Considering Abdominoplasty but Worried About Anesthesia Deaths?

I'm considering an abdominoplasty and am *very* worried about undergoing general anesthesia. I'm aware that the risks of death are low, but in doing internet research I came across some very concerning examples, including 2 women who died at a top NY hospital. I have been unable to find more current info on those cases, but they have me strongly leaning against doing this. Isn't there any alternative to going under?

Doctor Answers 10

Anesthetic complications with tummy tucks

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are extremely rare.  If you're in good health, you really shouldn't have any concerns.  Yet, if your fear of general anesthesia is overwhelming, you can consider having a spinal as mentioned or some doctors are magicians at managing conscious sedation and local anesthetics (I am not).  If your doctor and anesthesiologist are not asking you many questions about your health history during your consultation with them, or asking another doctor to do your history and physical exam, I would be worried too.

Redding Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

Anesthesia for Tummy Tuck

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There is an alternative for general anesthesia for Abdominoplasty, but it is complicated and I would not consider it. The risks of the anesthesia for tummy tuck in quite small. The higher risk is for development of a blood clot in your legs within the first month after surgery and then this breaking off and going to your lungs. Far more people have this and die from this than the anaesthesia. The risk of this is, fortunately, very small also. Those risks can be reduced by using compressive stockings and, if indicated, a blood thinner. Whatever you do, make sure your surgeon uses all precautions to reduce all risks and that your Anesthesiologist is Board Certified. Postoperatively, you should not sit or stand, but keep your feet elevated or be walking or exercising your legs..

Robert T. Buchanan, MD
Highlands Plastic Surgeon

Anesthesia and Tummy Tucks

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There are risks associated with anesthesia and any surgical operation.  However, if the correct precautions are taken (important to follow your doctor's pre-op instructions) and if the patient is healthy and a good candidate for surgery, the risks are very low.  Schedule a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon to discuss your concerns about tummy tucks and anesthesia associated with the surgery.

Norman M. Rowe, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 62 reviews

Risk of anesthesia in tummy tuck

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It is very common for patients to be concerned about the risks of anesthesia.  I am glad that you are doing research and considering all aspects of surgery before embarking on the procedure.  My patients often ask about this.  Many women who are having abdominoplasty have young children and patients are very concerned that something will happen to them during surgery.  It is scary when you read about deaths related to surgery.  As you noted,unfortunately we do not have the details of the 2 cases you mentioned.  Keep in mind that one reason you hear about deaths related to plastic surgery is because it is so unusual.  The fact is that anesthesia is very safe.  Since aesthetic surgery is elective, most plastic surgeons will perform procedures only on patients who are in excellent health, which of course decreases your risk of anesthesia related complication.  When there are deaths associated with plastic surgery, one often finds that the patient was a poor medical candidate for surgery, was having a long surgery with multiple procedures or was having liposuction combined with other procedures.  These situations are avoidable.  You should discuss your concerns with your board certified plastic surgeon.  Look for a plastic surgeon who is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, performs medical clearance on all patients, uses a board certified anesthesiologist for anesthesia, operates in an accredited operating room, and limits the number of procedures performed at one time. If you are still concerned about general anesthesia, there are some plastic surgeons who perform tummy tucks without general anesthesia and you may be able to find one in your local area.  Hope this helps.

Tracy M. Pfeifer, MD

Tracy Pfeifer, MD
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Tummy tuck and anesthesia

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Dear blues4525,

   Abdominoplasty is an extermely safe procedure as long as you do it with an experienced board certified plastic surgeon , an experienced board certified anesthesiologist and in accredited surgery center like AAAASF etc. You as a patient, have to be healthy .  If you have a medical problem or you are over the age of 45, you have to to have a physical and be cleared by a board certified internist. In addition, after surgery you need to drink lots of fluids, ambulate and use incentive spirometer. If you do your due diligence,  follow the above instructions and get a close follow up by your doctor , you are very safe . In 22 years of operating in my accredited surgery center, I never had a death.

                                          All the best,



Anesthetic deaths after tummy tuck

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I am very glad that you asked this question.  The risks of anesthesia in a healthy person are extremely rare, particularly when combined with an elective procedure such as a tummy tuck.  However, when you combine it with one or more risk factors such as heart disease, morbid obesity, lung disease, or other metabolic conditions, this risk becomes higher and higher, and possibly quite significant.  Deaths that have been brought to light in the media refer to situations where safety was not a priority and "red flags" were ignored.  By choosing a surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, you can be assured that this physicians have the core skills and expertise to perform these procedures, but also be assured that safety is their priority.  Ultimately you, the patient, has to educate yourself as much as possible about embarking on this journey and feel comfortable that your surgeon is listening to your needs and placing your safety in the forefront.

Tito Vasquez, MD, FACS
Southport Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

Anesthesia deaths during tummy tuck

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Three patients died in the entire US last year during abdominoplasty, when surgery was performed by board certified plastic surgeons. I believe that what you are referring is were the deaths of two women undergoing cosmetic surgery at Manhattan Eye & Ear several years ago; to the best of my recollection, neither had a tummy tuck and they were not under general anesthesia. General anesthesia is extremely safe. I do not believe that an epidural is the solution; this is a 3+ hour operation and it is essential for the patient not to move. It is important to have the procedure in an accredited facility with an anesthesiologist. Notwithstanding my Joint Commission accreditation, I personally am uncomfortable performing this procedure in my own facility and take patients to a surgicenter at which more than one anesthesiologist is available at all times Honestly, we drill for accreditation and one of my office manager's favorite drills is for the anesthesiologist to have a heart attack during the operation---to see how the staff would manage such an eventuality (and no, we haven't ever tried this one with a live patient on the OR table!). I would never guarantee anything as there are no guarantees in life but I think you should speak to a board certified plastic surgeon and his anesthesia team to put your mind at ease.

There are no guarantees in life

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People get killed crossing the street. For a young healthy person having a tummy tuck, the odds of dying are probably less than 1 in a million. The deaths at manhattan eye and ear were not in healthy patients. I don't believe that epidural is the answer, no matter what anesthesia, you will have some sedation, here I find that my anesthesiologist is the best one to decide what kind of anesthesia you have. Their goal is to have you walk in and walk out safely. Today with all of the modern drugs and monitoring equipment, anesthesia is very safe. Life is not.

William B. Rosenblatt, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

Deaths under abdominoplastia lower risk than cardiological surgery anywhere

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if you full fill the whole requirements no tobacco, not excesive oveerweight,no cardiological , allergic, diabetes, bleeding problem and you  go to surgery with any  "ASAPS" plastic  aesthetic surgeon i guarantee the  risks lower to 0.5%

Ramon Navarro, MD
Mexico Plastic Surgeon

Abdominoplasty can be done under epidural anesthesia.

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1)  The first point is: you don't need general anesthesia since you are  worried about it.  Epidural anesthesia is an excellent option.

2)  You will find horror stories about any operation.  These usually represent avoidable errors such as poor patient selection (not healthy or too overweight or too old or on too many medications, etc.) or bad judgement (for example, combining abdominoplasty with several other procedures).

3)  The truth is abdominoplasty, when properly done in a controlled setting on the appropriate patient, is very, very safe.  I recommend it to my own loved ones.

George J. Beraka, MD (retired)
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon

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.