Risk reduction in cosmetic surgery

Clin Risk 2009;15:237-240
doi:10.1258/cr.2009.090049
© 2009 Royal Society of Medicine Press

 

 

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Risk reduction in cosmetic surgery

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Aesthetic Surgery


Christopher Khoo

Email: ctkkhoo{at}bakersbarn.net

Cosmetic or aesthetic surgery is defined as ‘operationsor other procedures that revise or change the appearance, colour,texture, structure or position of bodily features to achievewhat patients perceive to be more desirable’. It differsfrom reconstructive surgery in that patients do not suffer fromsurgical pathology, but come to a surgeon desiring alterationof appearance to achieve an improvement. It has been said thatcosmetic surgery patients differ from those presenting to othersurgeons, in that instead of hoping that they do not need anoperation, in cosmetic surgery the wish to undergo surgery isthe patient’s primary motivation for the consultation.

There are distinctive risks in cosmetic surgery. The focus ison an individual surgeon, rather than a system of institutionalcare delivery. The surgeon’s assessment and selection of patientsis crucial to the avoidance of subsequent dissatisfaction. Mainstreamsurgical training concentrates on the acquisition of knowledgeand technical competencies: the cosmetic surgeon’s armamentariummust include in addition superlative communication skills anda degree of psychological awareness which will allow exclusionof those patients for whom it is unlikely that satisfactioncan be achieved. It may circumvent disaster for the surgeonto say ‘no’.

Awareness of inherent clinical risks and the ability to managethem are crucial to successful practice, as is the surgeon’scommitment to support and encourage the patient throughout theentire process. There is, however, the potential for extremelyhigh levels of satisfaction for both surgeon and patient ifpitfalls are avoided, and risks are managed appropriately withina positive doctor–patient relationship.

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