What to Do if Bad Plastic Surgery Happens to You

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What happens if the bad plastic surgery outcome you see isn't displayed on the last tabloid, but rather in the mirror? Here are steps you can take if your expectations for plastic surgery are not related to your outcome.

Fascination With Bad Plastic Surgery Outcomes

Bad plastic surgery fascinates us. We look on in wonder as Hollywood’s royalty evolve into impossibly smooth, ridiculously tight wax figures of themselves, and we can’t stop talking about it.

From gossip columns to hour-long TV specials, we can’t stop hearing about it. There are entire websites devoted to the worst of the worst—featuring countless photos of stars like Tara Reid, Donatella Versace, Carrot Top, and even those who deny the plastic surgery rumors, like Jessica Simpson (who has admitted only to having lip augmentation).

What To Do If You Think You’ve Been a Victim of Bad Plastic Surgery

The first thing you should do if you think you’ve had bad plastic surgery is to call your surgeon and make an appointment to see him. This is almost always the best first step unless you have a reason to distrust your plastic surgeon or are otherwise uncomfortable speaking to him.

Are Your Symptoms Normal Healing?

Healing requires time after even the most minor plastic surgery procedures, and it could be that what you are seeing is simply a normal part of the healing process. With some surgeries, the saying "it may get worse before it gets better" is the norm.

Many people are surprised with how good a surgical site can look later on based on how bad it looked in the days and weeks following the surgery.

Is Your Surgery But One Step in a Multistep Process?

Often times, a surgical reconstruction procedure, especially if large or detailed, requires several procedures.

When this is the case, it is common for the "gets worse before getting better" saying to ring true. Hopefully, you will already be aware that further surgeries are required if this is the case, but it's important to keep this in mind.

Will Corrective Surgery Solve the Problem?

If your bad outcome from plastic surgery isn't related to healing or the need for an additional procedure, it's important to realize that even the best plastic surgeons have complications. No two people are built alike, no two surgeries are exactly the same, and no two people heal in the same way after surgery. If you are unhappy with the results of your surgery, your plastic surgeon may offer to do corrective surgery at no charge to you. Many people quickly dismiss their original surgeon out of frustration, but the fact is that your original surgeon, by knowing how you heal, and how your surgery turned out, may be in the best place to make sure corrective surgery is effective. Most of the time (with a few exceptions) you may wish to give your surgeon a chance to rectify the situation before taking further action.

When Should You Get Another Opinion?

If speaking with your surgeon has proved unhelpful and you still feel there is a problem, seek a second opinion.

Make sure you seek the advice of a qualified (and board-certified) plastic surgeon, perhaps even one who specializes in exactly the kind of surgery you had. You may need to seek out your second opinion at one of the larger medical centers in order to find a plastic surgeon who specializes in one type of plastic surgery.

Consider Corrective/Reconstructive Surgery

Another option is consulting a surgeon who specializes in corrective surgery. Keep in mind that corrective surgery is often not just cosmetic, but also reconstructive by nature. If you are considering undergoing a second (or third, or fourth surgery) to correct the problem, consider a surgeon with extensive training and experience in reconstructive surgery.

Just be aware that in order to minimize risk, you may need to wait at least one year before having another surgery on the same area.

Document Your Communication

Finally, if you truly feel you have been wronged in some way by your surgeon, be sure to document your complaint with written notes, including dates, times, symptoms, and problems, as well as photos, if possible. When you have your information together, you can file a complaint with the state medical board and/or with the Office of Professional Medical Conduct. Then, of course, if you feel you are entitled to compensation of some sort for your botched procedure, you may decide to contact an attorney who specializes in medical cases.

Is It Really That Bad?

Unfortunately in the world of plastic surgery, as in life, there are some people who will just never be happy. For some, it is a simple case of low self-esteem or trying to live up to impossible standards of perfection. For others, both before and after surgery, they imagine that there is something terribly wrong with their appearance. They seek out surgeon after surgeon, hoping each one will fix the “horrible mistakes” made by the last. These people do not see what everyone else sees. There is a name for this psychological disorder, and it is called body dysmorphic disorder.

While you may not be familiar with this diagnosis, it is common, affecting one to two percent of the population. Treatment can be very effective, especially therapy such as cognitive behavior therapy. Unfortunately, though the diagnosis itself is not risky in itself, the surgeries (and anesthesia for surgery) are not without risk, and seeking out a mental health care professional may be the most important step you can take to both heal emotionally, and prevent physical complications related to surgeries. Of course, people with body dysmorphic disorder have true bad outcomes just as anyone else, and it can be helpful to have a therapist help make the distinction.

Expectations vs. Outcomes

If you have had plastic surgery and are truly unhappy with the result, it may be that you have been the victim of a botched procedure. However, it may just be that you went in with unrealistic expectations of the outcome, or that you are seeing a distorted image of what you really look like to the world. If you are unhappy with what you see in the mirror, it might just be worth asking yourself if the flaws you’re obsessing over could possibly be in your thoughts alone rather than in the mirror.

Sources:

Bowyer, L., Krebs, G., Mataix-Cols, D., Veale, D., and B. Monzani. A Critical Review of Cosmetic Treatment Outcomes in Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Body Image. 2016. 19:1-8.

Herruer, J., Prins, J., van Heerbeek, N., Verhage-Damen, G., and K. Ingels. Negative Predictors for Satisfaction in Patients Seeking Facial Cosmetic Surgery: A Systematic Review. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 2015. 15(6):1596-605.

Honigman, R., Phillips, K., and D. Castle. A Review of Psychosocial Outcomes for Patients Seeking Cosmetic Surgery. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 2014. 113(4):1229-1237.

Sweis, I., Spitz, J., Barry, D., and M. Cohen. A Review of Body Dysmorphic Disorder in Aesthetic Surgery Patients and the Legal Implications. Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. 2017 Feb 15. (Epub ahead of print).

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