Is Liposuction Safe?

Medically reviewed by Catherine Hannan, MD on September 20, 2017Written by Lana Bandoim

Overview

Liposuction is a plastic surgery procedure that removes extra fat from the body. It’s also called lipo, lipoplasty, or body contouring. It’s considered a popular cosmetic surgery option.

People get liposuction to improve the shape or contours of their body. They want to remove excess fat from areas such as the thighs, hips, buttocks, abdomen, arms, neck, or back. Usually, they’ve tried diet and exercise and can’t get rid of these fat deposits.

Liposuction isn’t a weight loss treatment. It has serious risks and possible complications, so it’s important to talk to your doctor before considering it.

What to expect with liposuction

Liposuction requires going under anesthesia for the procedure. This means you won’t feel any pain during the liposuction surgery. However, you’ll feel pain after the procedure. Recovery can also be painful.

Depending on what parts of the body require liposuction, you may have a shorter or longer hospital stay. Some procedures can be done in an outpatient center. It’s common to have pain, swelling, bruising, soreness, and numbness after liposuction.

To minimize pain before the procedure, you can:

  • talk to your doctor about pain concerns
  • discuss the type of anesthesia that will be used
  • ask about any medications you can take before the procedure

To minimize pain after the procedure:

  • take all prescribed medications, including pain pills
  • wear the recommended compression garments
  • keep the drains after surgery in place based on your doctor’s recommendations
  • rest and try to relax
  • drink fluids
  • avoid salt, which can increase swelling (edema)

Deciding if liposuction is right for you

Some people are good candidates for liposuction, and others should avoid it. Talk to your doctor to determine if liposuction is the right option for you. Discuss your concerns with them.

Good candidates for liposuction include people who:

  • don’t have a lot of excess skin
  • have good skin elasticity
  • have good muscle tone
  • have fat deposits that won’t go away with diet or exercise
  • are in good physical shape and overall health
  • aren’t overweight or obese
  • don’t smoke

You should avoid liposuction if you:

What are the risks of liposuction?

Liposuction is a serious surgery with multiple risks. It’s important to discuss all the risks of liposuction with your doctor before having the procedure.

Risks during surgery

The risks during surgery include:

  • puncture wounds or injuries to other organs
  • anesthesia complications
  • burns from equipment, such as ultrasound probes
  • nerve damage
  • shock
  • death

Risks immediately after the procedure

The risks after the procedure include:

  • blood clot in the lungs
  • too much fluid in the lungs
  • fat clots
  • infections
  • hematoma (bleeding under the skin)
  • seroma (fluid leaking under the skin)
  • edema (swelling)
  • skin necrosis (the death of skin cells)
  • reactions to anesthesia and other medications
  • heart and kidney problems
  • death

Risks during recovery

The risks during recovery include:

  • problems with the shape or contours of the body
  • wavy, dimpled, or bumpy skin
  • numbness, bruising, pain, swelling, and soreness
  • infections
  • fluid imbalances
  • scars
  • changes in skin sensation and feeling
  • skin color changes
  • problems with healing

What are the long-term side effects of liposuction?

The long-term side effects of liposuction can vary. Liposuction permanently removes fat cells from the targeted areas of the body. So, if you gain weight, the fat will still be stored in different parts of the body. The new fat can appear deeper under the skin, and it can be dangerous if it grows around the liver or heart.

Some people experience permanent nerve damage and changes to skin sensation. Others may develop depressions or indentations in the areas that were suctioned, or may have bumpy or wavy skin that doesn’t go away.

Takeaway

Liposuction is an elective cosmetic procedure that has major risks. It’s not a substitute for weight loss, and not everyone is a good candidate for it. Make sure you meet with a board-certified plastic surgeon and discuss the potential complications and risks before the surgery.

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