As trifling as it may seem to the layperson, aesthetic surgery is serious business. Apart from obvious cosmetic ramifications, the seriousness becomes understandable when one considers that the surgeon must first make a healthy patient temporarily unwell in order to make he or she look better in the end. It is for this very reason plastic surgeons have an added unique responsibility which surgeons of other specialties simply do not bear. Choosing to undergo elective surgery is a series of decisions made by both the surgeon and the patient. As with all aspects of medicine, nothing is absolute, it is about controlling probability.
In this day and age, patients increasingly view plastic surgery as nothing more than a haircut with a short recovery, let alone one with a complication. Even under the best of hands, a complication can arise for any number of reasons and if it does, acting as a team with your surgeon is crucial. Whether following a facelift, rhinoplasty or any plastic surgery for that matter, almost all complications can be fixed in the end, even if multiple surgical revisions are needed.
It is normal for the layman to consider surgical results as either “good” or “bad”, but those adjectives can be misleading and are certainly inadequate in revealing the true story behind the result.
“Good” surgery with a complication is not the same as “bad” surgery per se. In other words, complications do not all come from “bad” surgeons and indeed, “bad” surgeons may have successfully completed an operation without encountering obvious complications. I think it fair to say most patients consider themselves as good people and if a complication happens to them, they will perceive themselves as victims of a bad surgery and by extension, a bad surgeon. So what is the difference between “bad” surgery and a “good” surgery with a complication?
Look at it this way… in any profession, there are the “good”, the “bad” and the “excellent”. For the sake of this discussion, let’s just oversimplify the comparison between “good” and the “bad”. Since plastic surgery is as much an art (or at least an artisanal craft) as it is a science, whereby results are measured both objectively and subjectively, it is not unreasonable to compare a plastic surgeon to any artist or craftsman, including sculptors, painters and woodworkers. Artists filter their talent and vision through years of experience to not only earn but continually solidify their reputation as either being “good” or “bad”. Moreover, good artists become respected by not just producing one “good” piece but doing so consistently, whereas the “bad” consistently create sub par results as judged by the median consensus.
However, all artists, whether good or bad, are limited by the quality of material with which they work. It is known that Michelangelo’s David has been deteriorating at a far more rapid pace than would be expected because of the poor quality of its marble composition. Bernini also broke a piece of marble in half through chiseling into an unexpected vein in the stone causing him to start all over with a brand-new block. Does that make him a bad artist? Hardly not.
In other words, complications happen and that’s why there are consents to protect not only the doctor but also the patient. Consents should ensure the patients are informed as to the shared risk both they and the surgeon take when undergoing surgery.
Many complications are avoidable. Both doctors and patients must do their part to optimize a certain outcome and minimize the risk of complications. Patients must avoid certain medications that may promote bleeding, cease all smoking for optimal circulation, follow instructions and take medications as prescribed. Otherwise, surgery may be self-sabotaged. On the other hand, surgeons must do their part in educating and performing the proper operation in the right patient with skill and dedication.
Other complications are unavoidable and just because they may be explainable in hindsight does not mean they were avoidable within the context they occurred. This is why it is paramount that patients disclose all of their medical history and follow their surgeon’s instructions to a T in order to minimize unexpected situations such as abnormal bleeding, poor wound healing, etc..
What spurred me to write this particular blog was a recent experience having performed a complex revision rhinoplasty on a dear friend of mine of 20 years. Unfortunately, this advanced detailed nasal reconstruction was exacerbated by unexpected physiological conditions including excessive bleeding and poor tissue characteristics. The next day, the patient presented with so much swelling underneath the pressure cast that it was being pushed off the face. The swelling was a hematoma which I immediately evacuated from under the skin (it was 4 1/2 mL, being the largest nasal hematoma encountered by either my colleagues or myself). Accompanying this was necrosis (death) of the columellar skin (the partition separating his left and right nostrils). This was particularly disappointing to say the least because the surgical results in terms of nasal shape, symmetry, tip definition and projection were otherwise excellent. Yet losing coverage over the columella would have serious ramifications.
