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Can You Sue a Plastic Surgeon for Medical Malpractice?

Plastic surgery operations are continuing to increase across the country. Not long ago, cosmetic surgery was limited to a small group of people who wanted to change their appearance. Now, with the availability of cosmetic surgery clinics and medical spas, more people are seeking out procedures to make small and large changes in their physical appearance. 

Unfortunately for many patients, the promise of a simple, outpatient procedure fails to note the risks involved. Many cosmetic surgical clinics are volume-based businesses that focus on numbers over individual patients. When something goes wrong, these patients may be left out in the cold, suffering pain, disfigurement, or serious health complications. 

It is important for victims of negligent plastic surgery to come forward and report what happened to them. It can be difficult to speak out but identifying the negligent doctors and clinics responsible can help you recover compensation and help others avoid similar abuse later on. If you believe you were a victim of plastic surgery malpractice, contact an experienced medical malpractice law firm to get damages for your injuries. 

Most Common Plastic Surgery Operations

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) annual report for 2019, there were more than 18 million cosmetic procedures performed in 2019, including cosmetic surgical procedures and minimally-invasive procedures. 

The top 5 minimally cosmetic surgical procedures in 2020 were: 

  • Nose reshaping
  • Eyelid surgery
  • Facelift
  • Liposuction
  • Breast augmentation

The top 5 minimally-invasive cosmetic procedures in 2020 were: 

  • Botox injections
  • Soft tissue fillers
  • Chemical peels
  • Laser skin resurfacing
  • Intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment

The top 5 reconstructive plastic surgery procedures in 2020 were: 

  • Tumor removal
  • Laceration repair
  • Maxillofacial surgery
  • Scar revision
  • Hand surgery

Cosmetic procedures are not just for older adults wanting to look younger. Increasingly, younger people are turning to plastic surgery, often with the support and consent of their parents. Teens aged 13 to 19 in the U.S. had more than 229,000 cosmetic procedures in 2020. However, the majority of cosmetic surgery customers that make up almost half of all procedures involve people aged 40 to 54 years old. Women make up more than 90% of people undergoing cosmetic procedures. 

From 2000 to 2020, some cosmetic surgical procedures have increased dramatically, including: 

  • Breast lifts (up 65%)
  • Buttock lifts (up 112%)
  • Cheek implants (up 938%)
  • Chin augmentation (up 231%)
  • Lip augmentation (up 84%)
  • Lower body lift (up 3,974%)
  • Upper arm lift (up 4,174%)

Increase in Medical Spas for Outpatient Procedures

One of the biggest areas of growth in the cosmetic surgery industry is the rise in medical spas. Medical spas or med spas often do outpatient procedures that promise to take years off your appearance during your lunch break These spas generally provide limited cosmetic procedures, including injections, fillers, and laser treatments. 

Med spas may have medical doctors acting as owners, directors, and consultants. However, most of the procedures are done without the use of doctors. Instead, these non-surgical procedures can be performed by physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, and even medical assistants and estheticians. In most states, medical assistants are not required to be licensed or certified. 

According to the American Medical Spa Association, in 2018, there were more than 5,400 total medical spas in the U.S. According to another estimate, the number of medspas is expected to grow to over 10,000 by 2023. Average spa revenue in 2018 was over $1.5 million dollars annually, a 9% increase over the year before. Revenues were projected to increase more than 10% over the next year. The profit margin on these spas is almost 30% and more than one-third of these spas have no medical director. 

Just because many of the med spa procedures are not considered major surgery does not mean that there are no risks associated with these outpatient cosmetic procedures. There are many common side effects of common injectables used in cosmetic procedures. For example, risks associated with dermal fillers, such as Juvéderm, include: 

  • Vision abnormalities
  • Blindness
  • Stroke
  • Permanent scarring of the skin
  • Infection

However, many of these med spas are staffed by people who are paid a commission based on the number of people they get to sign up for procedures, even offering discounts for patient referrals for friends. These sales people often downplay the risks, citing their own subjective opinions for success. 

