Any surgical procedure carries inherent risks, and complications, while rare, can be severe. Gender reassignment surgery (GRS), like other surgeries, carries risks that, in very rare instances, can be life-threatening. It’s important to note, however, that deaths directly attributable to gender reassignment surgery are extremely rare.
Here are some of the potential risks associated with GRS:
- Anesthesia Complications: As with any procedure that requires anesthesia, there’s a risk of complications such as allergic reactions or breathing difficulties.
- Hemorrhage and Hematoma: Uncontrolled bleeding or the pooling of blood can occur with any surgery.
- Infection: Any surgical wound can potentially become infected.
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Pulmonary Embolism: These are risks with any surgery, especially procedures that involve long operative times or prolonged immobility post-operatively.
- Wound Dehiscence: This refers to the surgical wound reopening either internally or externally.
- Necrosis: This is tissue death that can affect the skin or other tissues, such as in the case of nipple grafts or parts of a neophallus or neovagina.
- Urinary Complications: Especially relevant for surgeries that involve the urinary tract, like vaginoplasty or phalloplasty. Complications might include fistulas (unexpected openings), strictures (narrowings), or urinary incontinence.
- Loss of Sensation: Some patients might experience reduced or lost sensation in the surgical area.
- Unsatisfactory Aesthetic or Functional Outcomes: The results might not look or function as the patient expected.
- Psychological or Emotional Distress: Some individuals might experience depression, anxiety, or dissatisfaction post-operatively, even if the surgery is technically successful.
When considering GRS or any surgical procedure, it’s essential to:
- Discuss all potential risks, benefits, and alternatives with an experienced surgeon.
- Ensure the surgical facility is accredited and maintains high standards of care.
- Follow all pre-operative and post-operative instructions carefully.
- Seek psychological or emotional support as needed.
Many individuals find that the benefits of gender reassignment surgery—such as aligning one’s body with one’s gender identity and improving overall mental health and well-being—far outweigh the risks. However, informed consent, understanding potential complications, and being prepared are crucial components of the surgical journey.