery on March 13th. Just another little untruth. This is so full of lies and distortions it's not worth responding to anymore. This might offer prospective clients a lot to think about…threatening to post photos first and now disclosing patient information? Good luck.
I need to add one more thing…all of the "he said" "she said" really makes no difference in the end. What matters here is that I was given a procedure which is not appropriate for any woman with a high hairline. I pointing out my high hairline and my concerns that the Coronal brow lift would alter it. This should have cued him. This procedure should never have been offered to me. How come every other cosmetic surgeon seems to know this except Dr. Lev? This is the kind of text you find all over the internet: "Coronal – A long incision is made within the scalp behind the hairline. The hairline is raised with this procedure, so we rarely perform this surgery, and only on women with a very low hairline." Didi continues to try to focus her posts on the fact that I "chose" the brow lift. The real issue, other than the lack of disclosure, is that the coronal brow lift should NEVER have been offered or performed on me.
Here' my picture. One month after surgery. Still a little puffy, but a big difference. Once my review is posted, you will see my scary "before" pictures. I am 54 years old and Dr. Lev has changed my life!! I have a renewed confidence that I thought was gone. It sounds ridiculous, to me, that Dr. Lev would say that he would not do the eye surgery without the brow procedure. You are the one paying and deciding what is to be done. I am pretty sure he was following your orders. I posted my picture. Now I would like to see you Post something other than the top of her head. Prove your case.
Three years ago, I was the recipient, like jhealer, of a Coronal Brow Lift. My surgeon also refused to do the eye surgery (upper bleph) without the perogative of doing a brow lift. Though he said that he would first do the bleph, and if he felt I needed the brow lift, he had permission to do it. He knew that I wanted as little surgery as necessary. He said that the brow lift would involve "a few staples in the hairline" tops. He never mentioned anything about removing hair, tissues or muscles in my face. He said that oftentimes only doing the bleph w/o a brow lift would make the eye droop further. I put my trust in him and agreed. I woke up from surgery with my head stitched up ear to ear. He decided during surgery to do a Coronal Browlift. I had never heard of this procedure. Only after many calls to his nurse and office in the following weeks did I learn that he had actually permanently removed 3/4 inch of my already high hairline. He said that he decided during surgery, that because I already had a high hairline, that i "knew the tricks of the trade in disguising a high hairline" and it was "time for a new hairdo for me anyway." Seriously. AND in reading the post surgical notes he actually did the brow lift FIRST. My looks were drastically changed for the worse due to the coronal. I've had one extensive hair transplant to cover the scars, and have another scheduled to add hair to the front. I have to wear clip in bangs. I had my first botox treatment to try to relax the brow so I don't look so weird. I will gladly post pics of my forehead after the Coronal brow lift, so you can see the horrific damage it does. I'm happy you are happy with your procedure by Dr. Lev. But that doesn't mean that jhealer has no right to warn others of a coronal brow lift. The procedure has negatively impacted my face and lift so much, and I want any woman considering this procedure to think twice about it. J healer doesn't "OWE" anyone any pictures to be posted on the internet to prove anything to anyone. This woman is living a nightmare from what was done to her, and we don't need to add to that stress.
Where is photo?
I'm actually trying to figure out how to do that to a post Mauiartist.
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Hi, dontworrybehappy it's Didi, Dr. Lev's Patient Coordinator. I'm so happy to see your photo!! You look amazing girl! I have the before photos you sent me when you first contacted me and the difference is incredible. Can you post your before pictures so people can see Dr. Lev's beautiful and natural face lift skills? By the way, I wanted to clarify something. The truth is, Dr. Lev actually does not do upper eyelid surgery on a patient whose brows are set too low on their face. It's a waste of money for them to do the upper lids if they don't also raise the brows. Dr. Lev tells this to all patients whose brows are set too low on their face who want the upper lids done. For those patients they have two options. Either have Dr. Lev raise their brows so he can do their upper lids and bring them a nice improvement, or they can pass on the eyes altogether (or just do the lower lids) and do the lower face and neck lift without the eyelids and brow. Dr. Lev offers two kinds of brow lifts. The coronal brow lift which is the most invasive one and the other one is called the "Castañares" brow lift (a/k/a the direct approach brow lift) which is less invasive and where the incisions are made directly through the eyebrows. Dr. Lev's had some excellent results with that method. It succeeds in raising the brows as strongly as a coronal lift, but the down side is that there's a small scar that does rise up from the end of the brow toward the forehead. Now. Over time that scar in most cases minimizes to the point where you can cover it completely with a tiny dab of concealer. It's definitely a terrific option to the coronal brow lift. And lasts as long, which is what's even more amazing about it. I know you think it sounds ridiculous for a doctor not to do a surgery that a patient is asking him to do, but Dr. Lev is NOT about the money. I think after meeting him and getting to know him you know that. However he's ALL about integrity and he is ALWAYS of the belief that less is more. He will much sooner talk a patient OUT of surgery than try to convince a patient to have surgery. He's not a dollar chaser. He relies on his amazing reputation and if he ever did gratuitous surgery just to make a dollar, his reputation would not be what it is. Until JHEALER's post attempting to defame Dr. Lev's amazing reputation, there wasn't a bad word spoken about him anywhere on the internet. He is very saddened by JHEALER's mission to shed doubt on his professionalism and integrity. Dr. Lev showed JHEALER photos of brow lifts at her consultation. No matter what she says to the contrary. He shows photos of brow lifts in particular to all face lift patients who need to have their brows lifted in order to have their upper eyelids done because they are so drastic, especially the coronal lift. Not so much the "direct approach" brow lift. I believe Dr. Lev when he says that he gave her the same amount of time and counsel as he gives all the patients. He doesn't pick and choose who he informs about brow lifts and who he decides not to inform about the brow lifts. As if he decided that what the heck, JHEALER shouldn't be informed about the coronal brow lift and I shouldn't show her photos like I do for every other patient that walks through my doors. SERIOUSLY? If that were his attitude, he'd've gone out of business many years ago, don't you think? Anyway, thanks for your post and thanks, love, for showing off your new beautiful face!!!!! I thought you were beautiful before, you know. Now. You're still beautiful, but ten to fifteen years younger looking!!!! YES! Enjoy and keep me posted on how your healing process is coming along. Just not on this website please. I'm trying to get away from here. Write me on my personal email. Ok? I look forward to hearing from you. Love, Didi
Sorry but it was his job as the expert to know what procedure will be damaging to a woman and what won't. Is it to his credit that he left me with an ugly, bald, receded hairline? Is that the outcome that a cosmetic surgeon wants for his client? As a woman who expressed concern to him about my hair hairline, his first words out of his mouth after that should have been "Then it's not for you!" "Coronal – A long incision is made within the scalp behind the hairline. The hairline is raised with this procedure, so we rarely perform this surgery, and only on women with a very low hairline."
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I actually was asking the lady above (dontworrybehappy). I don't see a photo.
Why aren't we even speaking of the more contemporary endoscopic brow lift which does not cause all this post op trauma, and is being used by most surgeons these days as a much less invasive alternative that produces awesome results???
Dear Mauiartist. You are right. Not in a million years would I have entered into any kind of agreement for cosmetic surgery unless I had done a lot of advanced research. If you look under "GuesshowoldIlooknow" under "reviews" you can see all my pics.
I tried finding it and could not, do you have a link?
Sorry, here is the link http://www.realself.com/review/san-jose-costa-rica-facelift-guess-my-age-lol
Thank you! You look awesome. Congrats! But doesn' look like you had a coronal brow lift?