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Local Anesthesia and Plastic Surgery: Marketing or Reality?

Posted on Jan 13, 2015 at


An increasing number of patients ask to have their surgery done with local anesthesia “because it’s safer.” Guess what? That isn’t always the case.

Plastic surgery procedures tend to have clever names: Mommy Makeover, Insta-Boob, Cinderella Surgery… but the operative (no pun intended) word here is surgery. All of the above-referenced procedures are invasive; in the example of the Mommy Makeover, it can include several procedures to achieve the desired result. That means at some point, your body is cut open so the operation can be performed. The Mayo Clinic has weighed in on the use of general anesthesia, explaining it should be considered if your operation:

  • Takes a long time
  • Exposes you to a cold environment
  • Affects your breathing, such as chest or upper abdominal surgery.

They also state that: “Most healthy people don’t have any problems with general anesthesia. Although many people may have mild, temporary symptoms, general anesthesia itself is exceptionally safe, even for the sickest patients. In general, the risk of complications is more closely related to the type of procedure you’re undergoing, and your general physical health, than to the anesthesia itself.”

So why aren’t patients asking for it? Two reasons come to mind. The first is the need for additional information about the procedure, including any risks or complications that could potentially arise.

This we can provide.

The second is more disturbing, because it seems to correlate with the increasing number of doctors who aren’t plastic surgeons, but who perform cosmetic surgeries learned at weekend courses taught by other non-plastic surgeons.

This we have to fix.

The main selling point for their practice is that they do plastic surgery “under local anesthesia.”

Love the Local Anesthesia–Too Bad It Was the Wrong Procedure!

The problem with choosing a specific procedure solely because it can be done under local anesthesia is that your surgeon may not be offering you the correct procedure or the safest path to your desired result. Why? Because that doctor may not know how to do it.

If a doctor can only do liposuction under local anesthesia, but you need a tummy tuck, he may tell you liposuction is your only safe option. We see many patients who are unhappy after a non-plastic surgeon left them with loose, lumpy skin. They lost time and money, and they still need a tummy tuck to address their specific concerns.

Mini Tummy Tuck and the Sad-Faced Belly Button

Similarly, many doctors perform “mini tummy tucks” under local anesthesia “because it’s safer,” even on patients who need full tummy tucks under general anesthesia. Those patients consult with us, wondering why their belly button is pulled down and their tummy still bulges. They received the local anesthesia they wanted, but they also received the wrong operation.

Drooping Breasts Don’t Lift Themselves

Patients wanting a breast lift often come to us after a non-plastic surgeon gave them breast implants. The patient had the “safe operation under local anesthesia” because the initial doctor didn’t know how to perform a breast lift. Patients come to us to find out if their breasts can be fixed.

Why Would a Doctor Use Only Local Anesthesia?

If a doctor only promotes local anesthesia, ask yourself these questions:

Is the doctor a board-certified plastic surgeon who operates in an accredited operating room and has hospital privileges?
Is he/she fully experienced in all aesthetic procedures of the face and body?
Does he/she only offer local anesthesia because an anesthesiologist won’t come to an office without an accredited operating room?
Is it better to have the wrong operation under local anesthesia than the correct one under general anesthesia?
Local anesthesia is cheaper and is generally safe, but it’s not infallible. Even without sedation, fatalities can result from toxic levels of local anesthesia, limiting how much can be safely done.

Do You Want the Best Procedure or the One Done under Local?

All board-certified plastic surgeons are trained to do procedures under general anesthesia as well as local anesthesia with and without sedation. As board-certified plastic surgeons, we won’t offer you the incorrect procedure under the guise of “safety” because we don’t know how to do the correct one.

Protect yourself, and ask questions.

This article was originally posted by Smart Beauty Guide

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