How Safe is Liposuction?
Christopher Chung, M.D.
American Board of Plastic Surgery
Chief Medical Officer
Over the years, improvements in the technique of liposuction and the establishment of guidelines in the medical community for the amount of lidocaine used and fat removed, both within a 24-hour period, have greatly improved the safety of Liposuction. Given these improvements, how safe is liposuction in 2019 compared to what it was previously?
During the 1980s liposuction increased in popularity as patients wanted to get rid of excess fat, particularly the kind of fat that was genetically inherited and resisted efforts such as diet and exercise. With the advent of the use of tumescent fluid, liposuction became safer and more fat was able to be removed at one procedure. Tumescent fluid is a solution consisting of IV fluid to which has been added Lidocaine for anesthesia and Epinephrine for vasoconstriction so that the blood loss previously associated with Liposuction was greatly reduced—making Liposuction safer. There are limits to how much tumescent fluid can be used in a given patient and it is based on the patient’s weight to avoid lidocaine toxicity.
With the ability to remove more fat through the use of tumescent fluid, surgeons also discovered that there was an optimal maximum of fat that could be removed in a 24-hour period without putting the patient’s fluid dynamics and healing in jeopardy and that is widely considered to be about 5 Liters or 10 pounds of fat.
So, we see that the use of tumescent fluid and optimizing limits on how much fat can be removed in a day have greatly increased the safety of liposuction. However, no surgical procedure is without risk and those include such things as infection, blood clots, scarring, and surface irregularities, though these risks tend to be low.
To answer the question “how safe is liposuction?”, ultimately, the skill and ability of your surgeon will afford you the greatest measure of safety and the best possible outcome.