Who Causes Botched Plastic Surgery?

Anonymous_1 on 15 Mar 2011 at 12:00am

Here at RealSelf, we constantly monitor community interest in topics. When questions bubble up that are getting a lot of chatter, it's time to focus on them in greater depth. One such question: who causes botched plastic surgery?

It's a terrific question, and likely a concern that crosses the mind of many when contemplating a procedure. Let's go in-depth to respond.

What is the estimated percentage of patients that come in with a botched job?

While there are no hard-and-fast, industry-wide statistics, Dr. Richard Tholen, plastic surgeon from Minneapolis, says, "Less than 3% of the 500-700 operations I perform per year require revision surgery, and those are not to fix 'botched' surgery, but to improve results, deal with bleeding, place larger implants, or other similar adjustment. Truly unhappy patients with what I would call 'botched' results are significantly less than 1% overall, but I do see them."

Botched breast augmentation surgery






Of these, how often are they from work done overseas?

Dr. David Bogue, Florida plastic surgeon, shares his experience: "I practice in South Florida, and it is not uncommon to see patients who have had cosmetic procedures performed in Latin or South America. Many times, they have had uneventful surgeries and great results."
The difficulty is that when a patient travels to have an operation at a cheaper cost, says Dr. Bogue, "They often cannot return to that surgeon if they have a complication. Thus, treating the complication may cost several thousands of dollars more than what they paid for the original surgery."

Dr. Tholen adds, "Foreign plastic surgeons can be superb surgeons, but there is a higher proportion of substandard training or practices in some foreign countries. You may be lucky enough to choose the best surgeon in a distant locale, but what happens if there IS a problem or complication?"

How often are they from qualified doctors?

Even properly-trained, board-certified plastic surgeons have complications or poor results, according to Dr. Tholen; those with less training have more bad outcomes, or may be more successful at selecting patients who are "easy" cases, or less well informed as to what constitutes a good outcome. 

Adds Dr. Jason Hess, San Diego plastic surgeon, "Surgeons are human, and so are their patients. So imperfections must occur."

So how to do your best to avoid a botched surgery? 

The patient's commitment is just as important as the surgeon's commitment. Dr. Christopher Pelletiere, Illinois plastic surgeon, notes, "Sometimes the patient themselves is at fault by not following pre-and post-op instructions, going to unqualified or overseas surgeons due to discounted prices, or having unrealistic expectations. Other times, it can be a surgeon who promises too much, is not qualified to be doing certain surgeries, or is not technically sufficient to give someone the desired results."

Dr. Bogue offers the following tips:

  • Every surgeon has complications, and if they say they do not, avoid them.
  • The key is to find a board-certified plastic surgeon with whom you feel comfortable.
  • You should understand the procedure, the risks of the procedure, any alternatives and what to expect afterwards (including treatments for any complications).
  • If you are worried about your [procedure], why not see a few more plastic surgeons? Having a surgeon that you respect and trust is one of the most important components of having cosmetic surgery.

In closing, we love this comment from Dr. Tholen: "There are only 3 surgeons who don't have re-do surgeries:

     1) the dead surgeon;

     2) the retired surgeon; and

     3) the liar."

Here's our tip of the day: don't go to any of the above for your next cosmetic procedure consultation.

RealSelf doctors' responses may have been edited for clarity and space
Eyelid surgery photo courtesy of community member Virgo36
Breast surgery photo courtesy of community member Olathe