How Likely Will Potentially Deadly Risks from Rhinoplasty Occur?

I'll be having a rhinoplasty soon with a doctor in New Orleans, and I really feel confident in his expertise. However, when I went to sign the papers, a few things scared me on the risk list. So now, I'm hoping to get some idea as to how often these worst case scenario risks occur, given that I am in competent hands. What frightens me is that the list mentioned things like toxic shock syndrome and also meningitis. Obviously this really scares the heck out of me. How likely are these potentially deadly risks to occur? Thanks?

Doctor Answers 13

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Hi Tiger Fan,

Are those the LSU or Auburn Tigers? I think I know Coach Miles.

The risks that you are concerned with are miniscule. In today's litigious and greedy society it is necessary to cover all of the possible untoward events that may occur when undergoing any type of procedure. There have been incidents where a surgery is cancelled for one reason or another, the patient is at home at the time of the scheduled surgery, and suffers a coincidental fatal heart attack. Fortunately the benefits of your rhinoplasty surgery will far outweigh the very remote risk of the complications that concern you on your informed consent.

As surgeons we wish that we could give every patient a 100% guarantee, but for the complications that you are concerned about, it's just under 100%, in the 99% range. The only thing that surgeons can guarantee is that they will show up for your surgery, and even that is not 100% as I had a colleague who suffered chest pain on his way to the operating, and had a small myocardial infarction himself.

If you are in the hands of a competent, well trained surgeon, you minimize your risks to the point where you need not worry about them. As comedian George Burns answered his heart surgeon just before his bypass to the question, "Mr. Burns, you look so relaxed for someone about to undergo surgery, are you worried?"...."No sir, I'm going to be asleep, you're the one who should be worried"

Be well and enjoy your new nose.

Dr. P

Encino Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 36 reviews

These things are extremely rare

In more than 30 years we have never had any serious complication! You probably have more risk driving to his office than you do with the surgery.

Toby Mayer, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

If these risks were common, we would be out of business

In the current legal climate, we are obliged to advise you of all the potential risks, large and small. The risks you name are infinitessimally small. The risk of getting hit by a car crossing the street is greater then the risks you describe- so relax and think good thoughts!

Robert M. Freund, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

Education and prevention as well as management of risks are the keys to successful outcomes

Every surgical procedure, no matter how minor, involves a certain degree of risk. This is why you must make an educated decision. You must decide if the risks are worth the benefits. Surgery itself is an extremely controlled environment. You will be monitored during the procedure. Your blood pressure, pulse, degree of oxygen in your blood are all routinely and continuously checked. It is important that your anesthesiologist has experience in this type of nasal surgery. After reviewing your history and examining you, he will need to make decisions about the best type of anesthesia for you as well as the best way to control your airway. During a rhinoplasty, blood can drip down the back of the throat and he must keep this from entering your airway.

As a plastic surgeon, we never want anything to go wrong. Each patient requires careful and thorough evaluation and consideration. Many of the procedures that we perform are not 'necessary' but desired. We need to be on a higher level of caution, seeking out any variables that would adversely effect the patient's outcome. It makes little since to take needed chances. Some risk are always unavoidable such as bleeding and infection. These can be, at least partially controlled with careful technique and skin preparation. The management of risk also involves patient participation. Avoiding smoking, staying off aspirin and aspirin containing products will be a benefit. Get your questions answered prior to surgery. If there are concerns about any item on the consent form write them down and be sure to discuss them with the surgeon prior to the procedure.

Jeffrey Zwiren, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 19 reviews

Rhinoplasty deadly? Highly unlikely!

After a search for related cases of toxic shock or mennigitis after rhinoplasty I was not able to find any and I know of no rhinoplasty related death in my location.

The truth is life threatening infection can be reported after any surgical procedure, however in the case of rhinoplasty I'll bet we experience much more death from lightening strikes.

As a note of caution, do consider your overall health before undergoing any procedure. Also consider the facility in which you will be cared for. Finally, consider the anesthesia provider for your procedure, for that is probably where the greater risk lies.

Best of luck,

Peter Johnson MD

Peter E. Johnson, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 42 reviews

An educated consumer


Consider yourself an educated consumer. EVERY procedure that we perform, no matter how minor, has risks, even as tragic as death. Life is a balance of risks and benefits.

Surely, every time you get behind the wheel of your car you take some risk of losing your life. Yet, you would never consider relinquishing the benefits of transportation.

The surgical complications that you mention are very rare, just as that of losing your life behind the wheel of your car is rare. Good luck!

Kenneth R. Francis, MD, FACS
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 47 reviews

There is no increased risk of death with rhinoplasty.


There is no increased risk of death with rhinoplasty. It sounds like the consent you signed is just trying to cover them for every possiblity - no matter how small. Kind of like when you see a commercial for a new medication and they list all these crazy "possible side effect." Just make sure you are in competent hands. Good luck with your surgery.

David Shafer, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 75 reviews

Life threatening risks are RARE in rhinoplasty

It is required of all good medical practitioners to obtain your full informed consent before doing an elective surgery like rhinoplasty on a patient. Some of the risks that need to be listed are quite frightening. Fortunately, these are exceptionally rare. I have been in University and private practice for over 20 years and have never personally had any such issues as toxic shock syndrome or meningitis nor do I know any plastic surgeons personally who have ever related such a story to me.

Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 67 reviews

Risks of Rhinoplasty

The most common risks of rhinoplasty include residual defect, incomplete correction, asymmetry and the need for additional operations.

More remote risks include wound healing problems, bleeding

Even more remote risks include infection (sepsis, meningitis)

The risk of TSS comes from the packing. Extremely unusual.

Meningitis would require a tear in the layer protecting your brain and an undrained infection. Both very unusual.

It sounds like your surgeon is being complete which is fantastic. You should direct these questions to her or him as each provider's PERSONAL complication rate with the procedure being performed is critical.

I hope this helps!

Steven H. Williams, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 49 reviews

Minimal Risk of Death During Rhinoplasty

I have successfully performed hundreds of rhinoplasty surgeries throughout my career, and, luckily, have not encountered a single instance when a risk of death was present. Still, it is important to be in good overall health before committing to a rhinoplasty. Any health issues that are hereditary should be clearly translated to your doctor. If you are concerned primarily after signing off on the list of complications that you mentioned, this is a common practice that many physicians require of their patients before operating and should not be a reason for worry. 

Sam Rizk, MD
New York Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 73 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.