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Medical Malpractice and Breast Implant Surgery

Breast implants are one of the most common cosmetic surgical procedures in the United States. Some people want breast implants to give them more self-confidence, balance their figure, or adjust the size of their breasts after pregnancy. Many people are happy with the outcome but not all breast implant surgeries go as planned. 

Medical errors during breast implant surgery can cause serious injury, disfigurement, scarring, or even death. Breast augmentation surgical errors may be more common than you think and not all victims come forward after suffering a cosmetic surgical error. If you were injured after a negligent breast augmentation surgery, it is important to file a claim to get compensation for your injuries. 

Contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer for legal advice about your cosmetic surgery injuries.

What Is Breast Augmentation Surgery?

Breast augmentation is a surgical procedure to increase breast size using artificial breast implants. There are different procedures available but the most common involves placing breast implants under the breast tissue or chest muscles. 

Implants can go through incisions under the breasts, in the armpit, or around the nipples, depending on the type of surgery. After the incision is made, the surgeon will place the implant into a pocket above or below the chest muscle and close the incision. The surgical site and implant should be monitored after surgery to make sure the surgery is successful and there are no serious side effects. 

It can take up to 6 weeks or more to recover after implant surgery. There may be pain and swelling after the surgery, which should fade over time. The incision sites should also be monitored to make sure the scars head and fade and do not become infected. 

There are possible complications associated with any surgery, including cosmetic breast augmentation. Some of the possible complications are an unavoidable risk of surgery. However, other complications can indicate possible medical negligence. Complications can include: 

  • Pain
  • Loss of sensation around the nipples
  • Scar tissue around the breast implant
  • Hardening of breast tissue 
  • Uneven breast shape
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Scarring
  • Implant rupture
  • Inflammation
  • Lymphoedema
  • Necrosis
  • Seroma
  • Wrinkling/rippling
  • Breastfeeding complications

Depending on the surgery and the age of the patient, breast implants may need to be replaced over a period of time as the patient’s body and breasts change. 

Types of Breast Implants

The main types of breast implants are either filled with a silicone gel or saline. The type of implant used can depend on the surgeon, the patient’s goals, and costs, with the benefits and drawbacks of each type of implant. Implants can be pre-filled or filled after the implant is surgically implanted. Textured implants can be used to prevent the implant from moving around after surgery.

Another type of breast implant is known as a gummy bear breast implant. Gummy bear breast implants are form-stable and maintain their shape even if the shell is broken. These implants are thicker and firmer than traditional implants and may require a larger incision to implant.

Some patients prefer silicone gel implants because they feel more natural. However, silicone implants may present more of a health risk if they leak. If you are looking to get breast implants, it is important to talk to your doctor about the risks, benefits, and surgical alternatives. Do not get pressured into undergoing a surgical procedure by the cosmetic surgeon or their salesperson. 

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is a possible association between breast implants and the development of anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). The FDA has received more than 1,000 medical device reports involving breast implant-associated ALCL. If you have breast implants, it is important to talk to your doctor about signs of possible ALCL and breast cancer and continue to receive regular mammograms.  

Breast Augmentation Statistics

Also known as augmentation mammoplasty, breast implantation is one of the most common surgical procedures in the U.S. and across the world. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), in 2019 breast augmentation was the 3rd most popular surgical procedure, with more than 287,000 breast augmentations performed. The average cost of breast augmentation is about $4,500.

Silicone implants were used in 84% of procedures and saline implants in 16% of procedures. The largest age group receiving breast implants are patients 30-39, with about a quarter of breast augmentations in patients aged 20-29 and a quarter aged 40-54. 

Cosmetic Surgeon Training and Qualifications

Breast augmentation surgery should be performed by a qualified plastic surgeon. Cosmetic surgeons are doctors (MD or DO) who have completed medical school and residency training in general surgery and plastic surgery. Some doctors may specialize in certain subspecialties of plastic surgery, including reconstructive surgery or aesthetic plastic surgery. Cosmetic surgeons have to be licensed by the state to practice medicine. 

What Can Go Wrong During Breast Implant Surgery?

There are risks in any surgical procedure. However, some complications are not caused by the inherent risks of surgery but because the doctor made a mistake. A mistake during cosmetic surgery can be devastating, causing pain, disfigurement, and requiring additional procedures. Some of the problems that can happen when the doctor fails to follow the standards of medical care include: 

  • Using the wrong implants
  • Improperly filling implants
  • Surgical site infections
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Lack of informed consent
  • Foreign object retention 
  • Lack of patient monitoring and follow-up

Unfortunately for patients, when the plastic surgeon makes a mistake, they may not admit to it. Instead, a plastic surgeon may blame the error on a risk of surgery or even make the patient feel like they are to blame. This is why it is important to hold a doctor accountable for their mistake by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against the cosmetic surgeon.

Implant Errors During Breast Augmentation Surgery

It is important to understand the type of implant to be used in your surgery, including the fill material, texture, and size of the implant. Many patients are put under with anesthesia during the surgery and will not know what implant is being used until after they wake up. Some patients have recovered from surgery only to find that the doctor used the wrong type of implant or improperly filled the breast implant. 

