A 19 year old beauty queen from Ecuador, Catherine Cando, has died on the operating table during a liposuction procedure. The surgeon has now been charged with negligence, however for Catherine and her family, it is now sadly too late.
This latest news story, whilst not in Australia, is an unfortunate reminder for patients to understand that liposuction is still surgery, despite it being unscrupulously marketed as though it were not. It is also a reminder for patients to know who is operating on them, ie what are is your surgeon’s qualifications? Are they pressuring you to have liposuction? Have they discussed the alternatives? Where are they operating on you? Is there an qualified Anaesthetist on board making sure that your respiration and anaesthesia are safely administered?
Whilst the qualifications of this particular surgeon are not yet clear, liposuction procedures are increasingly being performed by doctors who call themselves Cosmetic Surgeons, but who may not actually have a formal surgical qualification ie from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS). The RACS is the only recognised college in Australia to provide accredited surgical training. If you read anything different, it is simply untrue. Patients should not assume that because a doctor is performing a cosmetic surgery procedure, that he or she is qualified to do it.
That liposuction is becoming more common in today’s cosmetic marketing does not detract from the fact that it is still surgery, with its own risks and complications. I have had patients who have been quite surprised when I tell them of this fact. Patients don’t need to be scared about having liposuction, but they do need to be well informed. Most importantly, you still need to know who is holding the cannula and who is administering your anaesthetic. By having a formal specialist qualification, patients can expect that the Plastic Surgeon who specialises in cosmetic surgery not only understands how to perform a cosmetic procedure, but that they fully are trained to understand the indications, risks and complications associated with it.
No matter a patient’s age or co-morbidity, or even an absence of co-morbidity, it is still imperative that meticulous pre-operative assessment or work-up is conducted by the operating surgeon.
Finally, in addition to your research, don’t underestimate your gut instincts – if something doesn’t feel right, look right or if you feel at all pressured to have the procedure, leave and look for another surgeon. This applies equally to plastic surgeons and to any other doctor performing cosmetic surgery.
Want to read more?
To read more about liposuction and to see how the liposuction procedure works (animation), please visit this page on Dr Milovic’s website: