Cosmetic Surgery and Medical Negligence – Liposuction*

Liposuction is a form of cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgery is ‘elective’ in nature and it can be described as any procedure undertaken with the aim of improving one’s aesthetic or physical appearance.

Liposuction removes fat from your body using suction. During liposuction, small, thin, blunt-tipped tubes (cannula) are inserted through tiny cuts in the skin. Fat is suctioned out through these tubes as the doctor moves the tubes around under the skin to target specific fat deposits.

Methods include:

Tumescent liposuction - A local anesthetic is used to numb the area of your body where the tube will be inserted. Next, a large amount of an anesthetic solution containing lidocaine and epinephrine is injected into the fatty tissue before traditional liposuction is done. Tumescent liposuction may not require general anesthesia (which makes you sleep through the procedure).
Ultrasound-assisted liposuction – This technique uses ultrasound to liquefy the fat, which makes it easier to remove. This technique may be particularly helpful in removing fat from the upper abdomen, sides, and back.
Laser-assisted liposuction – This technique uses low-energy waves to liquefy the fat, which is removed through a small cannula.

Liposuction carries risks

Possible complications specific to liposuction include:

Contour irregularities, bumpy, wavy or withered skin due to uneven fat removal, poor skin elasticity and unusual healing. Damage beneath the skin from the thin tube (cannula) that’s used during liposuction may give the skin a permanent spotted appearance.
Fluid accumulation: Temporary pockets of fluid (seromas) can form under the skin. This fluid may need to be drained with a needle.
Numbness: You may feel temporary or permanent numbness in the affected area. Temporary nerve irritation also is possible.
Infection: Skin infections are rare but possible. A severe skin infection may be life-threatening.
Internal puncture: Rarely, a cannula that penetrates too deeply may puncture an internal organ. This may require emergency surgical repair.
Fat embolism: Pieces of loosened fat may break away and become trapped in a blood vessel and gather in the lungs or travel to the brain. A fat embolism is a medical emergency.
Kidney and heart problems: Shifts in fluid levels as fluids are being injected and suctioned out can cause potentially life-threatening kidney and heart problems.

Liposuction is not a treatment for obesity or a substitute for proper diet and exercise.It is also not an effective treatment for cellulite – the dimpled skin that typically appears on the thighs, hips, and buttocks – or loose saggy skin.

Before you undertake any surgical procedure for cosmetic reasons you will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure and any risks and potential complications. Do not sign any forms or consents if you are unsure or if you do not yet have all the requisite knowledge on the procedure.

No regulation governing Liposuction in Ireland

At present in Ireland there is no regulation of cosmetic surgery practioners, meaning that there is nothing to prevent poorly qualified people from performing procedures for which they are ill equipped or not properly qualified to conduct. For this reason, people seeking plastic surgery should exercise extreme caution when considering to go under the knife in the name of plastic surgery.

The Irish Association of Plastic Surgeons (IAPS) has repeatedly made representations to both the medical authorities and to politicians to tighten up the entire area of medical beauty treatment but so far no action has been taken. The IAPS has also said that doctors who called themselves cosmetic surgeons were confusing the public. A fully-qualified surgeon will have completed around 15 years’ training and continued to train every year in an area of medicine that is evolving rapidly. Doctors who have not completed the training cannot appear on the Medical Council’s register of specialists in plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery – thus, the risks associated with these procedures are so high.

In 2010 the Irish Medical Organisation issued a guidance paper entitled ‘Recommendations for patients considering surgical cosmetic procedures’. This document is a good place to start for anyone considering cosmetic surgery in Ireland and we would advise anyone considering same to read it by clicking on the hyperlinked text.

Unfortunately, the professional standards that should apply to this area do not as was discovered by a lady in 2006

You must ensure that your cosmetic surgeon:

- Is suitably qualified as a cosmetic surgeon
– Has informed you of the benefits of cosmetic enhancements
– Has discussed the risks thoroughly as well as any alternative treatment
– Gives you what is known as a ‘cooling off period’ whilst you think about the best course of action for you
– Perform the procedure in question with proper skill and due care.

Have you suffered as a result of a liposuction procedure?

If you have suffered injury due to liposuction or other cosmetic surgery procedure or if you were not advised of relevant risks prior to your procedure, Coleman Legal Partners may be able to assist you in recovering losses sustained by you and compensation.  Additionally, if you have doubts about the quality of the procedure and think your surgery was not performed to a professional standard you may be able to recover compensation for your losses.

Proving negligence is not always straightforward in cosmetic surgery injury claims. Even if negligence is suspected, it can only be confirmed by an expert doctor or plastic surgeon. After a case has been investigated by a medical negligence solicitor, and evidence of an injury has been collected, an independent medical expert will be consulted to review the case to establish whether – under the circumstances – the surgeon was negligent and responsible for a patient coming to harm.

If it can be proven ‘on the balance of probabilities’ that the plastic surgeon was at fault, and injuries could have been prevented had the appropriate level of care been provided, it should be possible for compensation for a cosmetic surgery error to be recovered against the surgeon´s liability insurance policy.

One of the first steps in processing your claim would be to engage an independent medical expert to review your medical records and/or examine you for the purposes of furnishing an expert medical opinion. The expert opinion is used to support your claim and would need to show that the injury, loss and damage suffered by you could have been avoided if a more appropriate course of action had been taken.

As with all personal injury claims, there are strict time limits to be adhered to.

CONTACT US REGARDING COSMETIC SURGERY ERRORS

For more information or to arrange a meeting with one of our Medical Negligence Solicitors to discuss cosmetic surgery errors, please contact Kathrin Coleman or Marguerite Baily or call us on 01-5313800


*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement. This statement is made in compliance with RE.8 of SI 518 of 2002