Concerns are growing over the “double-jaw surgery” mostly performed for aesthetic purposes here, with an increasing number of people reporting serious post-op side effects.
A 27-year-old man attempted suicide by jumping into the Hangang River near Mapo-gu, northern Seoul, last month, after suffering from constant and serious jaw pain that started after going through the surgery several months ago. He was saved by a rescue team, but is reportedly still in a coma.
In a separate case, a 30-something woman died in July after she fell into a coma during a facial contouring surgery performed at another hospital in Gangnam the previous month. She was transferred to a general hospital nearby, but died. The hospital staff is being investigated on charges of accidental homicide by the police.
|A patient’s face is scanned prior to plastic surgery at a clinic in Seoul. (Bloomberg)|
The number of cases of side effects from the surgery reported to the Korea Consumer Agency surged from 29 in 2010 to 89 in 2012. An international study also revealed that Korea conducts about 5,000 double-jaw procedures each year. About 52 percent of women who underwent the procedure said they experienced major sensory problems. Other problems included misaligned teeth, difficulty chewing and jaw pain.
Cases of patients suffering from unwanted results and pain are increasing because the risks of the surgical procedure are often ignored.
“Many are not aware of the danger associated with such a radical procedure and that it carries a high risk of various complications,” said Kim Sun-jong, professor at the Department of Oral Surgery at Ewha Womans University Hospital in Seoul.
The procedure, invented in the early 20th century, involves cutting the jawbone and tissues attached to realign the upper and lower jaws. It was traditionally performed to fix functional problems with people who suffer from temporomandibular joint syndrome or congenital facial deformities. But this bone-cutting procedure was not intended for cosmetic purposes, Kim said.
The radical surgery gained unprecedented popularity here after a number of profit-seeking hospitals told customers that they could have a slimmer jawline, like celebrities on TV. The “V-shaped” chin in a beauty standard in Korea where wapperjaw, or a protruding chin, is commonly found.
“The problem occurs when (doctors) cut the jawbone when it had no functional problem at all but perform the surgery for unnecessary cosmetic purposes. Chances are high for resulting irreversible damage of the nerves and tissues attached if they are dealing with a healthy facial structure,” he said.
The doctor warned patients to consult with experienced doctors and think twice about the risks that the surgery entails.
Patients must double-check whether the hospitals they chose have anesthesiologists in residence 24 hours a day and experienced doctors who are capable of dealing with any urgent incidents, he said.
“Most of the medical emergencies from double-jaw surgery happen at night after the surgery or in the middle of the surgery. Patients must go through a series of tests to see whether their body will positively react to drugs injected into them during the surgery,” he said.
Hospitals must have enough experienced staff to check whether the patients are breathing properly after the surgery.
“Patients could suffocate to death because the swollen parts of the face could block the airway. They should be under constant observation,” he added.
By Cho Chung-un (email@example.com