Cosmetic surgery patients will die unless Australia acts to regulate the booming industry.
That’s the blunt message from plastic surgeons after an investigation by NSW’s health watchdog found six breast implant patients at one clinic suffered potentially life-threatening complications during surgeries in the past year.
On Tuesday, it was revealed a NSW Health Care Complaints Commission probe found the clinic, The Cosmetic Institute, was routinely administering adrenaline in combination with local anaesthetics at dosages well above safe levels.
The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons says the practice is rampant at cosmetic clinics, which carry out major operations such as breast enhancements and liposuction while licensed to give only “conscious sedation”.
“What happens in practice is, conscious sedation becomes unconscious sedation very, very quickly and an uncontrolled situation occurs,” the society’s president Associate Professor Hugh Bartholomeusz told AAP.
“Now combine this with large volumes of local anaesthetic which are toxic to your heart, and you’ve got an incredibly volatile situation.”
He said patients can have fits and go into a cardiac arrest, which is what the HCCC probe found occurred at The Cosmetic Institute.
“It’s a really, really dangerous situation and we are just fortunate that nobody has died,” Prof Bartholomeusz said.
The Cosmetic Institute says its patients now undergo surgery at a licensed private hospital.
The clinic has also reviewed its procedures to ensure safe upper limits for adrenaline and local anaesthetic usage, according to general manager Andrew Gill.
But plastic surgeons are calling on state and territory governments to urgently tighten regulations around anaesthetic use, practitioner credentials and the licensing and accreditation of facilities.
They say patients’ lives are at stake.
“Unfortunately somebody will die. There can’t be any messing around with ifs, buts or maybes – it will happen,” Prof Bartholomeusz said.