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 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.

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 5 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 27 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
4.5 out of 5 stars 11 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

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 33 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
4.5 out of 5 stars 12 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

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 3 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.