Types of Plastic Surgery Malpractice Cases

Why are plastic surgery cases so often involved in medical malpractice claims? Plastic surgery is invasive and has many opportunities for things to go wrong. Most plastic surgery is also elective, and many patients who should be warned about the risks of undergoing elective surgery are not properly warned or advised of the risks. Some of the types of cosmetic surgery malpractice claims include: 

  • Botox and Injectable Malpractice: Botox, Dysport, and Xeomin are injectables used to smooth out facial wrinkles. Botox is a form of botulinum toxin, a neurotoxin, that blocks nerve signals to the muscles, causing flaccid paralysis.
  • Breast Augmentation Malpractice: Sometimes called a “boob job,” breast augmentation involves using fat transfer or breast implants to enhance the size and shape of the breasts. Breast augmentation can also be performed after weight reduction or pregnancy to enhance the shape and symmetry of the breasts. 
  • Breast Implant Removal Malpractice: Breast implant removal, or breast “explant” surgery, involves removing breast implants after a breast augmentation procedure. Implant removal may be used to remove silicone after an implant leak or treating scar tissue that forms after the placement of an implant. 
  • Breast Lift Malpractice: A breast lift, or mastopexy, is a cosmetic procedure that removes excess skin around the breasts and tightening of the surrounding tissue to reshape and support the breast appearance, symmetry, and contour. 
  • Breast Reduction Malpractice: Breast reduction or reduction mammaplasty is used to remove excess breast fat, skin, and tissue to reduce the size and shape of the breasts. Breast reduction can also alleviate pain and discomfort associated with large breasts. 
  • Buttocks Augmentation Malpractice: Buttocks augmentation, also known as a Brazilian butt lift, is a procedure that uses the patient’s own fat to augment the shape of the buttocks. Also called gluteal augmentation, liposuction removes fat from other areas of the body and is transferred to the buttocks. 
  • Buttock Implant Malpractice: Buttocks augmentation with implants adds volume to the buttocks. Implants are silicone-filled devices that are surgically placed within the buttock tissue to increase roundness and projection of the buttocks. 
  • Calf Augmentation Malpractice: Calf augmentation is a procedure to enhance the lower section of the leg, using an implant for people who are unhappy with the size or development of their calves.
  • Cheek Augmentation Malpractice: A cheek augmentation is a procedure to enhance the cheeks, add volume or create lift to improve cheek appearance. 
  • Chin Augmentation Malpractice: Chin augmentation is a cosmetic procedure to change and enhance the shape and contours of the chin. 
  • Dermabrasion Malpractice: Dermabrasion or dermaplaning is a procedure to alter skin surface irregularities and give the skin a smoother appearance through scraping away the outermost layer of skin.
  • Forehead Lift Malpractice: A brow lift, or forehead lift, reduces wrinkle lines that develop across the forehead and between the eyes. A brow lift is often performed with eyelid surgery or a facelift. 
  • Nose Reshaping Malpractice: Nose reshaping, or rhinoplasty, is one of the most popular plastic surgery procedures. Sometimes called a “nose job,” patients who are unhappy with the size and proportions of their nose can have their nose shape altered through surgery. 
  • Ear Surgery Malpractice: Ear surgery, or otoplasty, is a procedure to improve the shape, proportions, or position of the ear and ear lobes. 
  • Eyelid Surgery Malpractice: Eyelid surgery, or blepharoplasty, is a procedure to improve the appearance of the eyelids. Eyelid surgery can be performed on the upper, lower, or both lids, to enhance the appearance of the eyes. 
  • Facelift Malpractice: A facelift is a surgical procedure to improve the shape and contours of the face. Also called a rhytidectomy, this procedure can be performed along with brow lifts or eyelid surgery to enhance the appearance of the face and skin.
  • Hair Transplant Malpractice: Hair transplant is a procedure that uses small punch grafts of hair-bearing skin to graft onto balding or thinning areas of the scalp.
  • Laser Hair Removal Malpractice: Laser hair removal is a noninvasive procedure that uses a strong light to damage hair follicle growth and slow regrowth. Laser hair removal generally requires multiple treatments and occasional maintenance. 
  • Lower Body Lift Malpractice: A lower body lift, or belt lipectomy, is a procedure to remove excess sagging skin and fat to improve the appearance of the abdominal area. 
  • Pectoral Implant Malpractice: Pectoral implants are a breast augmentation procedure for men to improve the appearance of the chest, using silicone gel materials. 
  • Tummy Tuck Malpractice: A tummy tuck removes fat and skin from the abdomen, to create an enhanced abdominal profile. A tummy tuck is also known as abdominoplasty.
  • Thigh Lift Malpractice: A thigh lift is a procedure to enhance the shape of the thighs, remove excess fat and skin, and improve the contours of the thighs.
  • Upper Arm Lift Malpractice: An upper arm lift is a procedure to remove excess fat and skin of the upper arm region. Also known as a brachioplasty, this procedure can reduce sagging skin under the arms and tighten underlying tissue of the upper arm. 
  • Lip Augmentation Malpractice: Lip augmentation is a cosmetic procedure to enhance the appearance of the lips, including increasing fullness, shape, and structure. Lip augmentation uses dermal fillers to increase volume. 
  • Lip Reduction Malpractice: Lip reduction, or cheiloplasty, involves removing skin and tissue in and around the lips to reduce volume.  
  • Liposuction Malpractice: Liposuction is a cosmetic procedure to reshape areas of the body by removing fat deposits. Liposuction can also be used in conjunction with other procedures like a Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL) to relocate fat from some areas of the body to inject into other parts of the body to change body shape and contour.  
  • Cellulite Treatment Malpractice: Cellulite treatments can reduce the appearance of cellulite in some patients. Treatments, including laser therapy, can cut through skin dimpling bands to treat waviness appearance in the skin.  
  • Chemical Peel Malpractice: A chemical peel is a minimally invasive procedure to smooth the texture of the skin by removing the outer layers.  
  • Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Malpractice: Intense pulsed light (IPL) photorejuvenation is a procedure to improve the texture and tone of the skin to treat blotchy skin or skin damage caused by sun exposure.  
  • Laser Skin Resurfacing Malpractice: Laser skin resurfacing, also known as a laser peel or lasabrasion, can reduce the appearance of wrinkles, scars, and blemishes by resurfacing the skin’s outer layers.  
  • Laser Treatment for Leg Vein Malpractice: Laser therapy and laser treatment can use intense beams of light to eliminate or reduce the appearance of spider veins and varicose veins. 
  • Sclerotherapy Malpractice: Sclerotherapy uses injections to reduce the appearance of spider veins. 
  • Soft Tissue Filler Malpractice: Soft tissue fillers, also known as dermal fillers, are injectables that are used to reduce facial lines, improve the appearance of wrinkles, and shape the contours of the face. 

