Liposuction Complications and Risks

All surgeries have risks and complications, and liposuction is no exception. Liposuction complications can and do happen. These complications range from critical to superficial.


You can have a bad reaction to anesthesia during a liposuction procedure. Anyone can develop an allergy to anesthetic medications, even if he or she has done well with it in the past.


An infection can occur after any surgery. The incisions with liposuction are small, but can become infected even if they are kept clean.

Bleeding Complications

Excessive bleeding during the procedure and afterward is one of the risks associated with liposuction surgery. Additionally, a hematoma or seroma can form in the areas treated. A hematoma is a pocket of blood that may be clotted or partially clotted. A seroma is a pocket of watery fluid. Treatment for either a hematoma or a seroma may include simply waiting for them to slowly resolve or inserting a needle to drain them.

Fat and Tissue Necrosis

Necrosis is the medical term for dead tissue. During liposuction, some fat cells may die due to lack of blood supply caused when blood vessels are severed. When this occurs, the fat drains from the incision sites. However, necrosis in other tissue is a serous condition that can lead to infection.

Risks Associated with Ultrasonic Liposuction

Because it involves the use of ultrasonic energy, Ultrasonic Liposuction carries risks that other liposuction techniques do not. The most serious risks associated with Ultrasonic liposuction are burns, either internally or on the skin. Keeping the ultrasonic transmission paddles or the ultrasonic cannula moving during the procedure helps to minimize the risk of burns.

Lidocaine Toxicity

With superwet and tumescent liposuction, a lot of fluid containing lidocaine is infused into the tissue. The body may react to the large amount of lidocaine being used.


Thromboembolus (plural: thromboemboli) occurs when a blood clot forms, breaks free and travels to the lungs or the brain. It is a serious risk associated with liposuction. Pulmonary thromboemboli, the movement of a blood clot to the lungs, can lead to cardiac arrest, a coma or possibly death.

Symptoms include labored breathing that starts within 72 hours after surgery. Although a pulmonary thromboembolus typically becomes evident within 3 weeks after surgery, it may occur at any time after the procedure.

Fat Emboli

A fat embolus is similar to a thromboembolus, but instead of being a blood clot, it is a globule of fat that has entered a blood vessel and can be carried to the heart, lungs or brain. As with thromboemboli, fat emboli can cause serious illness, disability or death.

Pulmonary Edema

In some types of liposuction, the surgeon injects large amounts of fluid into the body. This can result in a build-up of fluid in the lungs or pulmonary edema. In most cases, this occurs when the patient is overhydrated. Symptoms of pulmonary edema include shortness of breath, wheezing and gurgling noises during breathing.


In many cases, the surgeon is operating the cannula close to abdominal or other organs during liposuction. There is the risk of puncturing one of these organs, which can be a serious complication.

Fluid Shifts and Blood Loss

During liposuction, you may receive a lot of fluid, but you are also having a lot of fluid removed. Because of this, there is the risk of dehydration and excessive blood loss. Dehydration typically occurs during high-volume liposuctions done without adequate fluid replenishment. Excessive blood loss may also occur in high-volume liposuction.

Irregular Contour Deformities and General Dissatisfaction

Although not a medical complication, one of the major complications associated with liposuction are contour irregularities or deformities. Liposuction can create wavy areas, dents, and bumps that are visible and that may be different than the desired results. You may need to undergo additional procedures to correct these contour irregularities.

You are more likely to be dissatisfied with the results if you failed to convey your expectations and your desired appearance to your surgeon. You must be as clear and detailed as possible when describing desired results to avoid being disappointed after the surgery.

Even though the incision sites for liposuction are small compared to other types of surgery, you may also be dissatisfied with the amount of scar tissue. The scars will initially look more prominent and will likely fade over time. When examining liposuction photos, you should pay particular attention to the incisions so that you know what they will look like.

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