Does Liposuction Damage Your Body? Risks & Complications

Medically Reviewed on 9/28/2022
Does Liposuction Damage Your Body
Learn about the risks associated with liposuction and what to expect during the procedure

As with any major surgery, liposuction carries risks, such as bleeding, infection, contour irregularities, and reactions to anesthesia.

Learn about the risks associated with liposuction and what to expect during the procedure.

What are the risks associated with liposuction?

Prior to undergoing surgery, you will be informed of all potential risks associated with liposuction. Talk to your plastic surgeon about your concerns. Risks may include:

  • Friction burns or other damage to nerves or skin
  • Thermal burns or other heat-related injuries to the epidermis or deeper tissues caused by the ultrasound machine used to liquefy fat cells
  • Lignocaine toxicity (if there is too much lignocaine in the solution) 
  • Fluid buildup in the lungs (if too much fluid is given), which can lead to lung failure
  • Infection (serious complication because it is challenging to treat infections that occur in the fatty tissues)
  • Delayed healing due to a poor aseptic environment or comorbid conditions (diabetes)
  • Uneven skin surface or rippling
  • Asymmetrical or baggy skin surface
  • Change in skin sensitivity or numbness
  • Changes in skin pigmentation, discoloration, or edema
  • Serious scarring
  • Dull, persistent pain at the surgical site
  • Drug-related allergic responses
  • Development of blood or fat clots, which may spread to the lungs and result in death
  • Persistent leg swelling
  • Deep vein thrombosis, heart problems, and lung issues

Some surgeons may recommend further procedures to remove extra skin. When large amounts—typically more than 5 L of fat—are suctioned, special considerations should be taken.

Why is liposuction done?

Liposuction is a plastic surgery technique that removes fat from the body. The procedure is also known as lipo, lipoplasty, or body contouring and often targets specific body parts such as the thighs, hips, buttocks, abdomen, arms, neck, and back. 

Liposuction is typically done when someone struggles to lose weight even with diet and exercise.

Liposuction is not considered an alternative for weight loss. If you are overweight but only have excess fat in certain areas, you may be a candidate for liposuction.

What are the side effects of liposuction?

  • Bruising: Bruising is common after liposuction and usually goes away in a couple of weeks. Because there is a risk of internal bleeding, severe bruising that does not go away should be examined by a doctor. People who are susceptible to bleeding or who take aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs are more likely to develop severe bruising.
  • Swelling: Swelling after the procedure usually goes down after 1-2 months, although it can take up to 6 months.
  • Scarring: The amount of scarring varies depending on the scope of the procedure and the number of incisions necessary. Scarring often fades over a few weeks, but healing can take up to a year.
  • Postoperative pain: Postoperative pain can be controlled with over-the-counter or prescription pain medications.
  • Numbness: The treated area may feel numb for up to a few weeks after surgery due to superficial nerve injury.


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How is liposuction performed?

Your surgeon will determine which type of surgery is best for you.There are three main liposuction techniques:

  • Traditional liposuction: Also known as tumescent or fluid injection liposuction, traditional liposuction involves creating a few tiny incisions in the area from where the fat is to be removed. Your surgeon administers a fluid mixture including a salt solution, a local anesthetic, and epinephrine into the lesion. This substance stops bruising, edema, and excessive blood loss. Your surgeon then sucks out and removes the fat cells using a cannula and syringe. 
  • Ultrasound-assisted liposuction: To heat and break up the fat, your surgeon makes a few minor incisions in the area being treated for fat removal. With an emitter device or ultrasonic cannula, your surgeon will administer ultrasound vibrations to your skin. Through the cannula, the surgeon will remove the fat using a small surgical vacuum or syringe.
  • Laser-assisted liposuction: The surgeon injects a fluid mixture containing a salt solution, a local anesthetic, and epinephrine through a few tiny incisions that they create in the area to remove fat. To heat and release the fat, your surgeon makes small laser incisions. They remove the fat using a cannula and a small surgical vacuum or syringe.

During liposuction, your surgeon will use anesthesia:

  • General anesthesia: An intravenous drug and gas combination that induces deep sleep
  • Regional anesthesia: Injected around certain nerves to numb a large part of the body.

What to expect before, during, and after liposuction

Before the procedure

  • You will have a consultation prior to your procedure. Medical history, physical examination, and psychological evaluation will be part of this. 
  • Feel free to ask questions. Make sure you understand the responses to your inquiries so that you are aware of the pre-operative steps, procedures, and aftercare. 
  • You may be requested to produce a urine sample and have blood collected before the surgery. 

During the procedure

  • Your surgeon will mark the area(s) of your body from where fat will be removed using a special pen.
  • A member of the surgical team will begin an intravenous line, and the anesthesiologist will start an anesthetic.
  • If general anesthesia is used, a tube will be inserted into your windpipe to regulate breathing.
  • Medical staff will keep an eye on your vital signs throughout the procedure.

After the procedure

  • Following surgery, the area is bandaged and fitted with a compression garment to apply pressure to the area, stop bleeding, and support preservation. 
  • Bandages are left in place for at least 2 weeks. The compression garment will probably be kept on for several more weeks. 
  • You may experience pain, numbness, bruising, and swelling, which can be treated with medication. 
  • In 5-10 days, the stitches will be removed. To prevent infection, doctors may prescribe antibiotics.
  • After surgery, get up and move around as soon as you can to help prevent blood clots from forming in your legs. Avoid more strenuous exercise for roughly a month after the surgery.
  • You can go back to work in a few days. After approximately 1-2 weeks, you will start to feel better. Your surgeon may occasionally call you to check on your recovery.

What are the results of liposuction?

Most people are satisfied with the outcome of liposuction. Results will be more apparent 4-6 weeks after surgery. You can maintain your new shape by exercising frequently and eating a healthy diet.

The decision to get plastic surgery is personal, and you must determine whether the advantages are worth the potential risks and complications of liposuction. Discuss the benefits and risks of liposuction with your doctor.

Medically Reviewed on 9/28/2022
Image Source: iStock image

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