How Safe Are Procedures in a Doctor’s Office? 5 Tips to Stay Safe

The (un)safety of cosmetic procedures is getting more media attention this year especially after the death of Kayane West’s mother, Donda West, following cosmetic surgery. So are procedures in a doctor’s office safe? Here are five tips you’ll need before going under the knife.

surgeon.jpgMany thousands of procedures are done each year in doctor’s offices. The vast majority go smoothly and without complication. However, all procedures, including cosmetic, medical, or even Botox, have some risk. A study published in this month’s Dermatology Surgery summarized findings from seven years of data in Florida. In Florida all incidents of death, serious injury, or hospital transfer from a doctor’s office must be reported to a central agency. (Why don’t all states have this? They should.)

The authors found that in 7 years of collecting that there were 31 deaths and 143 procedure-related complications.

Of the 31 deaths, 18 were in patients undergoing a cosmetic procedure. The majority of the deaths and the complications that required transfer to a hospital were associated with liposuction, abdominoplasty (tummy tucks), or bundled procedures — when multiple procedures such as liposuction, abdominoplasty, or breast surgery are done together.

As a result of Donda West’s death, a new law has been introduced in California that would require all patients undergoing cosmetic surgery to be medically cleared by a licensed physician, such as their primary care doctor, before undergoing surgery. Although well intentioned, it is not likely that laws such as this would do much to protect patients. In Florida, for example, 78% of the deaths were in ASA Class I patients, which means they were healthy patients with no medical problems prior to the procedure. Having a doctor’s approval before the surgery, therefore, would not likely have made any difference.

Office-based surgeries are generally safe, but many of these procedures, especially those requiring general anesthesia have a real risk that must be carefully considered. Here are five tips to help you stay safe when undergoing any significant surgical or cosmetic procedure in a physician’s office:

  1. Ask if your physician is board certified and if the office has surgery accreditation (this is voluntary in most places, but a good idea, especially if the procedure you’re having is significant).
  2. Ask your physician how many times he or she has done this procedure and what complications he or she has had.
  3. Tell your physician all the medications you are taking, including over the counter medications and diet supplements.
  4. Tell your physician any risk factors you might have for blood clots including family history, smoking, and oral contraceptives.
  5. Before you undergo any procedure, be sure that you completely understand what will be done and what the risks are. Anesthesia and blood clots are two of the more serious risks of surgery, and you should understand them completely before agreeing to the procedure.

Photo credit: Cyrill Vallee, Flickr.com

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4 thoughts on “How Safe Are Procedures in a Doctor’s Office? 5 Tips to Stay Safe

  1. It’s also good to know if the doctor has priviledges to do the procedure in any area hospital (in case you need to be transferred).

  2. Pingback: A Real Botox Risk | The Derm Blog

  3. These are very good tips about staying safe in the doctor’s office. There are several things you should ask your doctor about procedures you would like to have performed:

    Where will the procedure be performed and how long will it take?

    Is this procedure the most appropriate method for helping me reach my goals?

    What is the practitioner’s level of experience in performing this procedure?

    What percentage of patients experience complications with this procedure?

    What is the doctor’s policy in regards to correcting the procedure if something goes wrong?

    What should I expect after the procedure?

    Have you ever had your malpractice insurance coverage denied, revoked or suspended?

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