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The Risks Of Cosmetic Surgery: What You Need To Know

Inflammation Circuit

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Carrie Lam, MD; Jeremy Lam, MD

An image of a woman having lines drawn on her face in preparation of having cosmetic surgeryPeople opt for cosmetic surgery for many reasons. They may want a weight-loss reduction, fix their nose, or have a complete facelift to look younger. Whatever your reason, you need to know the risks of cosmetic surgery so that you can make an informed choice about having surgery.

The issue with cosmetic surgery is that many people assume that these procedures are not as serious as ‘regular’ surgery. Nor do they understand the possible risks of cosmetic surgery. But all surgeries, no matter the type, has a certain element of risk involved.  So, keep reading as we discuss some of these risks.

What Are Some of The Risks of Cosmetic Surgery?

Let's first make the distinction between plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgery is done to improve one's looks, while plastic surgery focuses on reconstruction. For example, this may be reconstructing the face after a serious accident or due to a birth defect.

However, no surgery is without risks. Yet some people are more susceptible to the risks of cosmetic surgery than others.

Your risks of cosmetic surgery increase if:

  • You are a smoker
  • Have a history of cardiovascular disease
  • Are diabetic
  • Suffer from obesity
  • Have a history of lung disease

These factors may increase your chances of developing complications. If you suffer from adrenal fatigue, then you should inform your surgeon.

Possible Complications of Cosmetic Surgery

The risks of cosmetic surgery may seem wide and varied. They include:

  • An Unwanted Outcome
    The outcome of the procedure may not always be what you expect. You may look very different. Your appearance may also look worse than before undergoing the procedure.
  • Risk of Infection
    Just like any other surgery, there's a risk infection. So, proper hygiene before, during and after surgery is very important.
  • Bleeding
    Although bleeding is normal with a surgical procedure, excessive bleeding may be an issue.
  • Blood Clot Formation
    Blood clots may occur after any type of surgery. Most are not dangerous, although they may require medical attention. However, a blood clot that moves in the direction of your heart or lungs means emergency treatment to save your life.
  • Issues with Anesthesia
    Although considered one of the smallest risks of cosmetic surgery, some people do have anesthesia-related problems. Issues with anesthesia are one of the leading causes of death in cosmetic surgery. Therefore, you need to seriously consider any cosmetic procedure that utilizes anesthesia.
  • Hematoma Formation
    A hematoma is the pooling of blood outside blood vessels, which then causes swelling and bruising in the area. This condition may develop after a cosmetic procedure. While most hematomas are small, larger ones may cause pain and a decrease in blood flow in the area. If a hematoma is very large, then blood removal via a syringe may give relief.
  • Seroma Formation
    A seroma and hematoma are very similar. However, in the case of a seroma, it's lymphatic fluid that collects around the wound. If the seroma is large, then the excess fluid is usually removed with a syringe. Seromas are usually associated with larger cosmetic procedures.
  • Scar Formation
    Unfortunately, the possibility of scarring is one of the risks of cosmetic surgery. Nobody can predict a positive outcome 100% of the time.
  • Damage to the Nerves
    A cosmetic procedure may cause damage to (or sever) the nerves. This may happen in any surgical procedure. For example, if this mishap occurs around the eye area, you may develop a drooping eyelid. In general, facial expressions are compromised when there's any nerve damage.
  • Tissue Death
    Tissue death, or necrosis, may also occur in the surgery areas. But, this condition is rare because the healing process usually gets rid of any dead tissue post-surgery.

The Unknown Risks of Cosmetic Surgery on Your Body

An image of a woman's face and small images of the stages of her ageing faceWhile most risks of cosmetic surgery refer to possible negative external outcomes, there are also internal risks.

Any type of surgery puts stress on your body. This then activates your NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response. All of your body's systems are affected, including your hormones, gastrointestinal function, and more. It is important to ensure that your body can handle the stress of surgery before opting for one. The last thing you need while recovering from surgery is to undergo a crash.

The use of fillers during surgery may also affect your NEM, especially in the long term. This is because your body may react to the filler’s housing. Also, if there is a leak, then the contents of the fillers may result in an adverse reaction.

If the surgery leaves foreign material inside your body, this could affect you in the long-term. It may take years before you start showing any symptoms relating to your NEM response. You may not be aware of the growing consequences associated with such material. Eventually, a dysregulation in your internal systems may result in problems that are not commonly associated with the risks of cosmetic surgery.

Why Do People Undergo Cosmetic Surgery?

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), approximately 18 million Americans underwent some sort of cosmetic procedure in 2017. According to the ASPS data, the top five cosmetic surgical procedures for that year were breast augmentations, liposuction, nose reshaping, eyelid surgery, and tummy tucks.

In the case of minimally invasive procedures, Botox, fillers, chemical peels, laser hair removal, and microdermabrasion made the top of the list.

This begs the question: Why do people choose to undergo cosmetic surgery?

The answer, unfortunately, is not simple. Instead, it is one that is deeply personal. Each person’s reasons are different.

The most common reasons for cosmetic surgery include:

  • Fixing a perceived imperfection
  • Acceptance; either self-acceptance or acceptance from others
  • Technological advances have made these procedures safer and more reliable
  • The procedures have become more affordable
  • They seek to improve their self-esteem
  • Certain procedures may have health benefits. For example, Botox injections may help alleviate chronic migraines.

Good Candidates for Cosmetic Surgery

Being a good candidate for this type of procedure may reduce the risks of cosmetic surgery. This implies that you are someone who has done their homework, who knows the risk factors, and who has realistic expectations.

A good candidate is also someone who has no health issues like diabetes, obesity, allergies, cholesterol issues, autoimmune disorders, and so on. You should also follow a healthy diet and lifestyle. This means that you should be someone who is emotionally stable, does not smoke, gets regular exercise, and limits both your coffee and alcohol intake.

Reducing the Risks of Cosmetic Surgery

Knowing the risks of cosmetic surgery gives you an advantage. You could reduce the possibility of a bad outcome by taking the necessary steps to ensure you are in good health before the procedure. If this means stopping your smoking habit, or joining a gym and getting fit, then this may be what you need to do. At the same time, following a healthy, balanced diet both in the period before and after surgery may go a long way towards ensuring a positive result.

You should carefully choose the professional to conduct your procedure. Make sure that you see examples of their work, and they should be experts in your procedure (or similar ones). They also need to be board certified, so do not be afraid to ask as many questions as possible.

Make sure the person doing the procedure is approachable and makes you feel comfortable. Their personality may have nothing to do with the outcome, but at least you should be comfortable enough to ask them questions.

Lastly, make sure the person doing your anesthesia is qualified to do so. Do as much as you can to eliminate possible errors during your procedure.


An image of a woman doing researchWhile your reasons for considering cosmetic surgery may be personal, the risks of cosmetic surgery are largely the same as any other surgery. Therefore, you must do your homework about all the possible options.

This homework is not only about the surgical professionals or the facility where the procedure occurs. It also means knowing everything that could go wrong and making informed choices. You should also consider your general health, diet and lifestyle. By addressing your risk factors pre-surgery, you may aid in the procedure’s success and your quick recovery.

Knowing the various risks of cosmetic surgery, wouldn't you also like to discover how these risks could further impact your adrenal function?

© Copyright 2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam's Key Question

Yes, the risks of cosmetic surgery could affect your adrenal function under certain circumstances. This would typically be the case of a challenged immune system and inflammatory response. To ensure the best outcome, follow a balanced diet, be relatively fit, and be in good health before undergoing a procedure.

© Copyright 2001-2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
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