Liposuction Risks

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

Doctor Answers 21

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!

Liposuction risks

Liposuction is a surgical procedure which is performed using different techniques by different specialties. Plastic surgeons typically perform the procedure with general anesthesia while dermatologic surgeons typically perform the procedure, comfortably, with local anesthesia (often with an oral medications to help you relax  to lessen the discomfort from the anesthetic injection). Many complications have been reported over the years. However, techniques have been improved over time. Today, the risks of liposuction include bleeding, infection, unevenness, asymmetry, dimpling or rippling of the skin and persistent swelling from fluid accumulation.

The safest technique is the tumescent technique of liposuction. Associated with minimal bruising and  quicker recovery, patients usually return to a desk job in 3 days. The tumescent technique is typically performed in an office facility. There is published scientific data from across the US regarding the safety of this technique. TUMESCENT LIPOSUCTION IS CONSIDERED THE GOLD STANDARD against which all other techniques are compared. There is a limit to how much local anesthesia can be safely administered, depending on your body weight, the medications you take and your general health.  Usually, this is not an issue because the ideal candidate for liposuction is close to ideal body weight and needs limited stubborn areas removed. If you have multiple areas or large to be liposuctioned, it is possible that the best plan is to treat the areas in two sessions to prevent exceeding the safe limit of local anesthetic for you. 

Your dermatologic surgeon will advise you about how all of these risks can be minimized by paying careful attention to preparation for the procedure and recovery.  To keep your procedure simple, my recommendation is to find a board-certified dermatologic surgeon ( the ASDS website a useful resource) experienced in liposuction to get the best results the first time.

Renuka Diwan, MD
Cleveland Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 8 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 35 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 Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 38 reviews

Liposuction Safety

I was the first surgeon to teach liposuction to other doctors in the United States and have taught safe liposuction techniques in more than 20 countries around the world.

When liposuction is performed in an accredited (AAAHC, JCAHCO) facility by a trained physician, who follows published clinical safety guidelines, it is a remarkably safe procedure.

There are risks in any surgery; liposuction is surgery! There is no such thing as non surgical or minimally invasive Liposuction. Complications are rare, but do occur. They include scars, infections, blood loss, abdominal perforation, ripples, asymmetry, poor cosmetic result, DVT.

In 1989, I chaired the first committee to publish safety guidelines for Liposuction. The American Society of Liposuction Surgery and the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgeons updates the safety guidelines every two years.

Ask these questions before scheduling liposuction: Is the surgeon trained and experienced? Do not be fooled by extensive advertising. Is the facility accredited or state licensed? Does it look like a hospital operating room and have all the safety, monitoring, and resuscitation equipment found in a hospital OR? Will an anesthesiologist or a CRNA be present? A surgeon should never do both the surgery and the anesthesia/monitoring. Will the surgeon use Tumescent infiltration? Even if general, epidural , or sedation is used, tumescent infiltration must be used for safe liposuction.

Every surgery has risks; properly performed liposuction has a 30 year record for safety.

Richard L. Dolsky, MD
Philadelphia Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews

Types of liposuction and likelihood of complications


If you want to be safe start by asking for the best liposuction surgeon and insist that your operation be done in a AAAASF / Medicare approved facility.

While there is no denying that a single knife stab wound is quite invasive.

Yet, it still amazes me how commercial interests have convinced THOUSANDS of American that if this proverbial knife is replaced with a sterile, shiny, fat-vacuuming steel tube (IE cannula), and instead of being stabbed once or twice, you will be stabbed hundreds of times, liposuction is somehow magically transformed into a "non or mini-invasive procedure" which ANYONE, regardless of their training and board certification can easily and safely do.

- You could be hurt by an overdose of Lidocaine in the Tumescent solution
- You can be hurt by an allergic reaction of an overdose of the intravenous medications given to sedate you (especially without a MD or CRNA anesthesiologist / anesthetist there to watch over you)
- you could bleed
- you could develop a rip roaring infection (especially if the facility you have your surgery in does not have specific protocols for sterility)
- your liposuction doctor could stab through an unrecognized hernia and puncture your bowels
- you could have areas of large asymmetry
- with laser lipo you could have areas of burns to the skin and permanent discoloration

Start by picking a surgeon who is a member of The American Society of Plastic Surgeons ( Visit a few and ask them all your questions. Pick the one you feel the most comfortable with and you will guarantee yourself the least amount of potential complications.

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 93 reviews

Liposuction risks

Liposuction, when performed by a skilled and experienced provider such as a board certified plastic surgeon, is extremely safe and good outcomes are the norm.  While there are various forms of liposuction that use technology to make the procedure more effective, none are considered safer than others.


Shim Ching, MD

Shim Ching, MD
Honolulu Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Liposuction Has Limited Risks

Liposuction is an excellent method for treating localized fat collections.The procedure significantly improves contour and is associated with high satisfaction rates.In addition, the procedure is considered safe and has low complication rates.

The majority of liposuction complications are related to inadequate aesthetic results.These include contour irregularities, dimpling of the skin, skin sag and asymmetry.In addition, infection, bleeding, scarring, hematoma formation, injury to the deeper structures and aesthetic complications may also be associated with this procedure.

The majority of these complications resolve with time, and in most cases can be treated with additional revisional liposuction.Ultimately, the vast majority of patients are satisfied with their results following this procedure.

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
4.5 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

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 75 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.