Liposuction Risks

What are the risks of liposuction? Are certain types of liposuction more likely to cause complications than others?

Doctor Answers 17

Liposuction is real surgery

Liposuction has been trivialized by patients, non-plastic surgeon practitioners and the media into just a "procedure" - it is not that, it is real surgery with real risks. Have you heard ads for "lunchtime lipo"? This is ridiculous!

Liposuction should be done by properly trained surgeons in accreditied facilities with anesthesia providers present. But the law allows anybody wielding a cannula to try to tempt you to go them. They will sell you on having it done under totally local anesthesia with no anesthesia doctor present, yet just yesterday in Seattle, the news carried a story about a liposuction patient from Sonno Bello clinic (a national body sculpting chain) dying 12 hours after her "procedure" in her hotel room of local anesthetic toxicity.

Contour irregularities are common as patients have overly aggressive liposuction done, or liposuction done with laser units that encourage the naive non-plastic surgeon to go close to the skin in order to encourage the skin to shrink better. These deformities are almost impossible to repair.

Infection can be a disaster as it rampages through the liposuction tunnels where the tissue barriers to the spread of infection have benn broken down and the tunnels are filled with serum in a warm dark environment - perfct culture medium. I have known of patients who have lost limbs to this.

Besides these dangers is the fact that liposuction is the single most revised cosmetic procedure (ie. the patients aren't that happy often).

So, consider it as real surgery, be careful who you go to as there are many poorly qualified practitioners out there who want your business, make sure to have anesthesia providers present, and do it in an accreditied facility. Make sure your expectations are realistic, as it is not for weight loss but rather for spot reduction of problem areas that resist exercise and diet.

I hope this helps!

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Liposuction risks

Risks of traditional liposuction include over-resection or under-resection of tissue resulting in grooving or bumpiness to the skin, seromas, lidocaine toxicity, and permanent skin injury. Liposuction techniques using ultrasound or laser energy can result in thermal skin injuries and abnormal subcutaneous scarring. I would say that any type of liposuction performed by physicians or non-physicians that are not properly trained are more likely to result in complications. 

William T. Stoeckel, MD
Raleigh-Durham Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 49 reviews

Risks of liposuction

Liposuction is a true surgical procedure that does carry risks. However, if properly done by a board certified surgeon trained in the procedure, it can be very safe and very effective. The results are very dependent upon the skill of the surgeon. I have done many procedures over the past 28 years with minimal risks and excellent results. During your consultation, your surgeon can explain the procedure that will work best for you, and the risks involved. Do except some bruising and swelling for several weeks, and drainage for the first day. Adding specialized equipment, like laser, does increase some risks, but can give improved results.

Connie Hiers, MD
San Antonio Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 5 reviews

Liposuction risks

Liposuction an liposelection surgeries are not high risk operations, if are performed by skilled board certified plastic surgeons and on carefully assessed patients. Thrombophlebitis ( blood clots in legs ) are extremely uncommon complications very rarely seen in large volume liposuction patients. Lumpiness, waviness and skin ripples are more common undesirable results.Injuries to the underlining skin should be avoided during liposuction of face and neck areas. 

Fereydoon S. Mahjouri, MD
Minneapolis Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 13 reviews

What are the Risks of Liposuction Surgery?

Liposuction risks have been greatly reduced by having undergone the procedure under local anesthesia instead of general anesthesia.  The advent of tumescent technique local with the micro canulas have revolutionized the procedure and resulted in amazing results and almost no blood loss at all but there are some risks still present. Dimpling and burning holes in the skin with permanent discolorations are more common with the laser liposuctions and should be avoided since it was more gimmicky and not worth the increased risks and problems and that is why  it is cheaper now. Shock and death from pulmonary emboli was seen more commonly with gen. anesth but still can occur.  Infections are possible but if done by a qualified surgeon such as a derm surgeon in an accredited facility you greatly reduce those risks.  Contour irregularities can occur but since we are able to stand patients up and put them in all sorts of positions during the procedure since they are totally awake, this allows for much more fine tuning and assure the patient of the smoothest results possible.  Numbness or unusual sensations occur for the 1st 3 months but may be permanent but is rare.  Overall it is a great procedure with amazing results.  Enjoy the new you!  Sincerely,

