Will Liposuction Kill You?

Julie Clark Robinson on 17 May 2011 at 9:00am

Thirty-two year old realtor Krista Stryland went in for some post-baby lipo at the Toronto Cosmetic Clinic on September 20, 2007, and never got to enjoy her new waistline.  She died a few hours later after being found unresponsive in the recovery room; at issue is the fact that 911 wasn’t called for 40 minutes.  The coroner said that the delay in treatment likely made the difference between life and death for the young mother.

This week’s decision by the Ontario College of Physcians and Surgeons found the surgeon, Behnaz Yazdanfar, incompetent and guilty of medical misconduct.  The committee conducted a complete hearing and found that Yazdanfar removed 6.6 litres of fat in spite of Ontario’s guidelines that restrict the maximum of five. 

The penalty hearings are next in the case.  What can the doc expect?  His license could be suspended or revoked, or he could be slapped with a fine.

Krista Stryland died from liposuction

So, was Ms. Stryland the unluckiest person in the world or is there more to ponder here?  Consider this:  917 plastic surgeons reported 95 deaths in more than 496,000 liposuction cases. (Blood clots, or pulmonary embolisms, are the most common cause of death following liposuction.)

Let’s do a little math:

  • That’s roughly 19 deaths per 100,000.
  • Death rates for non-essential surgeries are 1 in 100,000.
  • Death rates for car accidents are 16 per 100,000.
  • Of those who died, up to 75% of them had their surgeries performed in a clinic rather than a hospital.  Most of these patients seemed stable and were sent home before complications arose.

RealSelf member NYgemini shared her alarming close call several weeks post lipo. After having fat in both legs removed, one was incredibly painful and swollen several weeks later.  She called her doctor’s office and was told it was a normal part of recovery.  It wasn’t until the next week when she landed in the hospital with a massive blood clot that she learned if she had gotten on a plane (as she was scheduled to do the following day!) she would’ve died. 

Even with the risks and horror stories, there are many healthy and satisfied liposuction customers on RealSelf.  

Dr. Robert T. Buchanan, a Highlands Plastic Surgeon, offers his take on the staggering statistics.  “Unfortunately, we are now seeing many untrained physicians doing Liposuction with little realization of the potential problems that can occur.  My advice is to pick a surgeon who has significant experience and operates only in a certified facility.”  

I know the first place I'd look if I were considering lipsosuction.  You?

Do stories like this scare you away from cosmetic enhancements, or just encourage you to do more homework?

Liposuction before and after

Photo credit: Wikimedia, Toronto Star files


Comments (9)

The patients I know did not minimize their surgeries. Their health and well being was top priority for them. The patients I am aware of did research and felt that they were going with the best doctors; in most cases I know of they went to highly referred, board certified plastic surgeons. Some of the patients I know were healthy, active people before surgery, but were not able to be healthy and active afterwards due to the harm they experienced as a direct result of liposuction. The patients either went in for a small amount of liposuction, or they went in for breast reconstruction or reduction in which the surgeons added on a "small amount" of liposuction as part of the operation. The liposuction surgery destroyed them. I am personally aware of four people who were disabled; also three additional people that had their long-term health, (and their formerly good body types), destroyed. I know of others whose loved ones have died from blood clots and fat embolism due to liposuction. Fat embolism isn't always fatal, but it does occur from liposuction. I'm not aware that any of these stories made the news, so many of the harm goes on unnoticed, perhaps unnoticed by doctors as a whole, and covered up by some individual doctors in attempts to avoid liability. Fat embolus syndrome is said to occur due to the mechanical trauma to fat deposits (via liposuction) in all of the rats tested, and the blood specimens had fat particles for the long-term. Skin adherence, damaged viscera, other structural damage, chronic pain, disfiguration... These aspects of morbidity, (in addition to mortality), are vital to understanding the harm that patients are experiencing as a result of liposuction. No matter how you spin it, there is a wealth of risks and resultant harm due to liposuction. Reviews, etc are all over the place now as the surgery becomes more widely performed. There is not a national or global registry that follows patients long-term after liposuction. If there was a registry, the patients should have their say because a bad outcome for a patient may include chronic pain and fat cell hypertrophy in untreated areas of their body regardless of the fact that they followed with their same, balanced exercise and diet. The loss of feminine curves is a big complaint from patients. Loose and grafted skin -- big problems. Change in homeostasis, menstrual cycles of women of all ages, change in blood sugar levels. Who is following up for the long-term with liposuction patients? The statistics on file are not good as it is, however if each patient were to be followed for the long-term, I believe those statistics would be so much worse. I am aware of people who were sent home from liposuction surgeries (with "top" doctors) in great physical distress. These people never recovered. There are not clear statistics on them anywhere to my knowledge and understanding.
I agree Cha Cha, it seems that whenever someone promotes liposuction and makes excuses for adverse outcomes they try to blame those on non-board certified practitioners; really it's the procedure itself that causes so so much harm. When someone looks at the amount of satisfied people on RS it's at around 73%. Well that is not a 'real' statistic because it doesn't account for people who became unsatisfied customers or harmed people and who did not come back and change their review. And if even 25 out of 100 people were unsatisfied with something, I think that should make people pause and take notice. Unfortunately that's difficult because docs make excuses for those numbers. And those excuses are not documented and are merely opinions, not facts. There is no evidence that supports what they are saying. Yet people blithely repeat it as if it were true. They do so because a 'doctor' repeats it, and they don't make the connection that the doctor is also trying to sell and market a procedure which for some reason is allowed by law even though it is associated with so much harm and adverse events.
Yes, I like this post. It gives us a lot of importance of liposuction
Me too. I wish I'd gone to local surgeons instead. At least more down to earth and less likely to 'experiment'.
Agreed. Ethics are paramount and patients don't place enough emphasis on character. We are all too ready to make allowances for personality, when it's this that can often dictate an outcome. Its probably the first thing I would consider when picking a surgeon now. Particularly the 'big names' to whom people flock due to these boards. This case proves that everyone's out for themselves. You're never more vulnerable than when you're knocked out; the worst thing ever if you get them on a bad day, they can do whatever they want and you have no power to stop them. I know bad outcomes are always possible but It's becoming exceptionally difficult for patients to assess their surgeon, as it is for surgeons to assess us.
It's a jungle out there in plastic surgery land and I got badly mauled by a couple who call themselves " the best."
Every now and then even a good real plastic surgeon can be a sociopath and just demolish somebody on a whim and know that nothing will happen. That must be such feeling of omnipotence for them.
I don't know whether you've ever read the vanity fair article on "The Runaway Nose Doctor", but that's an extreme case in point.
This just further points out that liposuction is real surgery and not just a "procedure." Patients who want to minimize that and go to non-plastic surgeons in non-accredited facilities and be sold on all the hype on the radio are putting themselves right into harm's way. With so many good real plastic surgeons out there, there is no need to take unnecessary extra risk.