Breast surgery has long been established as the most common and popular option for people in the UK undergoing cosmetic surgery.
According to the most recent figures from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), a total of 7,745 Britons underwent breast augmentation surgery in 2018, with a further 4,299 receiving breast reductions. This made them the two most common cosmetic procedures in the country, by a wide margin.
In most of these cases, patients receive excellent care from qualified practitioners, and emerge feeling satisfied with the results of their surgery. Unfortunately, however, in some cases the outcome is much less positive, creating serious repercussions for the person’s physical and mental health.
What makes this particularly difficult is that many issues with breast surgery are not immediately obvious, with scarring and discomfort being dismissed as part of the natural healing process that follows major surgery. As such, if something has really gone wrong with your breast surgery, it’s important to be able to spot the warning signs as early as possible.
What can go wrong with breast surgery?
Although most breast procedures do not lead to any negative consequences for the patient, the fact remains you will be undergoing majorly invasive surgery, which always carries a certain amount of risk, no matter how qualified the operating team is.
When a breast surgery goes wrong, it can manifest in a number of ways:
- Asymmetrical breasts
- High placed, asymmetric or enlarged nipple areola complexes
- Undesired size
- Inappropriate or excessive scarring
- Symmastia – when the implants are placed too close together, resulting in the breasts touching in the middle
- Double bubble – when a breast has the appearance of two distinct mounds instead of one
Additionally, breast procedures carry all of the risks that are common to any form of major surgery, including:
- Excessive bleeding
- Allergic reactions to anaesthetics
- Blood clots forming in the veins
- Infections, which may require the implant to be removed
To fulfil their duty of care, a responsible medical practitioner will be duty-bound to explain all of these risks to you before you undergo surgery. If they fail to do so and something goes wrong, this can be seen as a form of clinical negligence.
Falling victim to a botched cosmetic breast procedure can be incredibly distressing. Not only does the individual have to live with the painful or unsightly physical consequences of the surgery, but also the mental anguish of having paid for a procedure designed to improve their body image and self-esteem have the opposite effect. This is why it is vital for those in this position to be able to recognise what has happened and know what action to take to put it right.
The most common signs of a botched breast operation
Like any surgical procedure, a certain amount of soreness and scarring is inevitable in the immediate aftermath of breast surgery, but this will go away as part of the healing process. If something has gone wrong, patients will quickly start to notice persistent issues with the results of their surgery that do not get better – or become progressively worse – over time.
The following symptoms are all common indicators that a mistake has been made during breast surgery:
- Drooping breasts – when the breasts remain ‘ptoic’, or persistently droopy, after surgery
- Uneven size – when the breasts no longer look equally sized or symmetrical as a result of the procedure
- Uneven nipples – when the nipples no longer look evenly positioned
- Inappropriate or excessive scarring
If you have undergone breast augmentation surgery and received an implant, you may also experience the following symptoms:
- Slippage – when the breast implant moves, slips or settles in the wrong position
- Symmastia – when the implants are placed too close together, resulting in the breasts touching in the middle to create a “uni-boob” effect
- “Double-bubble” breasts – when a breast has the appearance of two distinct mounds instead of one, also known as a “cottage loaf” effect
- Wrongly-sized implants – when the implant you receive is simply not of the size you agreed to, whether too big or too small
Meanwhile, those who have received breast reduction or uplift operations should keep an eye out for a few specific signs of trouble:
- Incorrect nipple placement – when the nipples have been resituated too high up as part of the surgery
- Excessive or inadequate results – when the breasts have been lifted or reduced either too much, or not enough
What should you do if your breast surgery goes wrong?
It can be really distressing to realise that your breast surgery has been botched. However, if you find yourself in this position, it’s important to realise that this doesn’t mean you are powerless to do anything about it.
The first step should be to contact the clinic where you underwent the operation as soon as possible. If they are a reputable clinic, they may be able to help correct the initial mistake, but if you have reason to doubt the organisation’s competence, then you may want to focus instead on finding out why the mistake was made and who was responsible.
If you believe your operation was botched as a result of serious negligence or failings, there are various authorities you can contact for support, including the Care Quality Commission, the General Medical Council and the Royal College of Surgeons, all of whom may be able to take action against a clinic or specific surgeon. You can also report concerns about the safety of your breast implants via the government’s Yellow Card scheme.
Alternatively, you may choose to get in touch with a solicitor to see whether you have grounds to make a compensation claim against the clinic. Working with a legal firm with specific expertise in cosmetic surgery claims could help you obtain compensation to cover the costs of your recovery, while also ensuring those responsible are held to account.
By making sure to do your research into the risks of breast surgery, including what to do when something goes wrong, you’ll be able to protect yourself against the worst outcomes and ensure you can move on with your life in the most positive way possible.
By Michael Saul, partner at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors