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Risks of Liposuction

Liposuction is typically a safe process. However, in some cases the risks of liposuction may include surgical mishaps, temporary results, and other health issues. The tumescent technique under local anesthesia is the safest liposuction procedure with the fewest reported health complications to date. Since the benefits and risks of liposuction present a mixed scenario, it is necessary to understand fully what you are facing.

Effects of Excessive LipoLiposuction Risk Influences

  • Obesity:      The greater the obesity,the greater  the possibility of  surgery associated health complications
  • Excessive Liposuction: Apart from the surgical trauma, using large cannula  for extracting high amounts of fat at one time may injure the body’s internal organs
  • Parallel Treatment: Several unrelated treatments, such as facelift, hysterectomy and breast augmentation, if conducted simultaneously, may over-stress the body
  • Anesthesia Type:      Although most liposuction is performed using a local anesthetic, like Lidocaine, systemic or general (whole body) anesthesia may also be used.      Most of the serious lipo risks are due to general anesthesia.
  • Liposuction Technique: The method used also determines the associated risks. For example, ultrasonic assisted liposuction (UAL) is more often responsible for post liposuction infections, nerve damage, and more. Tumescent liposuction (TL) is considered the safest fat removal surgery technique so far and, therefore, is the one most often used.

Risks of Liposuction

With new equipment and development in procedures, the side effects, especially death due to liposculpture, have declined substantially. Lipo complications typically occur because of surgical error and/or the patient’s adverse health condition.

Minor and Common Lipo Risks:

  • Asymmetrical Body Contour: “How much is too much?” This is the trickiest assessment in liposuction. To avoid repeat surgeries and repeated exposure to anesthesia risks, patients often insist upon ‘excess’ fat removal. Some professionals may yield to the request out of inexperience, the possibility of high billing, or simple miscalculation. Along with cellular trauma, excessive tissue extraction may result in permanently deformed body contours with lumpy and loosely hanging skin. Weak skin elasticity,  especially found in elderly people, may also worsen the situation.
  • Skin Sensation Complications: Muscular spasm (pain) and/or numbness are two main, yet temporary, issues likely after liposuction. These happen especially when general anesthesia is used. In the case of pain, it hurts when the skin contracts or is touched. Analgesics (painkillers) are quite useful for such situations. People with chronic spasm syndrome may have a long or even permanently painful course. Numbness means the skin loses sensation. The numbness usually goes away as the anesthesia effect declines and the healing process starts. In addition, massaging the area helps restore normal blood circulation and, eventually, feeling.
  • Skin Irregularities: Wrinkles and skin discoloration are problems associated with liposuction employing macrocannulae. People who have stretch marks, cellulite, skin dimples or poor dermal elasticity are often more vulnerable. Massaging the affected area boosts its blood circulation, which helps control the skin irregularities. Tumescent liposuction conducted via microcannulae has been quite effective in averting these side effects.
  • Edema (Swelling):      Post surgical swelling in the treated area (for example, in thigh liposuction the veins may swell) and in ankles is a common problem due to the accumulation of serous fluid. The problem intensifies when the operated area is sutured. If the field is left open, then the anesthetic and the other unwanted fluids can be easily drained, and the soreness is decreased.  Extraction of fluid (using a needle) and wearing a compression belt both help control swelling. The edema normally subsides within about 1-3 months of the surgery.
  • Scars, Bruising, and Hyper-Pigmentation: After liposuction, a permanent scar measuring from 4-10mm long is inevitable. Patients prone to heavy bleeding may even      develop bruises. The area surrounding the incision may become dark. Scars, bruises, and pigmentation may decrease with time and use of ointments and lotions.
  • Emotional Letdown: After liposuction, feeling low, a loss of libido and fainting are some problems similar to postpartum depression. Consult your doctor to cope with these.

Major and Rare Risk of Liposuction:Because of potential for disability and even death, the following hazards are termed grave and major. The first 6 risks of liposuction mentioned below are associated with liposuction deaths:

    • Anesthesia Complications: Liposuction deaths occur primarily due to cerebral damage and seizures. Excessively administered general anesthesia or intravenous (IV) sedation fluids usually cause it. Lidocaine is the local anesthesia used in lipo. Though usually safe, sometimes there is a risk of Lidocaine toxicity. However, liposuction on local anesthesia has no known lethal history. Restlessness, drowsiness, shivering, muscular convulsions, tinnitus (a ringing in the ears), slurred speech, bad taste in the mouth, lip and tongue numbness – are all symptoms of anesthesia overdose.
    • Pulmonary Thromboembolism: General anesthesia, excessive surgical stress, and obesity may catalyze blood  clot formations.  Pieces of clot can break away and go into the lungs (Pulmonary Embolus). The condition can lead to death.
    • Infections:  Non-sterile surgical equipment may cause infections and pus formation in the wounds, after liposuction. The use of Reston foam, a padding meant to limit skin bruises, may result in serious infections such as Necrotizing  Fasciitis. Necrotizing fasciitis is a bacterial infection damaging skin, muscles, and tissues. Ultrasonic assisted liposuction (UAL) is also infamous for triggering infection. Though antibiotics can treat most of these infections, some severe ones have claimed lives. When carried out  with local anesthesia, the tumescent process proves safer and has no record of triggering infections.
    • Fat Embolism: At times, some of the dislodged fat enters the bloodstream and blocks the veins of the lungs or brain. This obstruction  can trigger a stroke or a pulmonary or cardiac arrest within 72 hours of the procedure.
    • Abdominal Injury: While working through a small incision, the possibility of visceral injury is high. The cannula may puncture internal organs.  If not attended to promptly, this may also foster infection and may impact the prognosis. Diagnosing an injury with local anesthesia is easy,  as the patient will be able to feel the pain immediately. However, in the case of general anesthesia, the symptoms will be evident only after the body has regained sensation, which can be too late.
    • Allergies:  In some cases, a patient may develop allergic reactions towards the  anesthesia, IV fluids, saline solution, and the other medications  administered before, during, or after surgery. These allergies and drug reactions may prove fatal.
    • Thrombophlebitis: In this condition, the veins swell due to clot formation. Witnessed more in liposuction of the knee and/or thigh, this tendency increases in women taking birth control pills. These clots can fracture, sending pieces into the circulation and causing pulmonary embolism, or less frequently, stroke.
    • Bleeding:  When a large volume (over 10 pounds) of fat is removed, the chances of excess blood loss are high. In a standard liposuction, the blood loss is relatively low, especially when performed with local anesthesia. Lidocaine (the  anesthetic most used in liposuction) is usually combined with epinephrine.  Also called adrenaline, epinephrine is a hormone and a neurotransmitter which the adrenal glands  release during stress. The epinephrine narrows blood vessels (vasoconstriction), thereby lowering the blood flow. This decline in blood flow is useful in controlling the blood loss during liposuction. Therefore, in the case of lipo on local anesthesia, blood consists of just 1% of all the extract, while the percentage slightly increases to 3-4% with general anesthesia. The blood loss may be higher if the patient consumed aspirin or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) even a few days before the operation. Bleeding may also be an issue when the patient has a tendency to bleed.  This may culminate in hemorrhage.
    • Pulmonary Edema: This happens when fluid accumulates in the lungs. In lipo, it occurs when the IV fluids are used disproportionately. Severe pulmonary edema can even lead to death. The tumescent technique employs dilute local anesthetic solution, which effectively compensates for any liquid deficit during liposuction. Any more fluid infusion may prove excessive, causing pulmonary edema.
    • Nerve Damage: In rare cases, the nerves may rupture or the nerve endings may be injured, resulting in a loss of sensation or tingling in the area. It is usually an aftermath of UAL.
    • Skin Necrosis:Skin necrosis is the death of skin cells in a body area due to the damage of  blood vessels there. This damage hampers blood supply in the region,       depriving it of oxygen and killing the affected cells. Consequently, the skin dies, and gangrene may develop. Therefore, it is essential to remove the dead skin immediately. Smokers and diabetics are the most frequent victims of necrosis. Infection and/or injury (especially thermal – exposure to  extreme heat or cold) trigger the vessel damage. Some surgeons may deliberately injure the skin cells with the cannula to facilitate skin contraction, but this practice may backfire. Similarly, UAL employs ultrasonic energy that often causes thermal injury to the nerve cells. Eventually, necrotizing fasciitis, a rare and severe bacterial infection may develop. Reston foam is also known to have skin-damaging effects, including necrotizing infection.
    • Seroma and Hematoma: Injury during liposuction may cause the blood or serum to leak and settle under the skin, in subcutaneous pockets. When affecting blood, it is called Hematoma, while it is a Seroma in the case of serum. Obesity and UAL are the main facilitators here. Excessive liposuction with large cannulae may also result in these conditions. Such  blood or serum deposits should be promptly removed to prevent infections.
    • Fluid Imbalance: Because of the infusion and/or extraction of body fluids, kidney or cardiac issues may develop. While a deficiency of liquid results in fluid shock, an excess of it leads to fluid overload.

Limiting the Risks of Liposuction

  • Skilled Professional: The most crucial  factor in a candidate’s control is to select a competent, reputable and board certified plastic surgeon for the procedure. This will ensure that an expert is taking care of your body’s well being.
  • Good Facility:      The facility you choose for the surgery should be up to date and professional in approach. Hydration, pressure dressings, high quality nursing care and competent hospitalization amenities should be available at the center of your choice.
  • Discuss Openly:      Honestly and openly talk to your doctor about your complete medical history, including all the medications you have been or are taking. This will help the surgeon shape the safest and best liposuction plan plausible for you.
  • Sound Health:      A healthy body and mind are vital to any kind of medical treatment, including liposuction. The results in such cases are quick and effective healing. Patients with diabetes, blood circulation issues, or severe lung or cardiac diseases require special care during treatment. In fact, extreme cases may not even be eligible for the procedure.
  • Reality Check:  Understand and accept the limitations of your body and that of  liposuction. Abide by your surgeon’s advice: being insistent may prove  costly to your health.
  • Avoid Multiprocessing: The body has a limit to surgical stress it will support.  Do not challenge that. Avoid excessive fat removal and/or simultaneously pursuing multiple and varied medical therapies. The body may not be able to cope and may become feeble and slow to heal. Stepwise treatment with the required time lag is the right way of handling a body. If a large amount of fat needs evacuation, undergo the surgery in phases. This way, the body can recover fully after each session. Usually, the interval between two consecutive surgeries is at least a month.
  • Post Surgery Precautions: Regulate your diet according to your doctor’s instructions. Restrict any demanding physical activity until the body gets used to the changes. Furthermore, get adequate rest for a speedy recovery.