Despite attempts to bring vascularized tissue using local intraoral flaps, my friend eventually needed the help of a certain specialist to bring fresh tissue to the columella below the nasal tip with a temporary forehead flap.
Albeit exceedingly rare, this 1.5 x 1.2 cm skin loss was enough to eradicate not only their trust in me as a surgeon but also our long term friendship. Most patients understandably experience a spectrum of emotions including panic, sadness, denial, anger and ultimately acceptance from a complication such as this. However, nothing could prepare me for the degree of ongoing vengeful anger and hostility the patient and their partner have directed towards me including threats to go to the press and ruin my reputation.
Anger is not only destructive but also lacks focus, therefore it can be especially counterproductive to both healing and a good result (not to mention friendship!). Premature castigations of blame fuel brash, illogical decisions which actually complicate the original complication.
Understanding the differences between “bad” and “good” surgery and “good” surgery with a complication can certainly help put things in perspective. When a patient concedes the net surgical aesthetic result, at least in terms of shape and symmetry, as good if not excellent, he or she is less likely to question, and more likely trust, their original choice of surgeon. Whether their breast lift incision opened or, as in this case, a small but strategic portion of nasal skin died, the affected patient will see the “bigger picture” and believe their surgeon will do the right thing by having their best interests at heart. This same patient understands that they were not necessarily a victim or unjustifiably punished by “bad” surgery. Instead, they will accept things for what they are, learn patience and develop a sense of optimism to set themselves up for the best possible outcome in the future.
The majority of complications concern wound healing and minor infections. For these, possible antibiotics and the “tincture of time” for healing to occur are required. Other times, simple, clinical interventions such as laser treatment, injections, the occasional scar revision and creams are all that are needed.
Other complications require more invasive solutions. Depending on the type of complication, an expeditious trip to the operatory maybe all that is required (e.g.,to drain a hematoma) whereas staged surgical revisions may be undertaken in the extremely rare case of tissue loss.
Most surgeons will recognize if a particular complication is beyond their level of expertise. A patient should not feel abandoned or simply passed off if they are referred to another expert if a complication warrants it. It is important to recognize that medicine is team work and the referral is simply a reflection of the original surgeon’s dedication to the best outcome possible.
Emotional advice after a complication
–Watch out for advice with an agenda. It is understandable that if a complication does arise, fear and anxiety will prompt you to seek solace and advice from friends and family members. While this is wholeheartedly encouraged, it is important to remember that not all the advice given is good especially considering that those giving advice are not often doctors nor do they know the intricate details of the patient’s particular case. Though most advice is well-meaning in intent, some may be motivated by guilt, jealousy, personality disorders or just plain ignorance. Furthermore, the advice a patient may obtain from elsewhere may be counterproductive because it may only increase their level of anxiety.
–Stay optimistic and avoid jumping to any pessimistic conclusions. It is not unheard of that acute anxiety will provoke a patient to impatiently reach for the help of an alternative plastic surgeon. Unfortunately, some plastic surgeons may be unscrupulous and advise the fragile, highly suggestible patient into unnecessary and ill-timed surgery claiming it is urgently needed to prevent some permanent deformity. Always keep a line of communication open with the original plastic surgeon to not only help allay personal fears but also be guided in the right direction with a second opinion if necessary.
“A good patient is an educated patient”-
Randal D. Haworth M.D., F.A.C.S.
Board Certified Plastic Surgeon
As a world-renowned expert in facial plastic surgery (including rhinoplasty, lip lifts, face lifts, eye lifts and even bodywork such as breast augmentation) Dr. Haworth has come to a point where he need not confine his artistry mainly to the syringe and scalpel but also safely and reliably imbue it into noninvasive aesthetic medicine. Consequently, he and his team at the Haworth Institute have founded Self-Centered Aesthetics, a center devoted to optimum physical appearance, through the safest, most reliable state-of-the-art technology.
