What are the most common reasons for for death resulting from a tummy tuck, how dangerous is it?

Doctor Answers 6

Safety of Surgery

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Thank you for your question.  In general, only elderly patients or those with significant medical problems (like heart, lung, or liver disease) are at increased risk with anaesthesia. Younger, healthy patients virtually never have issues with anaesthesia, so much so that I often do not discuss anaesthesia in-depth during the consultation compared to other risks.  It is important for you to ask your Plastic Surgeon questions about the anesthesiologists they work with and facilities they operate in. Be sure to seek a board certified Plastic Surgeon and share any pre-existing medical issues you may have.

All the best

Death risk after tummy tuck

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The most dangerous risk following a tummy tuck is development of blood clots in the legs, which can then travel to the lungs and potentially cause death. Fortunately, this occurs EXTREMELY rarely. There are numerous factors that influence the risk that any specific patient might develop such blood clots. It is your surgeon's responsibility to assess your risk level, discuss it with you, and possibly take additional measures to minimize the risks. It's fairly standard in reputable surgery centers for compression devices (which are connected to a machine and actively compress the feet and calves) to be applied during surgery to keep the blood circulating in the legs. It's also important to begin walking as soon as possible, even on the day of surgery. If you have especially high risk factors for development of blood clots, your surgeon may choose to use additional measures like anticoagulation medication. For the great majority of patients, the risk of death is exceptionally low. My best advice is to find a reputable board certified plastic surgeon and follow his or her recommendations. 

Andres Taleisnik, MD
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 42 reviews

Tummy tuck complications.

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Thank you for your question. It is extremely uncommon to die from an abdominoplasty. The most likely cause would be a blood clot to the lungs. It is common practice to use compression garments on your legs during surgery. Ambulating early will also help decrease your risk. In addition there medication that can be used to reduce the risk of developing a blood clot. You should get a consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon. Best of luck.

Jon E. Rast, MD
Kansas City Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 35 reviews

What are the most common reasons for for death resulting from a tummy tuck, how dangerous is it?

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The majority of serious complications that may occur with tummy tuck surgery occur within the first 2 weeks and 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…  

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



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Death is very rare after abdominoplasty. When it has happened its often due to either unrecognized anesthesia issues or pulmonary embolus (migration of blood clots to the lungs). The take home lessons are to:1) select docs that operate in accredited surgery centers and hospitals (i.e. not in their unaccredited office), to be sure they have admitting credentials at a local hospital if there are complications, and to let your anesthesia provider know of any potential risk factors. And 2) to get up and out of bed early after surgery and walk, even if its a short distance around your home to limit the risk of blood clots forming.

Robert Frank, MD
Munster Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 43 reviews

Death after tummy tuck reason?

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You ask an excellent and very important question. Keep in mind that death after a tummy tuck is an extremely rare occurrence.  It has been said that the average plastic surgeon is unlikely to see one in his or her entire career.  The most common cause is something called venous thromboembolism, or VTE. Based on statistics from ambulatory facilities, the incidence of this is 1 in 13,000.  What happens is a blood clot forms in the veins of the legs or abdomen, and breaks off and lodges in the lungs and cuts off circulation such that the body can not get oxygen to the tissues. There are several things we do these days to prevent that.  One is to put devices on the legs starting before the operation that pump the blood passively through the veins so that the blood doesn't stagnate and clot. A corollary to this is to have the patient start walking as soon as possible after the operation and continue throughout the recovery period. This also keeps the blood moving. Depending on an individual's risk factors,  blood thinners may also be prescribed for after the surgery. It is very important to seek out a board certified plastic surgeon who operates in an accredited facility when considering such surgery.

Paul W. Loewenstein, MD
Milwaukee Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 32 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.