Dead Nipples Are a Real Thing — Top Doctors Reveal the Dangers of Not Telling the Truth

Elisabeth Kramer on 29 Dec 2014 at 5:00pm

Dead NipplesFudging the truth when quizzed about your medical history is nothing new — Yes, Doctor, of course I only drink a few times a week and never to excess. Smoke? Me? Never. — but little lies have a tendency to grow big quickly. When it comes to complicated plastic surgery procedures, there’s even less room for error, making every detail an important one. RealSelf asked a few of our Top Docs about the most common lies they hear during consultations. Let’s see if any of these sound familiar…

First up, the little lies. Our earlier joke about smoking? The habit generates plenty of questions on RealSelf — and we’re guessing plenty of white lies at the doctor’s office. You’ve probably already run into the slew of cautionary tales floating around online — ever heard of the woman who had to use leeches to keep her nipples from falling off after a breast lift? Yep, turns out there are some hard truths out there to those kind of post-op horror stories.

“Even smoking one cigarette or breathing secondhand smoke can cause a measurable decrease in capillary blood flow,” Dr. Douglas J. Mackenzie warns one concerned RealSelfer. Decreased blood flow can mean delayed healing, scarring, infection, and yes, dead nipples.

Less obvious are the lies we tell about prior treatments. Dr. Houtan Chaboki says that while he’s found very few patients to be dishonest, those who do play Pinocchio most often lie about earlier surgeries. “Patients may lie because they feel ashamed or embarrassed,” he says. Dr. Henri Gaboriau has seen the same skirting of the truth in his practice.

“The most common lie I hear during a plastic surgery consultation is ‘Nope, never had any surgeries.’ Then during the physical exam, I’ll discover scars or implants,” Dr. Gaboriau says.

Most patients fess up at this point, but those who don’t may face serious risks to their health. If you’re looking for a revision, for example, it’s important to be upfront about earlier work. Why? Because revision surgeries are often riskier and more difficult to perform, Dr. Gaboriau explains.

“We need to ask how the patient did during those previous surgeries,” he adds. That means being straightforward about any nausea, cardiac troubles, or other complications. Honesty doesn’t just apply to big surgeries, either. Even something as facial fillers, getting a little Botox back in the day, or going abroad for a procedure, should be shared.

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Dr. Steven J. Pearlman recalls one patient who traveled overseas to see him for a revision nose job. Unfortunately, the patient failed to mention an earlier ear pinning surgery; he was “worried that we might not agree on a revision rhinoplasty,” explains Dr. Pearlman. That little detail of the surgery, which Dr. Pearlman realized upon meeting the patient face-to-face, meant a more extensive, more expensive rhinoplasty.

“Fortunately, we were able to reschedule and the patient agreed to a higher fee,” the doctor says, “but if he hadn’t, it would have resulted in canceling the surgery and disappointing the patient after traveling thousands of miles for his surgery.”

In rare cases, patients arrive at the doctor’s office with a specific agenda in mind.They’ve typically been turned down by other docs, so they know through trial and error exactly “what they think the doctor wants to hear,” says Dr. Pearlman. Body dysmorphic disorder is sometimes at play in these situations, which means no matter what procedure is performed, it’s unlikely the final result will meet the person’s often unrealistic, sometimes dangerous expectations. “They are rarely happy,” Dr. Pearlman says of such patients.

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Of course, those suffering from BDD are the exception rather than the rule. In most cases, we’re just looking to skip admitting something we’d rather forget. If that rings true for you too, here’s a simple tip: Don’t invite anyone along to the consultation.

“Patients are more likely to be truthful when they are alone with the physician rather than if they bring a friend or family member,” Dr. Chaboki observes. So if you feel ashamed, embarrassed, or just not in the mood to tell your significant other about that pack-a-day habit, ask for a one-on-one chat with your doc.

Telling the truth is rarely easy but doctors tell us that if there’s one time to be 100 percent transparent, it’s when your health is at stake. Honesty as the best policy? That should come as no surprise to RealSelfers. We encourage you to be open, be truthful, be authentic. There’s no reason to shy away from what you want done — if only to avoid leeches.

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier