Liposuction Risks

Reviewed by Julius Few, MD

While liposuction may seem like a fairly harmless way to get rid of unwanted fat, in reality it is a surgical procedure that should be taken seriously. All surgeries carry risks, even the cosmetic ones that are heavily advertised on the Internet and in glossy magazines. Liposuction — whether tumescent liposuction, laser liposuction or any of the other techniques available — is no exception. Liposuction risks should be considered carefully by any patient considering the procedure.

Your personal risk profile is based on your overall health, the area of your body that is treated, the method of liposuction used, and how well you follow your surgeon's preoperative and postoperative instructions. Your surgeon's credentials, skill and experience also play a role.

Ask your plastic surgeon about your risk factors during your consultation. He or she should discuss the risks and benefits in general, as well as your personal liposuction risk factors.

In general, liposuction risks include:

  • Anesthesia complications
  • Pulmonary embolism (blockage due to a blood clot that has traveled to the lungs)
  • Hematoma (break in blood vessel causing localized blood-filled area or blood clot)
  • Seroma (collection of fluid under the skin)
  • Skin discoloration
  • Skin numbness
  • Dimpling, depressions, wrinkles or other skin contour abnormalities
  • Fluid imbalance
  • Perforation of abdominal wall or bowels
  • Infection
  • Scarring
  • Skin burns from laser- or ultrasound-assisted liposuction
  • Cosmetic dissatisfaction with the results
  • Death (While exceedingly rare, high-profile liposuction deaths have been reported in recent years.)

Many of these risks, including death, are rare to begin with and can be further minimized by choosing a qualified plastic surgeon and following his or her instructions carefully before surgery and during your recovery after liposuction. Start your research for the right surgeon now.

About the Reviewer of This Article

Julius Few, MD, is the founder of the Few Institute For Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in Chicago. Board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Surgery, he is also a clinical associate professor in the division of plastic surgery at the University of Chicago and the current president of the Illinois Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Dr. Few received his medical degree from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, and completed his residency in general surgery at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, followed by plastic surgery training at Northwestern University in Chicago. He has also received special facial and eye cosmetic training in Honolulu, New York and Atlanta.