Outcome of failed surgery could be catastrophic and may lead to life-long complications, disfiguration and even death
Dr. Dmitry Melnikov, plastic and reconstructive surgeon
Plastic and reconstructive surgery originated in the 800s BC, when forehead flaps were harvested and reshaped to replace amputated noses. Ancient Egyptians and Romans carried out plastic surgery to repair facial defects and enhance skin appearance.
Modern plastic surgery dates back to the 1960s and 70s. About three decades later, the life-threatening phenomenon of botched surgeries emerged. Today, plastic surgery that has gone wrong is running rampant in parts of the Middle East, developing nations, Russia and the 11 other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries.
In 2019, I performed a surgery to remove the synthol oil and dead muscle tissue from the biceps of the Russian bodybuilder dubbed Popeye. The patient injected about three liters of petroleum jelly into each of his arms. Designed for external application only and not for injection, petroleum jelly blocked the blood flow to the patient’s arms, causing him high fever, strong pain and weakness. The disastrous implants saturated his arm muscles, subcutaneous tissue and skin. As a result, the impacted tissues died and turned into a solid lump. Unfortunately, I had to remove all of that, and the challenge was to keep the veins, nerves and other functions of the limb intact.
The patient was lucky that the tissue damage did not spread to the rest of his body. Petroleum jelly affects the whole body, kidneys in particular. Similar to the Russian Popeye, many people do not fully realize the consequences of such unlicensed medical practices. There is no treatment or cure for these botched procedures except the complete removal of the dead tissue.
Women in specific are increasingly using petroleum jelly for cheap beauty fixes as an alternative to legitimate plastic surgery. They agree to injections of petroleum jelly and later come to us to have it removed. I have seen cases of women with petroleum jelly injected into their breasts, buttocks, and other parts of their bodies. This practice is extremely dangerous. It is traumatic for the body, leading to deep scars. Without proper medical treatment, it may lead to life-long complications, disfiguration, organ damage, nerve damage and even death.
Most of these women who come in with these problems tell the same story—they have been led to believe that they are being injected with certified fillers. Some of the cases involve self-injection or asking friends for a helping hand, while other cases entail uncertified medics claiming to be doctors.
I’ve also seen cases among men who injected liquid silicone and Vaseline oil to enlarge their penises. Unfortunately, this practice may lead to amputations or even death.
Prevention is better than cure
Whether your goal is to preserve your appearance or enhance your looks following accidents, defects, or other surgeries, or simply to boost your confidence, you must not fall victim to medical malpractice. Stay away from unqualified surgeons or anesthesiologists. Make sure your doctor fully examines your medical history and performs the surgery in a fully equipped medical facility such as a clinic or a hospital.
Common plastic surgeries that may go wrong
Breast augmentation is one of the most common plastic surgeries today. The lack of proper consultation often leads to unsuccessful surgery, which involves implants placed in the wrong spot or deflated. Botched surgeries may also result in deep scars. In most cases, doctors must remove the implants and perform the surgery again, which can take a heavy toll on the patient’s physical and mental health.
Other common surgeries that can go wrong include lip lifts resulting in disproportionate lip appearance, face lifts resulting in pixie ears, as well as neck lifts resulting in burns, scars and infection.
There are risks involved even with the best surgeons. However, there is several precautions you can take to diminish the level of risk in plastic surgery.
First, take your time to evaluate multiple surgeons and pick one with a track record. Request to see the doctor’s qualifications, and if needed, ask family and friends for support throughout your assessment process. Most importantly, ensure the surgeon has board certification.
Rushing you into surgery without digging into your medical history or asking you about allergies puts a big question mark over the surgeon you’re considering.
Ideally, plastic surgery should be done in your home country to ensure your legal rights are protected.
Finally, conduct your own research on the medical procedure and join forums to learn from the experiences of previous patients.