Understanding the Benefits and Risks of Liposuction

Liposuction Risks Little Understood

Although many consumers think of liposuction as a quick and permanent fix, it's likely that few understand its risks and frequently temporary results. There is no national group of consumers, nor one group representative of all clinicians, that is organized to oversee liposuction procedures and results.

Although the FDA is aware of problems published in medical literature and described by other sources, "very few adverse event reports are coming into the agency through its formal reporting channels" according to Anita Kedas, a nurse consultant in CDRH's Office of Surveillance and Biometrics. But the small number of reports may simply mean that negative outcomes aren't being reported.

Office-based procedures may present the greatest reporting problem. There's no requirement that adverse events from office procedures be reported, and most procedures are done in offices, according to Graham.

Even if offices are well equipped, she adds, patients often need days of continuous support such as rehydration, pressure dressings, and good nursing care, while others actually need resuscitation and hospitalization to recover. And if a patient goes to the emergency room for care, the FDA doesn't hear about it, adds Graham.

Whether reported or not, liposuction problems are real enough - though some, such as wavy or uneven skin after fat removal, are not medically serious.

But others are. Overworking the heart can be a serious side effect of the tumescent technique. "Let's say they plan to remove 5,000 cc's of aspirate," says plastic surgeon Fodor, "so they inject a dangerously large amount of fluid. The patient would be practically 'drowning' in fluids. The heart can't handle this fluid overload."

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