Getting a face-lift is a common cosmetic surgical procedure for people getting into their 50s, 60s, or 70s. A facelift can reduce sagging skin and smooth the contours along the jawline and cheekbones. Facelifts are increasingly common among men as well.
Unfortunately, not all plastic surgery is as good as it should be. There are risks of any surgical procedures but that should not include the risk of the doctor’s negligence. A surgeon failing to follow standard medical practices can cause permanent damage to a patient, including nerve damage, scarring, or even death.
If you were injured during a bad facelift procedure and know what you can do, contact experienced medical malpractice trial attorneys to understand your legal rights and how you can recover damages.
What Is a Facelift?
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, “A facelift, or rhytidectomy, is a surgical procedure that improves visible signs of aging in the face and neck.” Some of the alleged benefits of a facelift include:
- Reduced appearance of sagging skin
- Reduced fold lines between the nose and corner of the mouth (smile lines)
- Reduced appearance of jowls in the cheeks and jaws
- Reduced loose skin and fat of the neck (turkey neck or double chin)
- More evenly dispersed fat in the face
A facelift is often paired with other surgical procedures, like a brow lift and eyelid surgery to focus on areas around the eyes. Other related procedures can include fat transfer, fillers, Botox, dermabrasion, and intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, in Baltimore, Maryland, “recovery from a facelift or mini-facelift takes several weeks.” After coming out of surgery, patients may feel pain, soreness, and will have dressings or drains. Patients will generally have to go back to the doctor after a few days to get the sutures removed. There are also extensive post-surgery instructions that are important to manage swelling, bruising, and discomfort.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), facelifts were the 2nd most popular cosmetic surgical procedures in 2021-2022. Liposuction was the top surgical procedure. Following facelifts were breast augmentation, tummy tuck, and breast lift. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were approximately 234,370 facelift procedures performed in 2020.
The Facelift Procedure Steps
After a consultation and scheduling, the day comes for the facelift procedure. A patient comes in and is generally given general anesthesia or intravenous sedation. Anesthesia is a way to go through an invasive surgery without moving and without feeling pain. However, anesthesia has to be carefully managed because there are risks of hypoxia (not getting enough oxygen), brain damage, and cardiac arrest.
Once the patient is under, the doctor may make several markings before the incision. A traditional facelift has incisions at the hairline and around the ears, to the lower scalp. The surgeon may also redistribute fat from around the face. The skin of the face is then redraped over the incision line and excess skin is cut away. The plastic surgeon uses sutures to close the incision.
Surgeons may use sutures that dissolve, traditional sutures, or skin glues to seal the incision. The effectiveness of a facelift can depend on how well the incision lines heal but the incision lines can be hidden by the hairline. Bruising and swelling can take a few days and the doctor may need to remove the sutures after a few days.
Most patients can return to the public eye after about 2 weeks but it can take a few months for the patient’s face to fully recover to feeling “normal.” Plastic surgeons make a lot of generalizations about benefits and results but may be careful not to make any promises or guarantees.
In many cases, the patient does not get an optimal outcome and the doctor’s solution is to provide additional surgical procedures, which can improve the results, have no change, or make the problems worse.
How Often Do Facelifts Go Wrong?
It can be difficult to know how often facelifts go wrong and how often the botched facelift is caused by a plastic surgeon’s negligence. Medical errors in general are underreported. However, medical errors in cosmetic surgery may have an even lower rate of reporting.
Many plastic surgery malpractice victims don’t come forward after a botched procedure. Because cosmetic surgery is elective, many patients blame themselves for the medical mistakes because they didn’t have to have the surgery. Patients may also feel ashamed of their appearance and don’t want to be subjected to questions about their physical appearance.
Patients who suffered a plastic surgery injury may not even want to tell their friends and family. This can increase the damage done by the physical surgical mistakes and cause additional emotional harm, depression, and substance abuse. It is important to come forward to report surgical errors because it can help others avoid a similar injury in the future.
If a negligent plastic surgeon is not held accountable for their actions, they can continue to go on treating patients without following the standards of medical care. This can cause hundreds of unnecessary injuries, negative outcomes, or even fatal errors.
Another reason why it is important to come forward after a facelift error is to help get compensation for your losses. A settlement or jury award for damages can help you pay for corrective surgery, medical bills, medication, and mental health counseling. You may also be able to recover money for time off of work, lost income, and pain and suffering.
When Can You Sue for a Bad Facelift?
There are risks of any surgical procedure. Some problems are just a risk of surgery. Other problems are caused by a doctor’s negligence. It is important to understand all the risks of a surgery before going under the knife.
Your surgeon should have informed you all about the risks of treatment. This is required under medical practices and is known as informed consent. When a plastic surgeon performs a surgical procedure, they are generally required to give the patient the necessary information, including:
- Risks of the procedure
- Benefits of the surgery
- Possible side effects and complications
- Reasonable alternatives
With informed consent, the patient has the information they need to make an informed decision to go forward with the surgery or hold off. If a doctor doesn’t get the patient’s informed consent, the patient may have a malpractice claim against the doctor for the resulting damage.
