Liposuction risks and complications
A liposuction can be performed with different methods. The most used are traditional liposuction, laser liposuction (SmartLipo), radiofrequency liposuction (BodyTite) and water assisted liposuction (Body-Jet).
The risks associated with liposuction depend on which method is used. Therefore the different methods and their risks are presented under separate sections on this page.
Other than the risks which are specifically associated with liposuction there are also some general risks which are present in all surgery. You can read about these on the information page about general risk of plastic surgery ».
Risk of liposuction with the traditional method
A liposuction with the traditional method is the liposuction method associated with most risks and complications. These are in part because these methods remove the greatest amounts of fat. But as long as the patient assessment is thoroughly done, the operating theatre is fully equipped and the surgeon obtains enough experience of this liposuction method than it is a relatively safe procedure.
Nevertheless, it is important to understand that even with an educated surgeon with good operating facilities there are no guarantees of a perfect result. Even if they are rare, complications can occur.
Risk increase with the amount of fat removed
The risk of complications increases in proportion to the number of areas treated simultaneously and the amount of fat removed. Removing large amounts of fat and by that fluid makes the surgery longer than a less evasive procedure.
Most clinics limit the amount of fat which is removed during a surgical procedure to 2-4 litres. Since fat weighs less than water you cannot count on losing more than 2 kg of fat per surgical occasion. The swelling and fluid retention which occurs as a consequence of liposuction will make it impossible for you to notice a difference on the scale immediately after liposuction.
The scars that arise in the places where the probe was inserted into the body are small (approx. 1 cm) and are placed discretely. It is however not uncommon that these scars do not become perfect.
You can read more about plastic surgery scarring and how best to limit them on the information page about surgical scars (coming soon).
The skin above the treated areas can become uneven, asymmetrical and in some cases slack. The former is most common in older patients due to the elasticity of the skin declining with age.
Feeling and pigmentation changes
Loss of feeling/sensation of touch and pigmentation changes do occur. In some cases these side effects need to be corrected with additional surgery.
Other risks and complications with traditional liposuction
The more unusual risks of liposuction are; infection, prolonged healing process, formation of fat or blood clots, extensive lack of fluid (which can lead to shock), fluid accumulations which need to be drained, friction burns, damages to the skin, nerves or internal organs and overreaction to medication.
Risks of laser liposuction (SmartLipo)
Liposuction with laser is a “mild” technique if one is thinking of treating a smaller fat deposit. The opening in the skin is small and the risk of infection is minimal if one is content with a small treatment volume.
Burns to the skin are an uncommon side effect. These are often only small dots. Extensive burn damage with prolonged healing is unusual.
The healing following a laser liposuction is simple with a slight swelling and fairly discreet bruising.
Risks of laser liposuction are connected to the treated amount often being too large. Large laser dosages produce a lot of heat damaging greater volumes of fat. Large amounts of dead fat or liquid fat in the surgical area needs to be removed in order to reduce swelling and hasten healing. Because the fat needs to be suctioned a larger hole must be made so that the liposuction cannula can be inserted. Thus the risk of infection increases.
The greatest risk of laser liposuction is that one expects a more extensive result than what shows. It is important to understand that the technique is for smaller deposits.
Risks of radio frequency liposuction (BodyTite)
Body Tite is a relatively new liposuction technique and all the possibilities and risks are as yet unknown.
The technique is similar to traditional liposuction since a cannula is inserted into the area of treatment. The risk of scarring is slightly less than with traditional liposuction because the cannula is smaller, barely a centimetre long scar is left where the cannula was inserted.
The difference between BodyTite and normal liposuction technique is the thermal heat treatment to the tissue. The skin contracts better and the risk of unevenness is less – but risk still exists. Also if too large a volume of fat is removed it makes it more difficult to liposuction evenly. Healing can then also be uneven which contributes to this risk.
Thermal heating of the tissue is carefully controlled during a Body Tite procedure which is substantially more difficult to do during laser or ultrasound liposuction. But there are still risks of heating too much.
The treatment of radio frequency liposuction it most often performed under local anaesthesia. This solution is injected into the surgical area. Some of this is sucked out during the procedure. The body takes care of remaining fluid but in some cases the skin must be punctured in order to remove remaining fluid accumulations.
If one heat treats an area without removing the melted fat tissue it can lead to delayed healing with swelling and hardening for months after the procedure. However, these tend to disappear after some time