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Cosmetic Surgery and Heart Disease

The Risks of Going Under the Knife

By Lia Tremblay

Updated November 23, 2008

(LifeWire) - In our image-conscious culture, plastic surgery is on the rise; the number of procedures performed in 2007 was 25% higher than in 2000. Plastic surgery includes cosmetic surgery (which is intended to improve appearance and boost self-esteem) and reconstructive surgery (which is intended to correct abnormalities from congenital defects, injury or disease).

Even though it's becoming as routine as a haircut, such surgery is major surgery -- and it comes with all the associated risks.

If you have heart disease, those risks may be greater. Patients with heart disease have a higher risk of developing deep-vein thrombosis, a blood clot that can form after surgery and create a dangerous blockage in the bloodstream. The anesthesia used to keep surgical patients unconscious can also cause problems when your heart is not strong enough.

The American Heart Association recommends getting a clinical evaluation with a cardiologist before any surgery. Your cardiologist will consider such factors as your age, other health problems you may have, and the urgency of the surgery.

Cosmetic procedures (including nose jobs and face-lifts) may not score high on that last criterion, but reconstructive surgery (such as breast reduction to aid a bad back) may be considered more necessary.

The type of cosmetic surgery you're planning will also be a factor. Abdominal procedures (such as a tummy tuck) are among the surgeries considered to be a higher risk for heart patients.

Your medication will also need to be considered. If you're taking blood thinners like Coumadin (warfarin) or aspirin, you may need to stop as your surgery date approaches.

Even if you've received a cautious OK from your cardiologist, be sure to bring up your heart issues with your cosmetic surgeon as well. Cosmetic surgeons may have concerns about operating on someone with your condition. In some states, legislation is underway to mandate that cosmetic surgeons make a full physical evaluation a prerequisite for all their patients.

Another important thing to know: The heart risks of cosmetic procedures are not limited to the scalpel. Sclerotherapy (an injection to collapse spider veins so that they fade from view) is not recommended for patients with heart disease. Even a chemical peel can cause serious problems; the phenol used to remove dead skin can cause elevated blood pressure and arrhythmias when absorbed.

Bottom line: Ask your cardiologist and your plastic surgeon to help you understand the risks in your specific case. The risks may be worth the benefits, but you'll want professional input to be sure.


"2000/2006/2007 National Plastic Surgery Statistics: Cosmetic and Reproductive Procedure Trends." plasticsurgery.org. 2008. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. 1 Nov. 2008. <http://www.plasticsurgery.org/media/statistics/loader.cfm?url=/commonspot/security/getfile.cfm&PageID=29287>.

"Chemical Peel." plasticsurgery.org. 2008. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. 1 Nov. 2008. <http://www.plasticsurgery.org/patients_consumers/procedures/ChemicalPeel.cfm>.

"Cosmetic Plastic Surgery: Procedures At-a-Glance." plasticsurgery.org. 2008. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. 1 Nov. 2008. <http://www.plasticsurgery.org/patients_consumers/procedures/CosmeticPlasticSurgery.cfm>.

"Perioperative Cardiovascular Evaluation for Noncardiac Surgery." americanheart.org. 2008. American Heart Association. 1 Nov. 2008. <http://www.americanheart.org/downloadable/heart/3379_pperiop.pdf>.

LifeWire, a part of The New York Times Company, provides original and syndicated online lifestyle content. Lia Tremblay is a freelance writer and editor specializing in consumer health care topics. She lives and works in Virginia.

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