Plastic Surgery Deaths in Florida High Despite Tightened Rules

Cosmetic surgery is a growth industry as the baby boomers creep into middle age and beyond. But with the flat stomachs and lifted faces come a downside – at least 32 people died in Florida in the past decade, about the same number that died in the 1990s before the Florida Board of Medicine passed new rules to make cosmetic surgery in a doctor’s office safer.

Young mothers, grandparents and middle-aged men are among the casualties, some the result of medical malpractice were the victims, reports The Sun-Sentinel.

The changes made two decades ago restrict cosmetic procedures from being done in a doctors’ office, now considered some of the toughest restrictions in the nation.

One reason for the continued deaths may be the sheer numbers of cosmetic surgeries and the medical malpractice performed by undertrained doctors, reactions to general anesthesia, extensive surgeries, and heart and breathing problems during surgery.

A University of Cincinnati dermatologist chronicled 26 deaths and 312 hospitalizations from 2000 to 2009 in Florida. Since 2009, The Sun Sentinel, using autopsy and police reports, has found six more deaths and a cluster of five deaths over the last two years in Broward County. Florida’s medical board has not identified any patterns that would mandate another change in the rules.

An estimated 13.1 million Americans underwent plastic surgery last year. There are more than 400 plastic surgery offices in Florida, with half in South Florida.

In Florida, doctors can perform minor procedures if they use only local anesthesia. One problem is the industry underestimates what constitutes “invasive” surgery. For example, liposuction, is considered noninvasive, but with a tube stuck under the skin sucking out fat, it certainly is invasive. Complications have arisen when doctors or their nurses use too much local anesthesia in these procedures.

The board may revisit the idea of requiring an anesthesiologist for office surgeries rather than the nurse or surgeon. That proposal was already turned down once because it increases the cost of the plastic surgery. But when corners are cut, the patient suffers and sometimes bargain priced beauty can carry the ultimate price.