Lying to your plastic surgeon can be deadly

I was recently lied to.  I’ve become better over the years at figuring out when a cosmetic patient is fibbing, but the point is that a determined patient will be able to lie and get away with it until the lie catches up to them. In plastic surgery, the lie always catches up to you. Don’t Lie to your Plastic Surgeon!

Just so we’re clear, I have fibbed to my doctors also… in the past. For years I used to tell them I smoked only 2 to 3 cigarettes a day when in fact it was more like 5 to 7. So no holier-than-though stuff here, but I do need you to know that lying or not telling the truth (a distinction to be noted) is dangerous to a plastic surgery patient undergoing cosmetic surgery.

Types of untruths in plastic surgery

Patients lie because they are embarrassed and they know they are doing/not doing something they should/should not be doing (smoking, being fat, not exercising, etc.). Of course, some may have truly forgotten! Patients tell untruths about their medical history in two ways.

Lying by omission

These plastic surgery patients will not fill out their medical history form completely. They will omit or “forget” to write down:

  • Medications they take – Cross reactions with medicines prescribed for plastic surgery or anesthesia can be deadly. Smoking and recreational drugs are included in this section. You would be amazed by how many people diminish the amount of alcohol they claim to drink on a regular basis!
  • Previous surgery – Abdominal surgery in the past will affect the results of your abdominoplasty badly. Breast biopsies cause scar tissue and loss of breast tissue, which will also affect your breast augmentation or breast lift results. Previous rhinoplasty can be disastrous if the surgeon operates on the nose without knowing about it. Facelift patients who do not tell the plastic surgeon they have a history of cold sores set themselves up for painful bouts of shingles!
  • Medical history – Cosmetic surgery patients who forget to write down that they have heart conditions, asthma, hypertension or other medical problems are literally risking their life. Anesthesia can have fatal consequences if administered to a patient who has not been properly treated for a serious medical condition.
  • Psychological history – Many medicines interact with psychiatric medications and can have bad reactions for the patient if the surgeon does not know about them.


Lying on purpose

The patient that lied to me recently lied to me on purpose. It was a deliberate and purposeful lie to have a surgery she had been told by my staff that I do not perform until a certain date. Specifically, I do not—nor should others—perform a tummy tuck on a woman who is less than six months postpartum (after having a baby). She was told that an abdominoplasty could not be performed until six months after the end of pregnancy, and when asked by my staff, she lied and said it had been six months. When she filled out the form, she did not write down the date of her childbirth and lied again when asked by the surgery center staff. After the surgery, I found out that she was only three months postpartum.

These types of patients are frustrating because they ensure a lesser surgical result by their own stupidity. In many cases, the body needs time to recover, be it pregnancy or even a previous plastic surgery, before cosmetic surgery can be performed again. Operate too early and the surgical results will by definition not be ideal, and healing will take longer.

Patient who think they are being so clever by fooling their plastic surgeon are in fact only fooling themselves.

So go ahead and lie to your parents, partners and loved ones. Even lie to your priest. But do not lie to your plastic surgeon—about  your medical history, that is; you can still lie to him/her about what a great surgeon you think they are…

Morad Tavallali, M.D., FACS