The Risks and Complications of Liposuction

Photo credit: Bigstockphoto
Photo credit: Bigstockphoto

Lipoplasty – more commonly known as liposuction – is a type of cosmetic surgery that removes fat from targeted areas of the body. The process is very straightforward: A needle-like tube is inserted into the skin through tiny incisions. The needle-like tube then sucks out the fat underneath the skin. Technological advances made liposuction a safer, less painful treatment for weight gain.

Types of Liposuction

There are three types of liposuction: Tumescent, Ultrasound-Assisted, and Laser-Assisted liposuction.

Tumescent Liposuction:

A solution is injected into the subcutaneous fat via the needle-like tube prior to traditional liposuction. The solution helps to break down fat. This procedure requires a local anesthesia.

Ultrasound-Assisted Liposuction

As the name implies, this treatment utilizes ultrasound to break down subcutaneous fat for easier removal. Ultrasound-assisted liposuction is best for contouring the sides, back and upper abdomen.

Laser-Assisted Liposuction

This technique utilizes low-energy laser to break down subcutaneous fat. When the fatty tissues are liquefied, it is sucked by a small cannula.

The Risks, Complications and Side Effects of Liposuction

Increased Risk of Infection

Liposuction carries a lot of risk including infection. Infection may occur if the equipment used has not been sanitized properly or if the wound has not been kept clean as it heals. Always have treatments done at a reputable clinic to avoid any complications from liposuction.

Permanent Nerve Damage Can Occur

After treatment, the patient may experience numbness on targeted areas of the body temporarily. This is a normal side effect. But in rare cases, the procedure could cause nerve damage, which is an irreversible complication. If the affected area remained numb for more than two weeks, contact your physician.

Saggy Skin

Saggy skin is a normal side effect especially if large volumes of liquid fat were removed from the body. The affected area may look and feel bumpy and lumpy. This can be corrected by wearing a compression garment and getting regular massage.

Swelling, Bruising, and Inflammation

Expect the treated area to be inflamed or swollen for weeks after the treatment. You can wear a compression garment to keep the incisions closed. You can also ask your physician for antibiotics to take during the recovery period.

Hematoma or bruising is also a common side effect of liposuction. As the treated area is healed, the bruise will gradually fade on its own.

Increased Risk of Pulmonary Embolism or Pulmonary Edema

Increased risk of blood clot is one of the most serious complications of liposuction. A blood clot could end up in the lungs, causing pulmonary embolism. This is a potentially fatal condition. Symptoms of pulmonary embolism include difficulty in breathing and shortness of breath.

Pulmonary edema is another serious complication of liposuction. This occurs when excess fluids fill up the lung. To reduce the risk of pulmonary edema, make sure you get the proper amount of intravenous fluids during and after the procedure.


When liposuction was at its infancy, death was always a possibility. In fact, the first person to receive this treatment died during the procedure. Throughout the 90s, there were alarmingly high rates of complications and deaths stemming from a botched liposuction treatment.

Although technical advances made modern liposuction relatively safe, the FDA reports that 3 patients die from every 100,000 liposuction surgeries.

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