Rare Risks and Top Tips for Filler Treatments

Yes You Can Suffer Blindness and Stroke From Filler Treatment.

Not many people know that blindness is a rare risk of filler treatment. Even fewer know there is also a risk of stroke.

It is rare these days for patients not to be told of the risk of the risk of vascular occlusion. This uncommon complication (about one in 1,000 treatments) develops when the needle or cannula used to inject filler finds its way into one of the arteries supplying blood to the face. If filler is injected into part of one of these arteries it can block part of the blood supply to the face. This is usually recognised straight away or within a few hours and able to be treated with a series of filler dissolving injections. If all the filler is dissolved inside of five days permanent tissue death and scarring can be avoided.

Blindness and stroke occur when larger volumes of filler are injected into an artery. The arteries of the face are thin. If larger volumes of filler is injected into one of them it can travel quite a distance, sometimes to the artery that supplies oxygen to the retina in the back of the eye. And if it does reach the back of the eye it is only a few more millimetres to the brain. Filler in the retina and brain is very difficult if not impossible to remove in the few minutes available before permanent blindness or stroke occurs. Prevention is definitely better than cure because often there is no cure.

Prevention is more likely if the treating practitioner has the knowledge to minimise the risk. Some areas of the face are more dangerous than others. It only takes 0.1ml of filler to reach the retina from the frown lines between the eyes. And only 0.2ml from the nose. It probably takes at least half a ml to reach the retina from the lips which is why blindness has never occurred with lip filler treatment.

It is also important to not falsely believe that you are safe when you may not be. Some practitioners believe that blunt cannulas are safer than sharp needles because a sharp needle can more easily enter an artery. While it is true that a sharp needle is more able to enter an artery it is also able to go straight out again through the other side. That blunt cannula may be less able to get into an artery but once it's in there it stays there. This is one of the reasons why there have been more cases of blindness worldwide with blunt cannula than sharp needle treatment. The case of blindness in New Zealand occurred during treatment of a nose with a blunt cannula.

Blindness or stroke is thought to occur in about one in 200,000 treatments but the exact incidence is not known. No filler treatment is safe but, with knowledge and training, the risk can be reduced. The risk should be discussed with you by your treating practitioner. If not you may need to be concerned that they don't have the knowledge to keep you safe.

For easy peace of mind, check if your doctor is an NZSCM member - link to member directory HERE

NZSCM is the only recognised qualification in Cosmetic Medicine in NZ and our doctors follow our high NZSCM standards for Dermal Filler Treatments.

Six Top Tips for Safe Dermal Filler Treatment

  • Did you know that the use of dermal fillers like Restylane and Juvederm isn't well regulated in NZ?
  • That means you need to be cautious about who you choose to have treatment with.

How do you know if your injector is safe and well trained?

1. Did your injector tell you about the tiny risk of blindness with filler? It's extremely rare - but you should be told. Be wary of injectors who don't inform you.
2. Did your injector check if you've ever had permanent filler? Treatment near permanent filler can cause problems.
3. Does your injector have filler dissolver on hand? NZSCM doctors always have hyaluronidase for your safety.
4. Did your injector take "before" photos? They're essential to check the results of your treatment.
5. Did you injector ask if you're pregnant or breast feeding? You shouldn't have dermal filler if you are.
6. Experience counts. Ask to see before/after photos of patients actually treated by that injector. It will tell you how many patients they have treated, and show you whether their aesthetic is natural or overdone.

An easy way to identify our Members is by our accredited doctor logo: