In my experience as a Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer, plastic and cosmetic surgery cases have some special considerations.
Unlike most other areas of medicine, the results of these elective procedures are often inherently subjective. In other words, the patient may have certain appearance-enhancing ideas in mind that the surgeon can claim, after the fact, were impossible, impractical, or certainly not the standard of care.
On the topic of the standard of care, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons is, in my view, notorious for refusing to even define standards of care applicable to plastic and cosmetic surgeons. In a way, it’s still like the Wild West.
On the other hand, I’ve handled various kinds of cases in this particular arena, including death from deep vein thrombosis (DVT), nerve injuries, and terrible deformities caused by vascular injuries. And there are some types of negligence in plastic and cosmetic surgeries and follow-up care that are clear.
For instance, like many other types of surgeons, some surgeons who perform plastic or cosmetic procedures are unwilling to invest the time necessary to give proper attention to post-operative care. This means that they can ignore, misdiagnose, or cause a delay in treatment for serious injuries like wounds opening up (wound dehiscence), infection, and even nerve injuries.
In my practice, I’ve commonly experienced this in breast cases, whether augmentation, revision, reduction, or even relatively-minor liposuction. Studies have found that the most common medical malpractice claims against plastic and cosmetic surgeons involve breast surgeries.
The breasts are highly vascularized and innervated parts of the body. This simply means that there are a lot of blood vessels and nerves that surgeons have to be careful with during procedures. In any type of breast surgery, the areolar or nipple complexes are important areas that need special attention. If the blood supply to these areas is compromised or cut off, the tissue can die, resulting in the dreaded complication of nipple necrosis.
When investigating a potential medical malpractice case involving nipple necrosis, an experienced medical malpractice attorney will hire a plastic surgery expert to review the medical records and additional materials. Sometimes the medical records from the potential defendant plastic surgeon are incomplete, often particularly lacking in photos. It’s always helpful when patients have their own photos from before and after surgery, including during recovery.
One of the significant investigative focuses that experts consider is the appearance of the necrotic area of tissue after the surgery. With good photo evidence, plastic surgery experts can make conclusions about the health and vascularity of tissue, even when the medical records from the plastic surgeon suggest that everything was fine.
Most medical experts agree that the best opportunity for repairing or salvaging nipple necrosis is within the first 48 hours after surgery. Unfortunately, this coincides with the time that many plastic and cosmetic surgeon offices tend to downplay patient complaints—they give in to the temptation to conclude that the patient complaints are no big deal, but rather a normal part of the post-operative recovery.
If you’ve been seriously injured because of a plastic or cosmetic surgery mishap, then contact a top-rated Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for help in evaluating your potential case.