What are the risks of liposuction?
Any type of major surgery carries a risk of bleeding, infection and an adverse reaction to anesthesia. Risk of complications is usually associated with how large the procedure is, as well as the surgeons skills and specific training. The following risks, unpleasant side effects, or complications are possible:
- Bruising – Bruising will occur to some extent with all liposuction patients. Bruising can be more severe for patients who have been taking anti-inflammatory medications or aspirin. Patients with a tendency to bleed are also at higher risk of bad bruising. Ask Dr. Brenner about medications to avoid prior to surgery.
- Inflammation – Swelling after liposuction is inevitable. In some cases, swelling may be prolonged and could take up to six months to settle. Sometimes fluid may continue to ooze from the incisions after surgery.
- Thrombophlebitis – This entity consists of a blood clot that forms in a superficial vein, causing inflammation of that vein. This may affect liposuction patients, especially inside the knee and on the inside of the upper thigh (when these areas have been treated).
- Deep Venous Thrombosis
- Contour irregularities – For patients who have poor skin elasticity, have healed in an unusual way, or have fat removal that has been uneven, the skin may appear withered, wavy or bumpy. This undesirable result may be permanent. During surgery, the cannula may also cause damage to the skin leading to discoloration.
- Seromas-Seromas may form under the skin (temporary pockets of fluid), which may need to be drained.
- Numbness – The operative site(s) may feel numb for a while; this is usually only temporary. There may also be temporary nerve irritation.
- Infections – Although rare, skin infections may occur after liposuction surgery. Sometimes this needs to be treated surgically, with the risk of scarring.
- Internal organ punctures – This entity is very rare when liposuction is performed properly and safely. If the cannula is inserted incorrectly and goes in too deeply one of the internal organs (in the chest or abdomen) may be punctured. Further surgery may be required. Internal organ punctures can be life-threatening.
- Kidney or heart problems – As fluids are being injected and or suctioned, the change in the body’s fluid levels may cause kidney or heart problems. This is why it is important to have surgery in an accredited surgical facility with appropriate safety precautions and to be looked after by seasoned anesthesia staff.
- Fat embolism – Fat cells can enter the blood stream and travel to the lungs or other body parts. Although this entity occurs commonly on a microscopic scale, should larger fat particles travel to the lung it could lead to problems with lung function (decreased ability to ventilate and absorb oxygen) which could be life-threatening.
- Pulmonary edema -This entity can be a result of massive amounts of fluid being injected into the body. Fluid rarely if ever accumulates in the lungs when moderate volumes, and sound surgical judgment are used.
- Allergic reaction – Any patient may have an allergic reaction to medications or material used during surgery. It is important to communicate any known allergies to Dr. Brenner during your consultation.
- Skin burns – The cannula movement may cause friction burns to the skin or nerves.
- Lidocaine toxicity – In the super-wet or tumescent methods, large amounts of tumescent fluid may be inserted into the body’s tissues. Should an excessive dose (amount) of lidocaine be placed into the tumescent fluid, high serum lidocaine levels can develop. When lidocaine levels become too high (beyond recommended doses), patients can experience lidocaine poisoning (toxicity). The symptoms of lidocaine toxicity include initial feelings of tingling and numbness and possible strange sensations. When even higher levels develop, seizures can occur, followed by unconsciousness, and possibly respiratory or cardiac arrest. Again, these complications are exceedingly rare when proper technique and good surgical judgment are utilized.
- Anesthesia-related problems: Anesthesia itself carries with it a finite risk of potential complications. These include allergic reactions to medications, airway issues and in rare cases, potentially death. This is why a sound pre-operative work-up is essential.