Liposuction, when performed by an experienced surgeon, is generally a safe procedure. However, there are risks involved and you should be well informed of these before undergoing the procedure. You should know that the risk of complications increases dramatically if you receive treatment for a very large area or receive multiple unrelated surgical procedures at the same time you receive liposuction. An experienced surgeon will know exactly how much surgery is safe at one time and may require you to return in a series of visits to complete the procedure if treating a large area.
The most common risks of liposuction are infection and a reaction to anesthesia. Infection is rare and usually results from using contaminated instruments. As long as your doctor is aware of your complete medical history, the chance that you will have a reaction to anesthesia is low. Also, you can reduce the risk of infection after surgery by following your doctor’s instructions.
There are other risks that are not all that common, but the patient should be made aware of. It is possible for a blood clot to form and move to the lungs. Although rare, this is a serious complication. It is possible that major organs can be punctured while the doctor is using the cannula to break up and remove fat. Usually, repairs can be made without long-term effects. However, if an intestine is punctured while the patient is under general anesthesia, it may go unnoticed until an infection occurs, which can have fatal consequences. Bleeding is another complication. Nerve damage can also take place after liposuction and is a risk with any surgery. Swelling and fluid accumulation can also occur after surgery. Often, the doctor will insert a small tube under the skin to allow the incision sites to drain. If a tube isn’t inserted, the surgeon may loosely close the incision sites, allowing an opening for drainage.
Depending on how the surgery was performed and the instruments used, skin tissue may die. This may result if the blood vessels supplying the skin are damaged. Also, a rare bacterial infection can cause skin necrosis.
If excessive intravenous fluids are administered during surgery, fluid can accumulate in the lungs, causing pulmonary edema. This is a serious condition that can result in death. Often, intravenous fluids are not necessary as tumescent fluid is used during liposuction to replace any fluid that may be lost during surgery.
Although it is extremely rare, death from liposuction surgery can occur. In the year 2000, a survey of liposuction surgeons was taken that indicated that one death occurred out of 5,000 surgeries. The leading causes of death from liposuction are the development of blood clots, infections, puncturing of organs and drug interactions. The risk of death is low, but a risk that the patient must be made aware of.
Your doctor will give you specific pre-op instructions that you must follow. It will be very important for you to avoid drugs such as aspirin or other blood thinners prior to your surgery as these can cause excessive bleeding during surgery. Also, your doctor may require you to stop smoking prior to surgery if you are a smoker since smoking increases risks during and after surgery and impedes recovery. You may also be required to alter certain prescription medications before surgery. It is important that you tell your doctor about any medications you take regularly along with any vitamins and herbal supplements. You should give your doctor a thorough description of your medical history, including past or present medical conditions, previous surgeries and medications you currently take. You should also discuss any lifestyle habits that may affect your surgery. Your doctor will also tell you what you should do if you experience a complication during your recovery. Some complications are minor while others can be life-threatening and you will need to know when to recognize a situation that requires immediate medical attention.
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