Adverse events in facial plastic surgery: Data-driven insights into systems, standards, and self-assessment

Yanjun Xie, Michael J. Brenner, Jordan P. Sand, Shaun C. Desai, Caitlin Murray Drumheller, David W. Roberson, Brian Nussenbaum, Matthew A. Kienstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Complications in facial plastic surgery can lead to pain, suffering, and permanent harm. Yet, the etiology and outcomes of adverse events are understudied. This study aims to determine the etiology and outcomes of adverse events reported in aesthetic facial plastic surgery and identify quality improvement opportunities. Material and methods: A cross-sectional survey analysis was conducted using an anonymous 22-item questionnaire distributed to members of the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) and American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS). Participants were queried on demographics, practice type, and adverse events related to aesthetic facial surgeries. Results: Two hundred fifty-three individuals participated; nearly half of respondents (49.0%) held membership in both AAO-HNS and AAFPRS. Of these, 40.8% of respondents reported at least one adverse event within the past 12 months of practice. A total of 194 adverse events were reported, most commonly related to facelift (n = 59/194, 30.4%), rhinoplasty (n = 55/194, 28.4%), and injection procedures (n = 38/194, 19.6%), with hematoma or seroma being the most commonly described. Most adverse events were self-limited, but approximately 68% resulted in further procedures. Surgeon error or poor judgement (n = 42) and patient non-adherence (n = 18) were the most commonly ascribed reasons for adverse events; 37.1% of participants reported a change in clinical practice after the incident. Conclusions: Adverse events were not infrequent in facial plastic surgery. Understanding these adverse events can provide impetus for tracking outcomes, standardization, and engagement with lifelong learning, self-assessment, and evaluation of practice performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102792
JournalAmerican Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Medicine and Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • Adverse events
  • Complications
  • Facial plastic surgery
  • Patient safety
  • Quality improvement
  • Systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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