Death after Tummy tuck?

My friend's sister in law had a tummy tuck /breast augmentation done 2 weeks ago in tj, she died this past thursday from a heart attack, 10 days after surgery, she was a healthy 39 year old mother of two. what could have possibly gone wrong??

Doctor Answers 8

Death after a tummy tuck

What a tragedy this is. If she had an autopsy, the cause of death could be determined accurately, otherwise it is all guesswork. The most likely cause in a healthy 39 year-old 10 days postop would have been blood clots (DVT) traveling to the lungs (pulmonary embolism). I am so sorry for your loss. This should be very rare and is one of many reasons I do not advocate medical tourism.

Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 67 reviews


I am terribly sorry to hear of this tragic complication and agree with Dr Rand that the likely cause may have been a pulmonary embolism 

Dr Corbin

Frederic H. Corbin, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 62 reviews

Death after cosmetic procedures

can occur and I'm sorry to hear of this.  An autopsy should be done to determine the actual cause of death.  It certainly is possible she could have had a heart condition that led to this.  But there are also many other causes that must be considered such as a blood clot traveling to her lungs.  Without an autopsy, it will only be speculation as to what may have happened.

Curtis Wong, MD
Redding Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

Medical tourism and death following tummy tuck

I am so sorry to hear about the death of your sister in law.   

Unfortunately, this brings up our concerns about medical tourism.   Board Certified Plastic Surgeons NEVER recommend having medical procedures done in foreign countries.  The rules and regulations which govern western medicine are meant to keep patients safe.  It is impossible to guarantee best medical practice in other locations.  

An autopsy is the only way to confirm the case of death.   The most likely cause is Deep Venous Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism (blood clot to the lungs). 

Very sorry for your loss.   

Joseph Franklin, MD
Durham Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

Death after surgery

I am sorry to hear that somebody died 10 days after a tummy tuck/breast augmentation done in Tijuana.  The most likely cause of this is a deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolus.  That means a blood clot in her legs that ended up in her lungs.  The blood clot in her lungs would give her chest pain.  In cosmetic surgery this is most commonly associated with tummy tuck's.  I am not certain what precautions were utilized for her with surgery done in Tijuana.  Physicians  members of the American board of plastic surgery must maintain credits including safety credits to keep their board certification.  A culture of safety is not an option for us.  Prior to abdominoplasty, my patients have sequential compression devices on their calves placed before they go into the operating room.  I give them a preoperative blood thinner in a drug known as Lovenox.  The compression hose are left on through the entire operative procedure and early postoperatively.  We keep our patients warm because cold patients are more  coagulable.  We keep the knees bent through the procedure which is found to reduce vein tension.  Finally I use perioperative long-lasting pain medication in the form of Exparel, which allows patients to get up walking early after their surgery and helps prevent blood clotting later.  Obviously this is just a statistical answer, but at her young age is the most likely cause for unfortunate early death.

David Janssen, MD, FACS
Oshkosh Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 19 reviews

Death after Tummy tuck?

Thank you for the question. The best published data I can find regarding mortality rates associated with tummy tuck surgery range from 0.02% to 0.16%.   In other words, mortality rates are extremely low. The most common cause of that is related to pulmonary embolism (blood clots that moved to the patient's lungs).

Your best bet: choose your plastic surgeon very carefully; everything else including good judgment/advice/planning, anesthesia provider and safe surgery facility will follow. 

This careful selection should give you some peace of mind that you will be safe around the time of surgery. 

Best wishes.

Tom J. Pousti, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 1,500 reviews

Risk of Death After Cosmetic Surgery

This is terrible news and I am sorry to hear about the loss.  Its very hard to speculate in these cases.  The most likely cause of death would be a blood clot in legs that traveled to the lungs.  The risk of death after cosmetic surgery is extremely low overall. 

Michael Zarrabi, MD
Santa Monica Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 36 reviews

Death after TT

I am terribly sorry to hear of your loss, a true tragedy. I agree with my colleagues in that board certified plastic surgeons and those who are members of the ASPS are held to the highest standards of safety for performing surgical procedures. A medical autopsy could help uncover what happened with your friends sister as it is possible there could have been underlying medical issues that went undetected. My sincere best to you and your friend. -Dr. Coan

Brian Coan, MD, FACS
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 63 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.