When Plastic Surgery Goes Wrong

After four pregnancies, Denise Hendry, wife of ex-Scottish soccer pro Colin Hendry, decided to go under the knife to help flatten her tummy, a decision she regretted for years afterwards, and ultimately, paid for with her life.

During a 2002 liposuction procedure, Hendry suffered nine punctures to her bowels and colon, resulting in blood poisoning, renal failure, cardiac arrest, and a collapsed lung, according to a report published in the U.K. paper The Daily Mail.

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Over the next seven years, she would undergo several more procedures as surgeons attempted to rebuild her abdominal wall and give her a functioning colon, though these surgeries would all prove unsuccessful.

In a recently released excerpt from her diary at the time, Hendry wrote, "I wish I could turn back the clock about six years... this is an awful nightmare. I just want my life back together for my kids' and Colin's sake. This is so unfair."

During a final procedure this past spring, Hendry contracted meningitis from an epidural catheter and after two and a half months in intensive care, the mother of four died from massive brain damage July 10, according to U.K. press reports.

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In her diary, she wrote that she was "angry that those responsible can go home at night and be with their families and I can't; angry that not enough care was taken during the operation," adding that what happened to her was "a risk that was never discussed" and would have made her opt out of the optional procedure had she known, the Daily Mail reports.

Minimizing Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery Risks

Hendry is far from the first to have experienced the risks associated with cosmetic surgery. In 2007, rap star Kanye West's 58-year-old mother, Donda West, died following complications linked to a tummy tuck and breast reduction.

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Despite high-profile cases like those of Hendry and West, deaths related to cosmetic surgery -- at least those performed in accredited centers -- are rare. While surgeons in the United States perform millions of plastic and cosmetic surgery procedures every year, the mortality rate associated with these procedures is only about two deaths for every 100,000 procedures, according to a 2008 study.

But while deadly complications from cosmetic surgeries are uncommon, as with non-cosmetic surgeries, surgeons are quick to point out that there are always risks involved -- risks that anyone going under the knife should be aware of.

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"Any cosmetic surgery has the same basic risk of infections as any surgical procedure would have -- though usually minor, these risks can be life threatening," says Dr. Malcolm Roth, director of plastic surgery at Maimondes Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and vice president of the American Society for Plastic Surgeons.

"Any time someone is put under anesthesia for a procedure, there's an incredibly small risk of not waking up, [but] if you have other medical problems, that risk can be much higher," he says.

These risks do tend to be "somewhat lower" notes Dr. Garry Brody, professor emeritus at the division of plastic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine, "because it's healthy people electing to have surgery," and generally not those with pre-existing medical concerns.

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