What to Know About Plastic Surgery Risks

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 28, 2021

In 2019, plastic surgeons performed more than 18 million cosmetic procedures and more than five million reconstructive procedures. The most popular cosmetic procedures include breast augmentations, nose jobs, and liposuction. Like all other surgeries, plastic surgeries involve several risks.

What Are the Risks of Plastic Surgery?

The main risk you run in undergoing a plastic surgery procedure involves medical complications that can arise afterward. Other plastic surgery risks can include:

Be aware that there may be a more specific set of risks associated with the specific procedure you choose to get.

What Are the Risks of Non-Invasive Procedures?

Less invasive procedures like receiving botox and fillers have become more popular in the recent past. The frequency that doctors performed this type of procedure increased by 154% between the years 2000 and 2014. People sometimes choose these minimally invasive procedures because they have fewer risks than plastic surgery. However, there are still some risks including:

  • Infection
  • Granulomas (lumps of cells from your immune system)
  • Bruising
  • Skin redness
  • Pain or irritation

Who Is at Risk for Complications?

You run a greater risk for complications from cosmetic procedures if you:

  • Are a smoker
  • Have a weakened immune system
  • Have HIV
  • Make less healthy diet and lifestyle choices
  • Have poor circulation, especially in the area of the surgery
  • Have a BMI of 30 or higher
  • Have diabetes

How to Lower Your Risk of Plastic Surgery Complications

Research your plastic surgeon. Make sure your plastic surgeon has the proper licensure and board certification. You should also make sure that the facility where your surgery will take place is properly accredited.

You should ask your plastic surgeon about their experience with the specific procedure you would like to get. You can also ask them about risks specific to the procedure, and if your situation puts you at any higher risk of complications.

Answer your surgeon's questions honestly. During the consultation process for cosmetic surgery, your surgeon will ask you about your medical history. Answer honestly about past surgeries, health issues, and medications or supplements that you take so your surgeon will have the most information about any possible complications.

Follow your surgeon's pre-surgery instructions. Before plastic surgery, your doctor may ask you to stop smoking, stop taking certain medications, or adjust your eating schedule directly before the surgery. Following these instructions — and being honest if you don't — can help to avoid complications.

Closely follow post-operative instructions. Once your surgery is over, your doctor will give you instructions on how to care for yourself for the best possible outcome. Following these instructions not only gives you a better chance for your desired outcome, but also helps you avoid and minimize any risks.

You may also receive instructions on how to care for the incision site wound, and what activities and medications to avoid while you're healing.

Be wary of plastic surgery deals that are "too good to be true." Some people travel out of the country to get plastic surgery at cheaper prices. This may, however, increase some of the risk. Taking a long flight soon after surgery can increase the risk of blood clots.

Different countries have different requirements for the licensing of plastic surgeons. If a complication happens after surgery, you may have little recourse.

While the price of plastic surgery abroad may seem attractive, if your procedure requires another surgery to fix a complication, you may end up paying more than you originally intended.

In general, procedures that are priced well below market rate for your area may be a sign of cutting corners with staff or the facility where your surgery will take place.

Plastic Surgery Outcomes

Another risk of plastic surgery is that the outcome will not match your desired result. People who are most happy with their procedures tend to go into it with a realistic view of what is possible. Talk to your plastic surgeon about what the realistic expectations for your procedure are and any limitations they see for you personally. Things that can affect your particular outcome include genetic factors, the condition of your skin, and underlying asymmetry. 

Show Sources


American Society of Plastic Surgeons: "Choose a Plastic Surgeon You Can Trust," "Dangers of Plastic Surgery Tourism," "Having plastic surgery? Here's how to prepare for a smooth recovery," "How to Avoid Common Mistakes When Selecting Your Plastic Surgeon." "PLASTIC SURGERY STATISTICS REPORT," "Questions to Ask Your Plastic Surgeon," "Your Health and Safety."

Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery: "Complications in Cosmetic Surgery: A Time to Reflect and Review and not Sweep Them Under the Carpet."

J Cutan Aesthet Surg.: "Complications of minimally invasive cosmetic procedures: prevention and management."

MAYO CLINIC: "Cosmetic surgery."

STANFORD HEALTH CARE: "Complications of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery."

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