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"Although the overall incidence of major complications is low, such complications can leave a potentially devastating cosmetic outcome and pose a significant financial burden on the patient and surgeon," the study authors wrote.
For the study, researchers analyzed data from 2008 to 2013 from an insurance program that covers cosmetic surgery complications.
Major complications occurred in 4 percent of tummy tucks, compared with 1.4 percent of other types of cosmetic surgery, the study found. Most common major complications were hematomas (collection of blood outside blood vessels), infections, blood clots and lung-related problems.
The risk of major complications was 50 percent higher when patients had other cosmetic procedures at the same time as a tummy tuck. Those who were male, obese or aged 55 or older were also at increased risk, the findings showed.
The risk was lower if a tummy tuck was performed in an office-based surgical suite rather than in a hospital or surgical center, according to the study in the November issue of the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
"Surgeons often refer patients with major illnesses -- such as heart disease -- to hospitals, which may be responsible for this observed trend in complications," study author Dr. Julian Winocour said in a journal news release. Winocour is a plastic and reconstructive surgery resident at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
Tummy tuck is the sixth most common cosmetic procedure performed in the United States, with more than 117,000 done in 2014, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
-- Robert Preidt
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