Self-Centered Aesthetics (SLF-CA) will be catering to the vast majority of patients’ aesthetic needs. Among the services SLF-CA will be offering are:
1. Laser hair removal with our virtually painless Light Sheer Duet vacuum laser technology
2. Eyelash and eyebrow treatments
3. Removal of wrinkles, fine lines and sagging folds via a variety of methods including essentially all fillers, microneedling with PRP, Botox and lasers (Spectra®, Encore® Active and Deep FX™ fractionated CO2, ResurFX® fractionated erbium and IPL® Photofacial)
4. Treatment of brown spots, brown patches, red discolorations and spider veins utilizing proven laser technology (IPL® Photofacial and Spectra®)
5. Tattoo removal (Spectra® and other lasers)
6. Noninvasive body fat reduction through SculpSure®, a laser designed to achieve up to 20% fat reduction in 25 minutes with virtually no discomfort and absolutely no incisions.
7. Facial feature improvement through the selective use of fillers and Botox®. With refined aesthetic sensibility and an astute artistic sensitivity, fillers (both temporary and permanent), can enhance all aspects of the face. However, to maximize the beauty of a result without artifice or outward fakery requires customized planning to balance patients’ needs with their individual expectations. From a flat forehead with hollow temples to sunken cheeks and dark eyelid circles to thin lips and an ill-defined jawline, the professionals at SLF-CA under the auspices of Dr. Haworth dedicate themselves to make you look your very best!
Additionally, our CENTER will offer aesthetician services to maintain and fine-tune your SELF and your AESTHETIC results. Self-Centered Aesthetics™ will be coming soon. www.selfcenteredaesthetics.com
Know your nose job options: knife or needle?
…and it doesn’t involve surgery.Your new plastic surgeon offered to inject filler into your nose to camouflage the irregularities, smooth and even out your bridge and even give you more of a chic tip. From the front view, by strategically injecting the filler to alter the light reflex and control shadows your deviated nose can even be made to appear straight. He/she offers you a temporary or permanent filler. The temporary ones can serve as a dress rehearsal, so to speak, if you are unsure as to whether this is a good idea or not. Temporary ones such as hyaluronic acid (e.g., Juvederm ®, Restylane ®, Voluma ®) or calcium hydroxyapatite (Radiesse ®)are good choices. Permanent ones such as Bellafill ®, Aquamid ® (not FDA approved) or fat transfer (a living transplant from your own body) are all excellent fillers in my opinion. You decide to go for it but you must be counseled to have realistic expectations. Fillers definitely cost less and involve less recovery (a few days of swelling and perhaps minor bruising at worst). However, the filler solution will: 1. Neither help breathing problems 2. Nor will they treat all forms of aesthetic deformities such as this: So the next time you’re considering altering the shape of your nose with a rhinoplasty of some sort, you may ask your plastic surgeon (hopefully, board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery) about the filler option. Albeit, it cannot match the power of an actual surgical rhinoplasty, the non-surgical, filler rhinoplasty can be an excellent alternative to actual scalpel- based surgery in many select circumstances. In these cases, the needle can be more powerful than the knife as one can see below:
Performing rhinoplasties are one of my favorite specialty since the nose place such a central role in the total harmony of the face. Consider it like one of the leading instruments in the orchestra. Though most plastic surgeons and patients alike obsess on nasal humps, wide bones as well as drooping, boxy, pinched and ill-defined tips and, of course, the width of the nostrils, little attention is paid to the actual shape of the nostrils. In other words, a surgeon should not only assess whether the nostrils are wide at their base, but also whether they are arched, pointy, thick or sigmoid in shape.
One of the most common and unflattering nostril shape is that of the “samurai nostril”. Look at the following two photographs and you will see what I mean.
There are a few ways to correct this but probably the most reliable is to harvest a “composite” graft from the hidden portion of one’s ear. This detailed surgery involves insinuating this graft between an incision made on the inside of the nose, corresponding to the actual width of the retracted portion of the nostril. This graft is then sutured into place with the skin side facing the actual inside of the nostril to maintain the continuity of it’s lining. One can lower the nostril about 3 to 4 mm with this technique. Of course, some resorption of the graft occurs so it is best to over-correct this.
