What could go wrong when undergoing a liposuction procedure

What could go wrong when undergoing a liposuction procedure

11th Feb 2018

Liposuction uses a fat removal technique to reshape and contour certain areas of the body. The abdomen, hips, thighs, buttocks, arms and neck are frequently targeted with liposuction to remodel their aesthetic appearance.

Contrary to general perception, liposuction is not a weight loss method, but a good solution to remove adipose tissue that has accumulated excessively in a certain area of the body. Moreover, liposuction entails certain risks and complications, both when it is performed and during the recovery process. Some of the complications that can occur are organ damage, skin burns, and even shock (when too much fat is extracted). The complications can be avoided when choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon to play out your intervention in an accredited medical facility.

Important things to consider

Overweight or obese people who want to lose weight are advised to try diets, exercises and bariatric procedures first before undergoing plastic surgery.

Liposuction is a good alternative to correct imperfections in areas of the body with visible fat deposits that are resistant to diet and physical exercise. At the same time, this procedure can be performed in combination with other plastic surgery procedures such as the tummy tuck, breast reduction, lift or augmentation, and also facial procedures.

Liposuction can also be used when treating certain medical conditions such as:

– Excessive perspiration on the axillae;

– Benign fat tumors;

– Fat metabolism imbalances;

– Enlarged breasts in men (gynecomastia).

However, not everybody is a suitable candidate for liposuction. There are some requirements that need to be fulfilled before being eligible for the procedure, such as:

– Normal body weight;

– No chronic or severe health conditions;

– No smoking or willing to quit smoking for at least a month before and after the procedure.

People suffering from obesity shouldn’t consider liposuction because it is impossible for the plastic surgeon to remove fat from the whole body. Moreover, removing fat using liposuction from a single area of the body can lead to severe aesthetic body asymmetries if the patient is overweight or obese.

The efficiency of liposuction

Liposuction is a highly efficient procedure, with the condition to target the correction of just small portions of the body. However, if the patient will continue to gain weight after the procedure, the fat pockets can reoccur in other areas of the body.

The new contours of the body are visible immediately after the procedure, and the aesthetic improvements continue to evolve while the inflammation will disappear during the recovery process. The complete and final results of liposuction can be noticeable a few months after the procedure.

An inconvenience of liposuction is that after the procedure, the skin can sag and it needs approximately six months to regain the skin tissue tonus. Depending on the skin elasticity, its retraction can vary from one person to the other. Patients who are looking to lose weight after this procedure are usually disappointed afterwards.


Like any surgery, things can go wrong during a liposuction procedure. The risks of developing complications before and after the intervention increase not only by choosing an inexperienced plastic surgeon or an unsafe medical facility, but also by the patient’s inability to follow the surgeon’s advice.

Here are a few things that can aggravate the risks during liposuction:

– The administration of anticoagulant medication two weeks before the intervention;

– Smoking (interferes with the circulatory system and can cause tissue necrosis);

– Recent surgeries that the body didn’t properly recover from;

– Cardiac afflictions;

– Pulmonary conditions;

– Weak immune system;

– Arterial issues;

– Diabetes.

The plastic surgeon might not be willing to perform the procedure if:

– The patient wants to target a very small area of the body such as the elbows;

The patient has poor skin quality with reduced elasticity. The skin won’t have the necessary ability to retract post-operatively and contour irregularities might occur.

What can go wrong?

Liposuction is a procedure that is considered to be minimally invasive, with few risks and complications associated with it. Liposuction has been performed for many decades now, and with the developments of modern medicine, the occurrence rate of complications has been greatly reduced. However, this is only valid for cases when liposuction is performed in a medical facility that has all the procedures and system in place to deal with potential complications that can occur.

Among the things that can go wrong are allergic reactions to medication or the materials used during the intervention. These allergic reactions are very rare nowadays and almost non-existent when using tumescent liposuction.

When a big amount of fat is removed during one session, severe trauma to the skin, tissues, blood vessels can occur.

There are few cases of people who died after undergoing liposuction. In all the cases presented, death was caused by an unbalance of body fluids that triggered a shock. To prevent this from happening, the plastic surgeon has to be always ready to compensate the lack of liquids caused by the fat extraction with a blood transfusion.

Injury of the superficial nerves can also happen. This means that a temporary or permanent loss of sensation can occur on the surface treated.

General complications can also occur in the cardiovascular or respiratory system. These include blood clots or fat cells that block a blood vessel, causing an embolism. Burns caused by the friction of the cannula under the skin may also occur.

More severe complications are thrombophlebitis, pulmonary embolism, fat embolism, hypovolemic shock (acute circulatory insufficiency caused by the rapid reduction of blood volume), infections of the adipose tissue, organ damage (due to the improper use of the cannula) and skin necrosis.

Puncturing an internal organ when performing the back and forth movements with the cannula occurs on rare occasions and usually is the result of an inexperienced practitioner.

An increased toxicity with lidocaine can occur after injecting a large amount of saline solution.

Fat embolism (the blockage of a blood or lymph vessel with fat) is probably one of the most severe complications that can occur. A responsible and experienced plastic surgeon will know that it can be avoided by injecting tumescent solution, carefully following the specific procedures and techniques, using small cannulas or heparin administration as a prophylactic treatment (heparin has the ability to delay blood coagulation).

Aside from these, there are also some complications that may develop after the procedure, such as:

– Fluid and blood accumulation under the skin (in severe cases, draining will be required);

– Swelling and bruising of the treated area;

– Skin pigmentation in the case of sun exposure shortly after the procedure;

– Body contour asymmetries that might require a revision surgery;

– Skin excess that can lead to sagging if the skin quality is poor;

– Excessive exfoliation of the skin in the area treated (caused by the removal of a large amount of fat).

Some complications can be prevented or avoided by maintaining a proper post-surgical routine. It is always important to keep in mind that you can reduce the risks by selecting a board-certified and highly experienced plastic surgeon.


Liposuction is probably the most commonly performed plastic surgery procedure in the United States and all over the world. It is minimally invasive, doesn’t leave big scars behind, and is highly safe. You can enjoy all the benefits of the procedure risk-free when choosing an experienced and board-certified surgeon. A medical facility that is accredited and has specific equipment and medical devices is also important in avoiding life-threatening complications.

Apart from the procedure being performed in improper conditions or by inexperienced practitioners, complications such as shock caused by the fluid imbalance, organ puncture, damage to the nerves or tissues, or burns caused by the movements of the cannula can occur. Make sure to discuss all the risks and complications in full detail with your surgeon during the initial consultation in order to prepare yourself and make an informed decision.

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