Plastic surgeons at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have published a prospective study that proves there are specific risk factors — such as obesity, smoking and diabetes — that contribute to development of a major surgical site infection following cosmetic surgery.

Data from more than 129,000 patients undergoing 24 different aesthetic surgeries from 2008 to 2013 at a variety of plastic surgery practices across the United States was analyzed for the research, recently published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal. The investigators used a database from CosmetAssure, an insurance program that covers the cost of unexpected major complications from cosmetic surgery performed by board-certified or board-eligible plastic surgeons..

Past studies looking at complications following cosmetic surgery have been limited by small sample sizes, the use of data from a single surgery center and often a focus on a single type of surgical procedure, so the scientific literature on the topic has been narrow. This study — the first to use a substantial, multi-institutional sample — is significant in that it provides a more “real life” picture of outcomes by using a large national data source, said study co-author Kye Higdon, M.D., assistant professor of Plastic Surgery.

The overall incidence of major complications following aesthetic procedures was shown to be very low; out of the cases analyzed, only 0.46 percent, or 599 patients, developed a major postoperative surgical site infection.