Other techniques involve strategic V-Y plasties, which are essentially internal tissue rearrangements of the inner aspect of the nostril in order to lower its rim, cartilage grafts in the actual substance of the nostril to help correct pinched tips while lowering the rim and, finally, filler. These latter techniques, though successful to some degree, are not as effective as an ear “composite” graft.
Note the following two cases in which “composite” grafts were taken from the ear and placed within the nostril to lower them. Of note, simultaneous upper lip lifts to further enhance a feminine appearance were performed.
The “closed” technique involves creating incisions confined solely to within the actual nose (usually located just within the nostrils proper) whereas the “open” utilizes the same incisions as the “closed” but also incorporates a small additional one across the columella (the fleshy partition separating the left and right nostril at the bottom of the nose).
In this age of less invasive surgery afforded by modern technology through the use of endoscopes, modern radiology, etc. one would think that the “closed” technique represents a newer evolution in rhinoplasty surgery, but surprisingly, the opposite is true. The “closed” technique is the more traditional approach while the “open” evolved and gained in popularity as both patient and surgeons expectations grew. Perhaps unrealistically, patients increasingly expect perfection and in their quest to deliver the acme of results, surgeons need as much control as possible when performing the surgery. Control involves extremely accurate symmetrical suture placement (to reshape cartilage), hemostasis (to minimize bleeding), strategic cartilage graft location and stabilization among other factors. In order to gain the most control as possible, visibility must be maximized and this is where the “open” method far surpasses the”closed”.
Proponents of the “closed” technique cite prolonged swelling and a potentially visible scar across the columella as two distinct disadvantages to the “open”. However, in proper hands these supposed shortcomings can almost always be avoided. I, as a rhinoplasty specialist, used to perform 80% of my rhinoplasties as “closed”, but now I carry out 90% as “open” and I can safely say that over 95% of my rhinoplasty patients are delighted with their new nose by the end of the second week. If the surgery is carefully undertaken, I have seen essentially no difference in swelling between the “closed” and “open” techniques. However, the one difference I have seen are the clearly superior results afforded by the “open” method.
To see many “open” rhinoplasty results, click here and here for revision rhinoplasty.
Dr Randal Haworth can be contacted at 310 273 3000 and Is a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon (American Board of Plastic Surgery) who practices at The Haworth Institute in Beverly Hills.
Dr. Haworth of Beverly Hills gained much of his advanced experience as both a primary and revision rhinoplasty specialist back in the Middle East. He performed literally hundreds of nose jobs there on patients from all walks of life. One of the most common complaints there are boxy and bulbous nasal tips.
What constitutes a bulbous nasal tip?The bulbous nasal tip is most likely caused by thick alar cartilages (see accompanying diagram)and/or alar cartilages that are splayed out instead of shaped in a neat triangular formation.
|This anatomic situation can be exacerbated by a thick layer of oily, sebaceous nasal tip skin. Think of the latter as a sleeping bag as opposed to a thin silk sheet., draped over delicate structures
How does an experienced plastic surgeon correct the thick bulbous nasal tip during a nose job?
In my hands, I prefer performing a rhinoplasty utilizing an “open” approach because it affords me vital binocular vision so I can assess up to half-a-millimeter asymmetries that otherwise I would would be unable to appreciate utilizing a closed approach. The closed approach is one where the incisions are solely confined to the inner rims of the nostril, whereas an open approach utilizes the same aforementioned incisions in addition to a small hidden incision below the columella (that fleshy partition that separate the left and right nostril). The open approach allows me to see both the left and right nasal tip cartilages simultaneously so that any maneuver I would perform on the other can be immediately assessed with its opposite counterpart. Sutures are meticulously placed in a strategic fashion in order to change the shape of the cartilages from a round convex shape into more of a triangular one which, in turn, will translate to a more refined, elegant nasal tip. Think of assembling a ship in a bottle via strings, so to speak. The rhinoplasty surgeon cannot just bend cartridges, he must utilize sutures in order to shape them. This is part of the stock-in-trade of nasal tip/nasal cartilage manipulation.
|Of course, some cartilage is removed as the surgeon sees fit. The importance of not being too aggressive cannot be overemphasized since doing so could result in an unsightly “pinched tip”. Finally, it is more often than not necessary to “defat” the under surface of the thick sebaceous nasal skin that would accompany such a bulbous tip. This allows the thick “sleeping bag” to redrape more fluidly over the newly reconstructed nasal cartilages.
