All surgery involves risk and plastic surgery is no different. What makes many plastic surgery procedures unique from a risk standpoint is that they are elective…one doesn’t have to do a cosmetic procedure. Thus risk avoidance can be assured by merely not having the procedure. But the appeal of many cosmetic procedures is very alluring and the risks are worth the reward. This is particularly true when the result is fairly assured. For example, one is absolutely certain that if an implant is inserted into the breast it is going to be bigger. The operation may have other risks…infection, asymmetry, etc…but the breasts will most certainly be bigger. Such certain outcomes makes accepting the associated risks easier.
But there are other plastic surgery procedures where the outcome is not always so certain. For example, undergoing a scar revision involves the main risk of uncertainty as to whether it will ultimately be better. This raises a question as to whether one should have the procedure at all. Since there are few absolute guarantees in surgery, how does one know whether they should risk having an operation where the level of improvement is unknown. In some ways, this is a bit like gambling and the patient looks to the plastic surgeon to help them ‘hedge their bet’. In essence, the plastic surgeon in this situation is the oddsmaker.
For the uncertain outcome surgery, the patient should make a decision about having the surgery based on what level of minimum result they can accept. While patients understandably think about plastic surgery hoping for the maximal or best result, opting for surgery with that expectation in uncertain outcome surgeries can be a setup for disappointment.
‘When the outcome of a plastic surgery procedure is not assured, the decision for undergoing it should be based on accepting the minimal result…the lowest level of improvement.’
Dr. Barry Eppley