A short note about risk

As you will appreciate, there are risks with any medical or surgical procedure. These risks vary, and some of the variation will depend on the procedure itself, whilst other influences will include your medical and genetic background, smoking and sun exposure history and more.

On the whole, the incidence of surgical/medical risk is quoted according to population studies. In other words, a study may, for example, look at 1000 patients undergoing a particular procedure and work out the number (or percentage) who get a wound infection. They may find that, say, 5% of the study population get a wound infection. This figure may then be used as an indication of the likelihood (or risk) of getting a wound infection if undergoing this particular procedure.

So, if you then read that there is (in this example) a 5% risk of wound infection it gives you some information. However, whist you may hear that there is a 5% risk, it does not (and can not) tell you whether you will be in the 5% who get the wound infection, or the 95% of people who do not! So, perhaps not as helpful a statistic as it appears at very first glance…

How you interpret this statistic is also very individual and varies between people.

In addition, how the risk is presented to you can significantly influence your thoughts. For example, you may feel that 5% is quite a low risk, however, if you were told that the risk of infection was 1 in 20, you may feel that is high. In reality of course, these statistics are exactly the same.

At the end of the day, no-one can undergo a procedure with zero risk. Therefore everyone must weigh up the pros and cons of exposing themselves to risk, and then take a view on whether they feel it is “worth” exposing themselves to risks – of a complication, an adverse outcome or the risk of potential dissatisfaction with a procedure.

Surgery is not an exact science – there are factors out of the control of the surgeon and the patient. These are a result of genetics, smoking history, sun exposure, environmental factors, and many more.

Whilst risk cannot be eliminated, it can be minimised and I will always strive to do this, with my advice, surgical technique, and after care instructions. Importantly, if you are unlucky enough to have a complication, I will always ensure I look after you and get you through it.

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