Swelling of the nose may take many months to even a couple of years to fully disappear. This does not mean that the patient would not enjoy the effects of a rhinoplasty before then. It is just that the skin can remain slightly swollen for prolonged periods of time. The last area for swelling to dissipate is at the nasal tip area. So even though great of a 95% of my patients love their nose at the 21st day postoperatively, some will say that they would like their nasal tip to become further defined. I may either inject some Cortizone underneath the skin to turbocharge the swelling to go away quicker or just recommend patients. Sometimes that’s the hardest thing for inpatient to digest.
For more information, click here and here
See the following example:
Another example of an isolated bulbous tip with thin skin:
Over the last 3 to 4 years I, as a primary and revision rhinoplasty specialist, have noticed an increasing and disturbing trend being practiced amongst those facial and classic plastic surgeons in my immediate community of Beverly Hills and other cities. This trend revolves around the use of rib grafts for not only revision but also primary rhinoplasty (!) (or in common parlance, nose job).
A good number of rhinoplasties require cartilage in order to achieve exemplary results. Cartilage is used to either build a bridge, fill depressions, augment or support the nasal tip. It is mainly harvested from the septum (that partition that exists in the midline of the nose which separates the left and right nostril) or the ear. Though I am fully trained general surgeon and am comfortable operating in and around the lungs and heart, I rarely employ rid graft as a source of cartilage. For most, it is generally a last resort when absolutely no other cartilage source is available. Admittedly, rib provides a strong support and is generally in plentiful supply. However, a number of downsides arise when rib is harvested: a permanent visible scar is created below the breast. Additionally, significant pain can arise from the harvesting as well as a small chance of creating a pneumothorax (or a collapsed lung) . Finally, rib can be notorious for warping thereby creating a nose that is crooked. Despite these drawbacks, I will use rib when there is a collapsed nasal septum (or dorsum creating a saddle nose deformity) or when plentiful cartilage is needed while other sources are exhausted.
See the accompanying photos.
|I always use cartilage to highlight and augment the nasal tip, however, when there is not enough cartilage present and I only need to build the bridge by a small amount, I do not hesitate to employ some artificial material such as Goretex®. I utilize this only when the chance of infection is remote. When patients are properly selected for utilizing Goretex®, the chance of infection extremely minimal in my experience. Unfortunately, the surgeons who habitually use rib grafts will scare the bejesus out of their patients into choosing the rib graft method by overstating the chance of infection and poor outcome if Goretex® is used.
So if I am writing that rib grafts are over utilized, then why do the rib graft cartel tell their patients otherwise?
I feel it is simply a matter of finance. When a rib graft is harvested, the surgeon can charge a lot more for both his services and the operating room, especially if insurance is billed. Most patients will not question their surgeon’s motivated choices and indeed, feel that they have no choice at all, believing that the rib-graft-mafia method is their only solution.
What is especially unsettling is that these doctors who are members of the rib graft cartel are now utilizing rib grafts for primary rhinoplasties (first time nose jobs). This is very puzzling because there is plenty of prime cartilage graft material available from the septum and ear and there is little to no reason to subject the patient to a rib surgery.
All I can say is that this is a dangerous trend which introduces unnecessary risk and morbidity to the operation.
A good patient is an educated patient and the purpose of my blog is to merely propagate information in the most objective way possible so that patients can make their own decisions as sentient adults. To learn more about primary and revision rhinoplasty , you can click here.
Dr Randal Haworth
Beverly Hills, California