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Death of Kanye West’s Mother Highlights Risks of Plastic Surgery

In an era of lunchtime liposuctions, Botox parties and one-hour facelifts, cosmetic procedures are often viewed as complication-free as getting an ear pierced.

But the death of rapper Kanye West’s mother, possibly as the result of a cosmetic procedure performed this weekend, highlights the complications that can occur during elective procedures. Read story here

Dr. Valerie Ablaza, a Montclair, N.J., plastic surgeon and co-author of the book, Beauty and Balance, said, despite the hype caused by shows, such as Extreme Makeover, people should not think that cosmetic procedures are not complication-free.

“As a whole we’ve gotten more cavalier toward (cosmetic) surgery,” she said. “It really is about beauty and balance. It’s not about these extreme makeovers and getting 10 things done at once because you want an instant makeover. Things are out of control. It’s not about being the tightest and biggest you can be.”

Click here to watch a video discussion of Donda West's surgery

In 2004, best-selling author Olivia Goldsmith, whose novel, The First Wives Club went on to become a major motion picture, died at the age 54 while having a “chin tuck.” Goldsmith suffered cardiac arrest after undergoing anesthesia.

While one plastic surgeon says he declined to do West's cosmetic surgery due to health concerns, the surgeon who did do the surgery has said all proper procedures were followed during West's operation.

“Without knowing the actual circumstances of her death, it’s hard to say what might have gone wrong,” said Ablaza. “Did she have high blood pressure or diabetes? There’s a risk of blood clots. But any death is tragic and there are risks with any surgery, and when patients go through their consult they should be told about the consequences.”

The number of total cosmetic procedures performed in the U.S. since 1997 has increased 446 percent to about 11.5 million surgical and non-surgical procedures in 2006, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Women had 10.5 million procedures last year.

The top surgical procedures were liposuction, 403,684 procedures; breast augmentation, 383,886; eyelid surgery, 209,999; abdominoplasy, 172,457; and breast reduction, 145,822. More than 3.1 million non-surgical Botox procedures were performed last year, according to the ASAPS.

Ablaza requires all of her patients, regardless of age, to get medical clearance from their personal physicians, and to have chest X-rays and EKGs, prior to agreeing to perform surgery.

Conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes increase the risk of complications during cosmetic procedures, as do certain lifestyle choices, such as smoking, and medications, such as oral contraceptives, she said.

People who are thinking of getting cosmetic procedures should make sure they only work with board-certified plastic surgeons with hospital privileges, Ablaza said.

“We want to make sure that people understand it’s about safety, using a board-certified surgeon at an accredited facility and operating on a healthy person with medical clearance,” she said. “You can’t eliminate all risks, but you can diminish them by not doing too many procedures at one time and by screening for medical conditions beforehand.”