Problems With International Plastic Surgery Operations

Many patients in the United States seek out plastic surgery in other countries, where procedures can be half the cost of getting cosmetic surgery done in the U.S. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns, “traveling to another country to get medical care can be risky.” 

Some of the top destinations for medical tourism for U.S. residents include Spain, South Korea, Costa Rica, Thailand, and Mexico. Patients can receive excellent care overseas but they need to be aware of the risks involved when plastic surgery abroad goes wrong. Injury victims may have a more difficult time in holding overseas doctors accountable for medical errors. Foreign doctors may not be subject to the medical malpractice laws in the U.S. Talk to your medical malpractice surgeon if you suffered an injury after medical tourism in another country

Plastic Surgeon Education and Training

Licensed plastic surgeons are medical doctors. Cosmetic surgeons have to complete about 13 years of education in order to become licensed as a plastic surgeon in the U.S. After completing undergraduate education and taking the medical school exam, prospective surgeons have to complete medical school with a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degree. 

After graduating medical school, doctors generally complete a 5 to 6-year medical residency program in general and plastic surgery. Some plastic surgeons specialize in a subspecialty under the plastic surgery board, including plastic surgery, plastic surgery with the head and neck, or surgery of the hand. 

Plastic surgeons perform invasive surgical procedures at a cosmetic surgery practice but they often have other workers involved in patient care, including nurses, medical assistants, or physician’s assistants. It is important for patients to be aware of who is involved in their care. Some practices allow under-trained staff to participate in surgical procedures that can put the patient at risk of injury. 

Contact an Attorney After a Plastic Surgery Accident

It may be difficult to come forward after a plastic surgery accident. You may blame yourself or regret going forward with the procedure in the first place. It is important to speak out if you were injured during a plastic surgery accident. Holding negligent doctors accountable can help prevent others from suffering similar injury, disfigurement, scarring, and pain. 

Contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney for advice about what you can do to recover compensation, medical bills, and loss of income. Your cosmetic surgeon may be liable for damages caused by failing to provide the standard care in treatment, surgery, anesthesia, or lack of informed consent. Call experienced medical malpractice attorneys who can look at your case, answer your questions, and help you understand your legal options to file a claim against a plastic surgeon. Contact Gilman & Bedigian online or at 800-529-6162 for a free consultation.

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