Errors in plastic surgery

As much as you as a patient would like to think otherwise, errors in medicine do occur at rates that are frightening for any patient. I am not talking here about the risk of complications in surgery or medical errors of judgement or application of known protocols. That is a whole topic on its own. For example, look at this old post about the potential complications of abdominoplasty:

Complications of breast enlargement with implants

Instead, I want to talk about all the other snafus that occur when plastic surgeons attempt to provide care to cosmetic patients.

Plastic surgery error today

It is now 6:45 a.m. and I arrived a few minutes ago at the surgery center, just to be asked why I was here! My patient is here, I am here, my staff told to me to be here; in fact, I have another surgery after this one! Both surgeries were scheduled weeks ago—faxes were sent to the surgery center, photos of patients were taken, payments were made to the hospital and for anesthesia, etc. Yet no one at the surgery center knows what happened.

How could this be?

Plastic surgery error yesterday

Yesterday morning, I arrived at the office 20 minutes late. It usually takes me about 30 minutes to get to the office from my home. Yesterday it took an hour. Lots of traffic: no accidents, no presidential motorcades—just traffic.

When I arrived at the office, two patients were waiting for me. A third, new patient had already left, having been pissed off for being kept waiting. My staff was not there. One texted me that her normal 40-minute commute had taken over 2 hours and was still in progress (there was an accident on the road), and the other made no sound (it later turned out that she had overslept!).

How could this be?

Plastic surgery error last month

Last month I was in the middle of a breast augmentation procedure when I asked for the breast implants to be given to me. They were the wrong size. In over 35 years of surgery, I have never seen or even heard of the wrong implant being shipped. My confidence in the delivery and ordering system was such that the thought of actually opening the box to verify the contents had never even crossed my mind. I had to place the implants in and at a later time exchange them. It was a great inconvenience for my patient and a great embarrassment for me. Now I always check the contents, but still…

How could this be?

In any field of human endeavor, and cosmetic plastic surgery is but one, the important word is “human.” No matter how hard we try, we cannot escape the shackles of humanity, and we remain restrained by our innate inefficiencies, frailties and unpredictable behavior. Traffic jams will occur, and plastic surgeons and their staff will get caught in them and be late. Surgical procedures are scheduled and confirmed and still somehow get deleted from the schedule as if they had never existed. The wrong sizes of breast implants are delivered despite email confirmations of the correct size having been sent!

As a cosmetic plastic surgery patient, you should worry about the errors of technique or surgical and medical judgement that can occur in any surgery. Those medical situations can be controlled only to a certain degree by your plastic surgeon. Risks and complications will occur in the best of patients under the care of the best of surgeons.
There are other errors that can also occur as a result of non-medical situations. Be patient with the humans caring for you in the office, in the factory, in shipping department, and others who may have failed to get everything needed for your cosmetic surgery in order. You will feel less frustrated.
We all try our best, but sometimes we fail. We are only human.  Do you ever fail in your endeavors?

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