What are some complications or problems that can occur after a tummy tuck that would cause death?

I am scheduled for a tummy tuck June 2nd 2017 and my biggest fear out of all of this is dealth.

Doctor Answers 7

Tummy tuck risks that could result in death

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all relate to blood clots forming in your legs and finding their way to your lungs (pulmonary emboli) and your surgeon will do everything possible to minimize this and you should be prepared for ambulating regularly after your procedure (you cannot be a couch potato).  After that, its unrecognized hemorrhage that you do not report in a timely manner, but this is easily recognized.

Redding Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

Safety is the number one concern with elective surgery

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Our number one concern when performing elective surgery of any kind is the safety of the patient.  A detailed history and physical examination including lab tests and/or an EKG is necessary before any procedure.  If it is determined that the risk of surgery is too high, then the surgery will be canceled.

Known potential serious complications after any procedure include bleeding, skin death, respiratory depression, deep vein thrombosis (DVT's) and pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lungs).  Also, unknown allergies to medications can occur.  It is because of these health issues that you should always do your homework before the procedure and make sure that:

  • Your surgeon is Board Certified in Plastic Surgery
  • The surgical facility is nationally accredited 
  • Anesthesia is provided by Board Certified Anesthesia personnel

No one can predict all potential problems that might develop during and after surgery, but if you choose the best trained health care providers your chance of recognizing and surviving a catastrophic event are maximized.

Good Luck!

David Finkle, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 83 reviews

Complications with a tummy tuck

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Pulmonary embolism, or a blood clot in the long, is the most feared complication after a tummy tuck. We have a number of ways to help prevent this, but this risk is present with just about any surgery.

Ira H. Rex lll, MD
Fall River Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 51 reviews

Tummy Tuck Risks

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You are not alone in worrying about this but it's important to put it all in perspective. When you drive your car to the mall next time you are 50 times more likely to die than you are in surgery if you are of good health and yet I bet you never give that drive a second thought. When you get your consult the surgeon will spend considerable time discussing risks with you.

Ronald V. DeMars, MD
Portland Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Complications after tummy tuck that can lead to death.

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Dear mherndon,

The most common complication that can lead to death is a pulmonary embolus or blood clot that breaks away from a large vessel in the legs and travels to the lungs, heart, or brain. This risk is higher for abdominoplasty or similar body contouring procedures, overweight patients, those on birth control pills or hormones, those with a family history of clotting who may have inherited a clotting disorder, and patients who are too sedentary both before and after surgery. While there can be other risks like heart attack, anesthetic complications, allergic reactions, and infection, these are less common causes of death. 

Hopefully your surgeon has fully evaluated your medical history and advised you on any changes you can make to improve your candidacy for surgery such as loosing weight, stopping hormones, and medical work up if indicated. Special stockings are used in surgery and commonly blood thinners are also used after to help prevent clots. Because you are traveling for surgery this may also increases your risk so be sure to get up and walk several times on your flight or drive.

Best of luck,

Stacey Folk, MD
Denver Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 25 reviews

What are some complications or problems that can occur after a tummy tuck that would cause death?

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Thank you for the important question; understanding the potential risks/complications associated with tummy tuck (or any other type of surgery) is very important. Also, understanding the significant recovery associated with the operation will be important as well. 

The majority of serious complications that may occur with tummy tuck surgery occur within the first 2 weeks. These may include deep venous thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, infection, bleeding, and even death. Fortunately, the potential for these types of major complications are very small, assuming careful selection of plastic surgeon, anesthesiologist, and fully accredited surgery facility. 

Other types of complications that are more likely include superficial incision line healing problems ( wound healing problems), seromas, abdominal wall asymmetry, abnormal scarring, unsatisfactory cosmetic result…Additional surgery may be indicated for multiple reasons.


The best published data I can find regarding mortality rates associated with tummy tuck surgery range from 0.02% to 0.16%.   In other words, mortality rates are extremely low. The most common cause of that is related to pulmonary embolism (blood clots that moved to the patient's lungs).

Your best bet: choose your plastic surgeon very carefully; everything else including good judgment/advice/planning, anesthesia provider and safe surgery facility will follow. 

This careful selection should give you some peace of mind that you will be safe around the time of surgery. 

Best wishes.

Serious complications...

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Thanks for asking this question. Fortunately, mortality with plastic surgery is an extremely rare event. In order to reduce the risks of such events, it is suggested to patients to obtain a full medical clearance before surgery. Operating on healthy individuals also dramatically reduces the risks. Several conditions such as heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism, infection and severe allergic reactions can be considered as potential causes of severe complications. These events, of course, can affect most other operations being performed in America and is not exclusive to plastic surgery operations. If you're healthy and using board certified anesthesia and plastic surgeons then your risks will be low. You should, however, rely on your plastic surgeon for guidance as opposed to an online forum. Best wishes always, Dr. ALDO

Aldo Guerra, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 215 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.