To sue a plastic surgeon for medical malpractice, the injury victim has to prove the doctor deviated from the standards of medical care and that caused the patient’s injuries. Medical standards are based on the medical practices and procedures of the area, under the circumstances.
Proving malpractice generally requires a medical expert. A medical expert in a plastic surgery case will generally be an experienced plastic surgeon who understands how surgical procedures like a facelift are generally handled. They can testify to the jury about the standards of facelift procedures and how your doctor did something which other doctors would not have done, causing the injury.
Common Types of Cosmetic Surgical Errors?
There may be different causes of a cosmetic surgical error. Errors in a facelift procedure could start anywhere from before the patient even goes in for surgery, all the way until the patient fully recovers. Common causes of plastic surgery injuries include:
- Anesthesia errors
- Infection injuries
- Medication errors
- Nerve damage
- Surgical errors
- Wrong-site surgery
The majority of anesthesia complications are attributed to human error. Medical errors by the anesthesiologist can involve:
- Too much or too little of the anesthesia drugs
- Intubation errors
- Failure to monitor monitoring
- Anaphylaxis from allergies
- Delayed anesthesia
- Leaving a patient unattended
- Communication errors
- Using the wrong drugs
Anesthesia involves the use of powerful drugs. Too much of the drugs can cause the patient to stop breathing or go into cardiac arrest. Plastic surgery practices may be required to have medical equipment in case the patient’s heart stops but not every surgical clinic has the necessary equipment, medical staff, or proper training. In some cases, the plastic surgeon will wait too long to call for emergency medical help, causing the patient to suffer permanent brain damage or death.
Surgical Site Infections
Surgical site infections are another common cause of cosmetic surgery injuries. Opening up the body to the outside environment can expose the tissue to bacteria and viruses. This is why a sterile surgical environment is so important. Unfortunately, some cosmetic surgery clinics are too focused on making money to prioritize patient care.
When surgical rooms are busy cramming in dozens of surgeries per day, there may not be enough time to completely sterilize the environment and surgical equipment. Doctors could even fail to follow proper sanitation procedures in handwashing and surgery prep. Introducing infections to the surgical site can cause delayed healing, scarring, necrosis, sepsis, septic shock, or even death.
Patients are generally given medication after the procedure to help with pain and discomfort. These medications can include opioids like hydrocodone, morphine, or fentanyl. Not only do these medications have a risk of developing dependency and addiction, they can also cause allergic reactions in some patients.
It is important for doctors to understand their patients’ health history and medication use to make sure there aren’t any complications, contraindications, or problems with the way the medication is affecting the patient’s health.
Plastic surgery often involves incisions through sensitive parts of the body, including around the face, nose, and eyes. Failure to follow proper surgical techniques can result in nerve damage to the patients head and face. This could cause drooping, lack of sensation, and facial movement problems. There may be some temporary nerve damage during plastic surgery but more severe errors can cause permanent nerve damage.
Some of the most common complications from negligent plastic surgery involve scarring and disfigurement. Scarring can be a possible side effect of surgery but when a doctor provides improper care, it can make scarring worse. Patients may be reluctant to report scarring complications because the surgeon may just say it was a risk of surgery or even try to blame the patient. If you are not sure if your scarring was caused by your surgeon’s deviation from standard medical care, talk to a plastic surgery malpractice attorney for advice.
There are many types of possible surgical errors, including leaving a foreign object inside a patient after surgery or operating on the wrong patient or wrong body part. One of the problems with surgical errors is that a patient may have no idea what went wrong. The patient may have been unconscious during surgery and only finds out about the problem days, weeks, or even months later.
What If I Got Plastic Surgery in Another Country?
Many people seek out cosmetic surgery procedures overseas. Getting plastic surgery can be much less expensive in other countries, and patients can even appreciate a change of scenery as they recover from surgery. Unfortunately, if you were injured during plastic surgery abroad, you may have fewer opportunities to hold the negligent surgeon accountable.
The primary reason most people go to another country for elective surgery is cost. Other reasons include waiting out the recovery period away from people you know, or tacking on a vacation for family members. Some of the most popular medical tourism destinations include:
- Costa Rica
Patients can save up to 75% or more by getting plastic surgery in another country. Many surgical clinics overseas target foreign customers, with websites in English and even surgeons who were educated or trained in the United States. Healthcare overseas can be just as good or even better than in the U.S. However, there are reasons to reconsider flying to India to get a facelift.
A facelift may only cost $1,500 in Mumbai, India but could cost $10,000 or more in Chicago or Philadelphia. The difference in price could more than pay for a roundtrip flight and hotel at a nice resort for a week. However, patients don’t have the same legal rights when they get surgery in another country.
You may still be able to file a claim against a doctor for overseas care if a U.S. court has jurisdiction over the doctor. This can be a complex question and best handled by an experienced attorney who understands how a hospital’s ties to the U.S. may allow for a lawsuit in a U.S. civil court for damages.
What Are Your Legal Options After a Bad Facelift?
If you were injured because of the plastic surgery mistake, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit to recover any damages. If you don’t know if your injuries were caused by negligence, get a free consultation from an experienced medical malpractice law firm. Do not hesitate to contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.