David Hansen,MD

David Hansen, MD
Beverly Hills Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Liposuction risks

as with any surgical procedure, there are risks. There are small risks of bleeding and infection that are quite rare. There are risks of temporary waviness or dimpling of the skin due to swelling. There are temporary risks of sensation changes in your skin. There is the risk of the skin not tightening up and remaining loose after the procedure. The more rare problems of a perforation into the abdomen where internal organs lie, is luckily very very rare. In experienced and well trained hands, such as those of a board certified plastic surgeon, the risk profile is minimized as we are trained to take measures to limit those risks.

Julio Garcia, MD
Las Vegas Plastic Surgeon
4.0 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Liposuction Risks

Probably the biggest risk is choosing your surgeon carelessly or perhaps shopping just based on price. A trained and experienced surgeon, operating in a safe O.R. environment is your most important insurance against potential complications. No surgery is risk free however, even in the best of hands. The risks of liposuction are disatisfaction or disappointment with the result, infection, excessive bleeding, injury of vital organs, wound healing problems and anesthetic related complications. Proper evaluation of the patient's health and medical history, utilization of appropriate anesthesia care givers and surgeon experience reduce these potential risks to acceptable levels. Best of Luck  Dr Harrell

Jon F. Harrell, DO
Miami Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 35 reviews

Risks of liposuction

The main risk of liposuction is waviness, rippling or depressions. They are caused by a lack of skill by the surgeon in removing the fat unequally. Unfortunately, anyone with a medical license can legally perform a liposuction, so make sure your doctor had certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Be sure to ask about the doctor's redo rate.

Howard T. Bellin, MD (retired)
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
2.5 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

Successful Liposuction techniques

Modern liposuction surgery one of the safest surgical procedures, if done by a well trained, experienced and thorough surgeon.  To achieve this safety the surgeon needs to adhere to a number of guidelines, such as impeccable technique that causes minimal blood loss and minimal tissue trauma, proper fluid management, proper monitoring and use of proper surgical facilities.  Some of the complications of liposuction (other then sub-par aesthetic result) are fat embolism, fluid overload, infection, etc.  In a well ran practice these complications are extremely rare.

Unfortunately there are a few instances of well publicized complications during liposuction.  Typically this involved surgeons with less than adequate training using improper surgical setting and having poor judgment.  It is imperative that the surgeon performing this procedure has lots of experience and a great track record.  In addition do not compromise and insist that this procedure is done in a proper surgical setting.

Boris M. Ackerman, MD
Newport Beach Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

Risks of Liposuction

Dr. Richard Dolsky wrote a wonderful reply. In addition, some people notice focal areas of increased sensitivity while others might have areas of numbness. Indentations and raised nodules, either from localized inflammation or underresectiton, can occur. Hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation (darker and lighter skin color) and hypertrophic / raised or keloid scars can develop from the insertion sites where the cannulae are introduced.Rapid heart beat, toxic levels of local anesthetic related to administration of a larger volume than indicated, or a medication that is taken daily interfering with the metabolism of the local anesthetic, perforation of an organ (rare during awake tumescent anesthetic), allergic reactions to the disinfectant, or local anesthetic, bleeding, hematoma (collection of blood under the skin), seroma (collection of serum, not blood, under the skin), bruising, blistering and other side effects and complications can occur.

The older type of ultrasonic liposuction caused some problems with ulceration and burns when the cannula were not moved enough and the heat damaged the skin through which the instrument was inserted. Experience has improved technique and the prevalence of this complication had decreased, but the technique itself is used less these days as more doctors have switched to laser-assisted liposuction if they do not perform straight tumescent liposuction.

Ronald Shelton, MD
Manhattan Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.