A Rare But Serious Liposuction Complication Has Been Brought Into the Spotlight

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Scary news out of the UK is reporting that a 45-year-old woman recently had a VERY serious complication—to the tune of respiratory failure—after undergoing liposuction.

According to the BBC, the woman had fat globules enter the lungs after the surgery; while she did recover, the BMJ issued a report to shed some light on the rare threat, which exists in higher-risk patients. (The woman was morbidly obese and had undergone a gastric bypass.)

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So how common is the issue? As Huntington, CA, plastic surgeon Peter Newen, MD, points out, every surgical procedure of any magnitude entails a real and possible risk of complications and liposuction is no exception.

“Liposuction, however, is one of the safest aesthetic surgical procedures. In 2015, 222,051 liposuction procedures were performed by board-certified plastic surgeons; that number doesn’t include the procedures done by non-plastic surgeons,” he says. “The number of complications that occurred from these liposuction procedures is quite low. According to a New England Journal of Medicine in 1999, in a three years study of complications from cosmetic procedures performed in New York, no patient death were associated with fat embolism.”

Dr. Newen does stress that, in view of the high number of liposuction procedures performed and the very rare risk of this fat embolism complications, doctors should continue to be vigilant about monitor the patients after any surgical procedures but not exaggerate the risk of this complication among all other complications that can occur after surgical procedures. “I recommend that patients perform their due diligence in examining the training and board certification of their surgeons as well as their safety track record. We cannot avoid all risks in surgery but with appropriate preparations, we can minimize the risk of surgical complications especially of the serious complications.”

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