Even after the patient chooses a certain type of breast implant and size, they may wake up to find a different implant was used or the breasts were larger or smaller than they were looking for.  Other breast implant complications can include placing the implants too high on the chest, too low, or too far to one side or the other. This can leave the breasts looking unnatural or uneven on the patient’s body. With many patients getting breast implants for cosmetic or aesthetic reasons, fake-looking or uneven-looking breasts are not what the patient was looking for. 

Anesthesia Injuries

Anesthesia involves sedating a patient during a cosmetic surgical procedure. Invasive surgery including breast augmentation often uses general anesthesia to immobilize the patient, make the patient unconscious, and relieve any feelings of pain during surgery. General anesthesia can involve a combination of drugs administered intravenously (IV) or through inhaling gas. 

Anesthesia is very common but there are serious risks of injury involved. According to one study, there were more than 2,200 anesthesia-related deaths between 1999 and 2006. Even during a routine breast augmentation surgery, the patient can suffer anesthesia error injuries caused by too much anesthesia, adverse reactions, intubation injuries, or failure to properly monitor a patient’s vital signs. 

Many breast surgery procedures are handled in private clinics or offices and not attached to a hospital. When something goes wrong during anesthesia, the patient may be far away from an emergency room and delayed treatment could increase the risk of injury, including brain damage or death from lack of oxygen or cardiac arrest. 

Surgical Site Infections

When the body is cut open, the patient is vulnerable to infection from bacteria, viruses, or fungi. This is why it is so important for surgeons to follow proper surgical protocols, including hand washing, using sterilized equipment, and disinfected surgical settings. Using unsterilized equipment can cause surgical site infections

If an infection is not properly treated, it can spread, causing tissue damage, necrosis, infection shock, and even death. Common types of healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) include: 

Lack of Informed Consent

This is an unfortunate malpractice error that happens before the patient even undergoes surgery. Not getting the full informed consent of a patient can be more common in breast augmentation and other cosmetic surgical procedures where surgeons and salespersons try to rush patients into undergoing a voluntary surgical procedure. 

For a patient to voluntarily undergo surgery to permanently change their appearance, they need to know what they are getting into. Doctors should make sure their patients understand the procedure, including: 

  • Risks
  • Benefits
  • Side effects
  • Possible complications
  • Reasonable alternatives

Many plastic surgeons sell patients on all the positives of surgery, including little to no scarring, fast healing, outpatient procedures, increased self-esteem, and more. It is just as important to warn patients of the risks of scarring, uneven breast appearance, hardening of breast tissue, loss of sensation in the breasts and nipples, breastfeeding complications, and other risks. 

Even if complications are rare, patients need to understand that they are possible and the doctor cannot promise any outcome that doesn’t include some risks of complications. 

If your plastic surgeon did not warn you of possible side effects and complications and you suffered an adverse result, your doctor may have committed malpractice by failing to inform you of the procedure. Just because you signed a waiver for treatment does not mean that you had informed consent.  

Failure to Monitor Patients

Monitoring and patient follow-up care are important in cosmetic surgery procedures to ensure the incision heals properly, the breast implants settle in the right place, and the patient is not suffering from a complication of surgery. Some plastic surgeons push their follow-up care to other employees who do not have the proper medical training to evaluate patients. If you did not receive proper after-care following breast implant surgery, it may have resulted in unnecessary pain, scarring, or disfigurement.

Defective Breast Implants

Some breast implants may have defects that increase the risk of harm in the patient. A defective medical device may be defective because of the way it was manufactured, the way it was designed, or because the manufacturer did not properly inform consumers of the risks. This can cause the implant to rupture, releasing silicone into the body. 

Breast Implant Recalls

In 2019, Allergan recalled BIOCELL Textured Breast Implants and Tissue Expanders due to an uncommon incidence of breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). The recall was initiated after an increasing number of implant-associated cancers. By 2022, the FDA had received more than 1,000 reports of BIA-ALCL, many of which were linked to the Allergan implants. 

Recovering Compensation After Breast Implant Malpractice

Victims of negligent cosmetic surgery errors can file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the cosmetic surgeon or clinic. Doctors, including cosmetic surgeons, are held to a certain standard of care. Doctors owe their patients a duty of care to follow medical standards. If the doctor breached their duty of care and it caused injury to the patient, the doctor may be liable for the patient’s injuries. 

In a medical malpractice lawsuit, the injury victim can recover damages for medical expenses, lost wages, the cost of follow-up corrective surgeries, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. Non-economic damages in breast implant malpractice cases are common because incorrect procedures may result in pain, disfigurement, scarring, and shame. 

Many injury victims don’t come forward because they are ashamed of the way they look after a botched surgery. However, it is important to speak out and take the doctor to court to help others avoid a similar disastrous outcome. Talk to your medical malpractice attorney about your legal options after you were injured in a breast implant accident. 

Experienced medical malpractice lawyers, like the trial attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian, have extensive experience in cosmetic surgery malpractice claims because they focus on just these types of cases. With the right legal team on your side, you will have the resources to help you recover damages after suffering a defective breast implant injury. Contact Gilman & Bedigian online or at 800-529-6162 for a free consultation.


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