Seeking Help for a Dermal Filler Complication

Find out what to do if you experience a complication after a dermal filler tweakment

lip complication

Aesthetic treatments like dermal fillers can give you great results and help improve your confidence. However, as with many other procedures, there is always a minimal risk of a complication occurring. While any treatment can cause minor side effects such as bruising and swelling, more serious complications can occur.

To help you know what to do if you experience a dermal filler complication, in the rare event it might happen to you, we spoke to aesthetic practitioner and founder of the Aesthetic Complications Expert Group Dr Martyn King, and director of practitioner register Save Face Ashton Collins, who provided their advice.

Dr Martyn King
Dr Martyn King

Before you have your treatment

Collins advises that prior to any aesthetic treatment you should always have an in-depth conversation with your practitioner about the potential side effects and complications. She says, “You should choose your practitioner carefully and ask them questions about what they would do if you were to experience a complication. It is not the case that there are no risks, and no one can promise you nothing will go wrong. Before you have the treatment, all possible risks and complications should be explained to you and any questions you have answered.”

She highlights the importance of getting treated by a qualified medical practitioner, to ensure that any complication can be treated quickly and effectively. She explains, “It is important to choose a practitioner you can trust to help you and manage complications safely. They should either be qualified to prescribe prescription-only medicines, or you should have been seen by a prescriber. All regulated healthcare professions have a duty of care and are accountable to their regulator if they fail to look after you.”

If you suspect something isn’t quite right

If you believe that you are experiencing a complication, the first thing you should do is contact your original practitioner who performed the treatment. Dr King explains. “Although the initial contact may be via messaging, telephone or video, this is no substitute for a face-to-face assessment, and this should be arranged as soon as appropriate depending on the complication. For example, if there is a concern that there may be a vascular occlusion, they should be seen as soon as possible on the same day,” he adds.

How do you know if your complication is an emergency?

Dr King says, “After any aesthetic procedure, patients should always be given post-treatment information, which makes it easier for you to know if something isn’t right with your treatment.”

He says the signs to look out for which might mean you need to urgently see your practitioner include:

  • Blanching: the skin may become white in appearance, in a net like fashion
  • Pain: it’s normal to experience minor pain or discomfort, but if you experience severe pain you should notify your practitioner
  • Purple skin: the skin may appear dusky or purple in colour and be cool to touch
  • Capillary refill: a delayed amount of time for skin colour to return to normal after having pressure applied

If you’re in doubt, he advises that you contact and seek reassurance from your treating practitioner at the earliest opportunity.

Should you go to A&E?

Dr King notes that when experiencing a dermal filler complication, attending an Accident and Emergency department is not a good idea. He says, “A&E is often ill-prepared to deal with aesthetic complications due to lack of knowledge within this field and often not having the appropriate medication to successfully resolve the problem. For complications related to soft-tissue filler injections, commonly practitioners will need to use a drug called hyaluronidase to remove or dissolve the filler, which is not stocked in many A&E departments.”

He adds that patients should contact their treating practitioner in the first instance and only attend A&E if their practitioner has advised them to do so.

What if your practitioner doesn’t respond/doesn’t know how to help?

“If the patient is unable to contact their treating practitioner or if they are failing to respond, it is important to seek advice from an experienced and registered medical aesthetic practitioner,” says Dr King. He says it’s a good idea to ensure they have experience recognising and managing aesthetic complications.  

  • JCCP: a Government-approved register for medical aesthetic practitioners to join which oversees standards and safety in the industry 
  • Save Face: a Government-approved register that inspects aesthetic practitioners to ensure patient safety 
  • ACE Group: a group that supports medical practitioners in the management of non-surgical aesthetic complications by providing advice via telephone, email and a forum 
  • CMAC: an organisation to support clinicians worldwide in diagnosing and managing complications in medical aesthetics 

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