When 20-year-old Amy decided to undergo breast augmentation at one of Australia’s leading cosmetic surgery centers, she never expected her life would be in danger — but midway through the operation, a sudden and unpredictable complication caused her heart to go into ventricular fibrillation.
Amy’s surgeons were able to stabilize her with CPR and a defibrillator, but instead of rushing her to the hospital right away, they opted to finish the procedure first.
It remains unclear what caused Amy’s cardiac arrest, but her doctors suspect she suffered a reaction to the local anesthetic used.
“IV sedation with local infiltration … we know that if you use too much local, it can cause arrhythmias,” plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon says. “In my mind, most likely, that was the case because you’re talking about an otherwise healthy 20-year-old with no history of heart problems.”
Although Amy has since made a full recovery, The Doctors strongly disagree with the decision made by her surgeon and anesthesiologist to delay her admission to the ER.
“This is surgery 101,” OB-GYN Dr. Jennifer Ashton says. “The second a patient becomes unstable, you stop the surgical procedure. You let the anesthesiology team stabilize the patient, as long as it’s not a surgical issue that caused the patient to become unstable, and you stop the procedure.”
Despite her life-threatening complication, Amy remains levelheaded about the experience. She says she is happy with the end results and is not planning to pursue legal action against her surgeon or the surgical institute. “Honestly, this possibly could have happened to me in a dentist’s chair,” Amy says. “It’s just one of those freak things that happened.”
Dr. Ashton adds, “I think the take-home point here is that there is no such thing as minor surgery, even elective surgery. Major complications can and do occur, and you are dependent on the skill and ability and preparation of your surgical and anesthesia team to act and react appropriately.”
See how The Doctors respond to a statement provided by Amy’s plastic surgeon.