What You Should Know About Liposuction Safety

Jun 10, 2024

Liposuction is a surgical procedure to remove excess fat from specific areas of the body. While it is typically used to contour the abdomen, hips, thighs, and buttocks, it can also be used to treat other areas where diet and exercise alone have not been successful. At Defyne by Tessler Plastic Surgery, we take pride in educating our patients so they can make informed decisions regarding their procedure choices. As with other cosmetic procedures, patients are often curious about the safety of liposuction. Read on to learn more about liposuction safety, possible complications, and more.

Is Liposuction Safe?

Liposuction is the # 1 cosmetic procedure in the US and is often accompanied by fat transfer. Statistica reports the number of liposuction cases in the US at 405,328 in 2022. For the same year, the ASPS reports 325,669 cases.

Liposuction is considered to be very safe. A 2024 national analysis performed at Harvard examined complications of 246,119 ambulatory care center cases and found the overall complication rate at 0.4%. Serious complications are far rarer, with mortality at 0.0085% and thrombotic events (clots) at 0.03%.

When complications were present, they were associated with high BMI and extremely long cases. The most severe complications include venous thromboembolism (VTE), fat embolism, pulmonary edema, lidocaine toxicity, and intra-visceral lesions. There are ways to reduce risk even further to avoid any serious issues. At Defyne by Tessler Plastic Surgery, we strictly calculate and monitor how much lidocaine is given, and we do not employ general anesthesia, which greatly enhances safety related to these potential complications.

Are There Complications Associated with Liposuction?

As with any surgical procedure, there are complications associated with liposuction. Keep in mind, when performed by a board-certified plastic surgeon with years of experience, such as Dr. Tessler, the risk of these complications is significantly reduced.

The most talked-about serious complication in liposuction is fat embolism, which carries a potential 10-15% mortality rate. This complication has two forms: fat embolism syndrome (FES) and macro–fat embolism. Fat embolism from liposuction was first reported in 1986 by KD Christian. It occurs 12-72 hours after surgery, and the main ways to treat this condition are prevention, early detection, and supportive care.

There are two main theories for why this complication occurs: a biochemical theory for FES, and a mechanical theory for macro-fat embolism.

FES occurs from a pro-inflammatory state and in the context of dehydration. At Defyne by Tessler Plastic Surgery, we use ERAS (Enhanced Recovery After Surgery) protocols and keep our patients well-hydrated to significantly reduce these risk factors. We also limit how much fat is removed, employ stringent patient selection, and continuously monitor patient hemodynamics.

Macro-fat embolism, the most serious form, is believed to be caused by injuries to medium and large-sized veins and fat lobules that enter the bloodstream, mostly from lipo injection and most often in the gluteal region during BBL procedures.

Most of the macro-fat embolism mortalities reported in media were during a time when it was believed that injecting into muscle was desirable to increase blood flow available to the transferred fat. That approach is no longer endorsed nor practiced at Defyne by Tessler Plastic Surgery. We use only blunt cannulas, usually 3mm in diameter, which allows us to avoid injury. We also inject gently while pulling away the cannula to add more safety. Furthermore, we always avoid injection into muscle, especially in areas of the subgluteal crease and medial portions of the buttock, adjacent to the piriformis muscle. Ultrasound is also available when needed to visualize the musculature.

Liposuction Safety at Defyne by Tessler Plastic Surgery

At Defyne by Tessler Plastic Surgery, we believe body contouring is an enabling procedure and should be celebrated. Thus, we take all precautions to ensure the safest and most pleasant environment possible. After performing thousands of liposuction cases over many years, we have not yet had a serious complication requiring hospital transfer.

Schedule a Liposuction Consultation

If you are considering liposuction to eliminate stubborn areas of fat or would like to learn more about this treatment option, please contact Defyne by Tessler Plastic Surgery in Scottsdale, AZ, today. A consultation appointment with one of our board-certified plastic surgeons is the first step toward achieving your aesthetic goals.