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08 December 2008

Liposuction: know the risks

Thousands of people resort to the cosmetic procedure of liposuction to recontour one or more areas of the body. How safe is this procedure?

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Thousands of people resort to the cosmetic procedure of liposuction to recontour one or more areas of the body. But how safe is this procedure?

Liposuction is generally a safe procedure, as long as patients are suitable candidates, the doctor is skilled in the procedure and the operating facility is properly equipped. It does, however, carry a greater risk for people who have medical problems such as diabetes, heart or lung disease or poor blood circulation, or those who have recently had surgery near the body area in which they are to be operated.

The best candidates for liposuction are normal-weight people with firm, elastic skin who have pockets of excess fat in certain areas. People who are obese, who have unrealistic expectations about the outcome or who are physically unhealthy, are not suitable candidates.

As with all surgical procedures, complications can and do occur. There are more risks involved if a greater number of areas are treated at the same time, or if the operative site is large in size, as this may require longer operating times.

The greater hazards are infection; delays in healing; the formation of fat clots or blood clots, which may migrate to the lungs and cause death; excessive fluid loss, which can lead to shock or fluid accumulation and have to be drained; friction burns or other damage to the skin or nerves or perforation injury to the vital organs; and unfavorable drug reactions.

How is liposuction done?
A narrow tube (cannula) is inserted through an incision. The fat layer that lies deep beneath the skin is vacuumed. The cannula is pushed then pulled through the fat layer, breaking up the fat cells and suctioning them out. The suction action is provided by a vacuum pump or a large syringe, depending on the surgeon's preference.

Fluid is lost along with the fat, and it is crucial that this fluid be replaced during the procedure to prevent shock. For this reason, patients need to be carefully monitored and need to receive intravenous fluids during and immediately after surgery.

(Source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons)

(October 2005)

 
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