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Are There Any Risks Associated with Labiaplasty?

Any surgical procedure carries with it some risks, and labiaplasty is no different. There are minor risks or side effects of general anesthesia, such as nausea, drowsiness, and feeling ‘out of it’ for up to 24 hours after surgery. During this period, you are not permitted to drive, and we advise you to not make any important business decisions and to stay off your social media!

When you are lying asleep on the table and not moving during surgery, there is a small risk of blood clots forming in your leg veins where the blood becomes stagnant. This is known as ‘deep venous thrombosis’ (DVT). This is the same small risk for anyone having any surgery longer than one hour, and is extremely rare unless you are known to be a carrier of a blood clotting genetic disorder.

In order to prevent DVT from occurring, all our patients have double coverage against this complication. All patients wear tight compression stockings known as ‘TED hose’ before they go to sleep. A second level of precaution involves wearing sequential compression devices, or ‘SCDs,’ which are pumps placed on the calves and/or thighs that take over the action of the leg muscles during general anesthesia.

As soon as you wake up and move your legs normally, the risk of blood clots forming in the legs is over. However, we recommend that you continue to wear the compression stockings for at least 1–2 days following surgery since the entire body will retain fluid after any surgery for a few days. This will help to prevent leg and ankle swelling after all types of Plastic Surgery.

Other potential complications specific to labiaplasty include:

Bleeding – Bleeding is rare DURING surgery, as long as a patient’s heart rate and blood pressure are low or normal throughout the operation. Labiaplasty done with the patient awake under local anesthesia can be very stressful (for both doctor and patient!), and carries with it risks of high blood pressure and faster heart rate, which can increase bleeding risk. This is one of the reasons why general anesthesia is used – to prevent increased bleeding during a labiaplasty.

Bleeding AFTER surgery is also rare. We recommend taking a week off work after labiaplasty surgery and avoiding exercise for at least 3–4 weeks post-treatment. Sex can typically be resumed in 3–6 weeks, or when a woman feels comfortable and the swelling has resolved after surgery.

Infection – Like after any surgery that makes an incision, infection can occur, although it is very rare after labiaplasty. We prescribe prophylactic (preventative) antibiotics for several days following surgery, though these are optional if a woman prefers not to take oral antibiotics.

I have actually never seen a bacterial infection after labiaplasty! Some women are extremely sensitive to antibiotics and prone to yeast infections with a change in their local vaginal bacteria after antibiotics. Taking probiotics can help prevent against yeast infections. If a yeast infection does develop, we prescribe a single oral dose of an antifungal (Fluconazole) to treat this condition.

Asymmetry – No two parts of the body will ever be 100% symmetrical. And after a labiaplasty, while symmetry is the goal, there will be some residual areas that differ very slightly from side to side. This is normal and completely expected, even after having this delicate form of Plastic Surgery.

Swelling and bruising – These occurrences are not really complications, but rather ‘expected temporary happenings’ after any surgical procedure. The swelling, known as ‘edema,’ tends to peak at about 3 days after surgery and takes at least 3 weeks to go down. Bruising can be minor, moderate, or severe depending on your body, its ability to stop bleeding naturally, and your natural bruising tendency.

Some of us are ‘bruisers,’ others are not. Most patients have mild bruising for a couple of days, which dissipates over a week or so. We recommend stopping all anti-inflammatory medications such as Aspirin™, Ibuprofen, Aleve, MOTRIN®, Advil®, and Excedrin® for 2 weeks before any Plastic Surgery procedure (labiaplasty included), and to not resume them for around 2 weeks after surgery.

We also provide our patients with a list of supplements we recommend discontinuing prior to having surgery, as many of these can increase bleeding or bruising risk. The complete list can be found my website’s preparing for surgery AND the postoperative instructions page.

Temporary numbness – Numbness of the area that has been operated on (and sometimes the surrounding area) is also expected after Plastic Surgery. The sensory nerves that provide sensation to the area ‘go to sleep’ and take several days—and sometimes weeks—to start to wake up. This is called ‘anesthesia’ of the surgical site.

Following a brief period of complete numbness, ‘pins and needles’-like sensations begin, like when your foot falls asleep and you get a strong return of sensation in the area. After Plastic Surgery, the return of sensation is more gradual, but pins and needles-like sensations are common and temporary.

Full return of sensation is expected, including both normal sensation and sexual stimulation and ability to orgasm.

For more details on these potential risks of labiaplasty and what we do to help prevent them for my patients, please don’t hesitate to contact my practice online today or call 415-923-3067 to schedule a labiaplasty consultation.

Thinking you might benefit from a labiaplasty is nothing to be embarrassed or shy about!  I will answer all your questions and address every concern you may have about labiaplasty.

– Dr. Karen Horton, Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon

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Dr. Karen M. Horton, M.D. - Plastic Surgery, Physicians & Surgeons - Medical-M.D., San Francisco, CA