Liposuction Surgery Risks and Complications

When considering a lipoplasty procedure, it is important to consider the risks. A surgical complication is any undesirable result of surgery, and the most common complication of liposuction is a result that causes the patient to be unhappy. This is usually caused by unrealistic expectations by the patient before the surgery, so it is imperative that there is accurate communication between the surgeon and the patient.

Too much liposuction can cause the greatest risks when undergoing the procedure. When a surgeon does too much surgery on the same day including removing an excess volume of fat, liposuction on an excessive number of body parts, or combining liposuction with other surgical procedures all on the same day can cause trauma to the patient and prolonged exposure to anesthesia.

Minor complications that are common include

  • Superficial irregularities to the skin
  • Seromas and/or Hematomas
  • Focal skin necrosis
  • Allergic reactions to drugs
  • Scars, whether visible or disfiguring
  • Fainting during or after surgery
  • Discoloration of the skin
  • Temporary bruising
  • Numbness or nerve injury
  • Temporary adverse drug reactions

Although these complications are all considered minor, many of them can be quite serious and cause harm or injury to the patient.

It is impossible to determine that a surgical procedure is completely safe, because safety is a relative term. However, it is reasonable to compare two procedures to determine if one is relatively safer than the other. This is why it is important for prospective liposuction patients to strive to understand the options available and to then make an informed decision about the safest procedure for them.

Tumescent Liposuction Risks

One of the newest and most common liposuction techniques is the tumescent technique. The tumescent technique is different from regular liposuction because areas of fat are injected with a large amount of anesthetic before the procedure is performed.  This causes the areas of fat to become “tumesced” or swollen and firm. This allows the liposuction cannula to travel smoothly beneath the skin as it is removing the fat.

The reason tumescent liposuction works well is that it is a great technique for enhanced precision and definition of a body part. The anesthesia requirements are less as is blood loss. Therefore, a person looking for an easier procedure might choose this option. In addition, good candidates for the tumescent liposuction technique include those who have large areas of excess fat.

There are risks with this type of procedure as with any liposuction surgery and these risks can be minimized by hiring a board certified plastic surgeon that has lots of experience with this type of technique. The risks specifically associated with the tumescent technique include pulmonary edema, which can occur if too much fluid is administered, as well as lidocane toxicity.

The best anesthesia option for many patients is general and for others the anesthetic contained in the solution combined with sedation may provide the best comfort level during the procedure. If your doctor feels it is appropriate, the tumescent solution itself may serve as the only form of anesthesia.

Although rare, there are several severe complications associated with liposuction including

  • Problems with anesthesia
  • Blood clots in the leg or lung
  • Injury to the abdominal organs
  • Excessive intravenous fluids
  • Excessive blood loss
  • Hypothermia, infections
  • Allergic reactions to drugs
  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Cardiac arrest and cardiac arrhythmias
  • Potential permanent nerve damage
  • Brain damage due to a lack of oxygen while under general anesthesia
  • Seizures

There are also several drugs, which if taken by a patient after having liposuction, can increase bleeding and cause other complications such as a hematoma, or excessive bleeding. These common drugs include aspirin, ibuprofen, and warfarin, because they interfere with normal clotting of blood. In addition, vitamin E, red wine, and some herbal medications can cause bleeding. Your doctor should provide you with a long list of drugs not to take because they interfere with clotting.

Anesthesia also causes risks at both the local and general levels. It is important to make sure your anesthesia is administered by a board certified anesthesiologist, and that the risks are weighed and discussed by you and your doctor.

Liposuction can be a great choice for someone looking to lose a little fat, but it is important to consider the risks and weigh all safety concerns before undergoing the procedure.

Updated: May 2, 2016
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