Liposuction Surgery: Risks and Potential Side Effects

Liposuction, also called liposculpture, suction lipectomy, lipoplasty or simply lipo, is a technique in cosmetic surgery operation to remove excess fat from under the skin. The procedure involves breaking up and ‘sucking’ of fat from various possible parts of the body; face, neck, upper arms, abdomen, back, buttocks and legs being the commonly treated areas. The excess fat is removed by using a Cannula and Aspirator (a suction device). Cannula is a hollow, stainless steel tube instrument, which is inserted through an incision in the skin and then a powerful, high-pressure vacuum is applied to suck the fat out. In some cases, the fat taken out from one part of the body is cleaned and then injected into another area of the body, like to reduce wrinkles or enhance the shape of buttocks. Today, Liposuction has become very common and popular around the world, especially in countries like America and the United Kingdom. This is because people have been showing growing interest in removing undesirable deposits of body fat from specific parts of their bodies. But again, Liposuction has its own risks and potential side effects.

Picture of a Medical Professional Doing Liposuction on a Patient


The amount of fat that can be safely removed by liposuction is limited. If too much fat is removed by the process, there’s possibility of developing lumpiness or dents in the skin. Also sometimes, because of uneven fat removal, or poor skin elasticity of the person, his skin may look bumpy and/or withered.

There’s also the possibility of allergic reaction to the material used during liposuction surgery or medications thereafter.

Other risks include infection, numbness and/or scarring, and damage to the tissue beneath skin when the body is incised or punctured.

After the lipo, if the patient does not lead a healthy lifestyle, there is a risk that the remaining fat cells grow bigger. And in case of post-operative weight gain, the removed fatty bulges may return or appear in a different place.

Due to higher risk of complications and mortality, liposuction of the abdominal fat should not be combined with simultaneous tummy tuck procedures. In fact, there are laws in some places like Florida to prevent same.

Liposuction should not be performed during pregnancy.

Potential Side Effects

Picture of a Medical Professional Doing Liposuction on a Patient

Liposuction can be useful for people with good skin tone and elasticity, because their skin molds itself into new contours. In others, the results may not be great, because in some people the skin may remain somewhat loose, and this undesirable result may be permanent.

Bruising in the targeted area is a common side effect of liposuction surgery that may go on for several weeks or even months. This bruising can turn bad in patients with a tendency to bleed.

In some liposuction patients, especially in treatment of inside the knee and on the inside of the upper thigh, a blood clot can form in a vein (Thrombophlebitis), causing inflammation. There may also be temporary nerve irritation in the area.

During liposuction procedure, as fluids are injected or suctioned, the change in the body’s fluid levels may cause kidney, lung or heart problems.

During fat suction, if it gets into the blood vessels and travels to the lungs, it can block the lungs and become life-threatening (Pulmonary embolism). These fat clots or blood clots can occur when a large volume of fluid is injected into the body or sucked out.

Other less common side effects of liposuction include permanent color changes in the skin and uneven skin surface over the treated area.

Points to Note

It has to be noted that liposuction is not a treatment for obesity or overall weight-loss method, and it will not get rid of cellulite or stretch marks. The main aim of the people undergoing liposuction is esthetic (sense of beauty), i.e. to change and enhance the shape of their bodies, rather than providing any physical health benefits. In many cases, the patients can achieve the same results naturally, and sometimes better ones – by adopting a healthy lifestyle that involves regular exercise, peaceful sleep and good diet. Of course, the natural process, however, takes more time and determination. Experts say that liposuction should ideally be used only when the individual does not achieve the desired results with natural, lifestyle changes. If you are thinking of liposuction, it’s important to discuss its pros and cons with your general practitioner (primary care physician) and also surgeon before deciding on it.

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