If you are considering a liposuction procedure, the first thing on your mind may be the risks of liposuction. You may also feel bewildered by the multiplicity of alternative techniques that a plastic surgeon presents to you. This cosmetic procedure has come a long way since it was first used in the 1960s. While some of the older techniques have been definitively discarded by modern surgeons, many of them remain useful. The result is an overall positive one for liposuction candidates.

Nevertheless, the procedures available present difficult choices for the average patient, who probably has little understanding of modern medicine and the associated risks and benefits of these operations. Doctors may recommend certain types of liposuction because of the price or because their medical specialty does not perform abdominoplasties. However, it remains up to the patient to decide exactly what he or she wants the surgeon to do. A proper understanding of liposuction and a quick introduction to each common procedure might help patients make informed choices about this cosmetic surgery.

How Liposuction Works

Liposuction is a cosmetic surgical procedure that is often referred to as body contouring. Surgeons make incisions, either as initial steps or after some prior treatments, which will be discussed later, and remove adipose tissue from within the patient. They literally excise fat. This should never be considered a shortcut to weight loss and the best candidates are those that are unable to remove localized collections of fat despite diet and exercise. Liposuction is not a trivial procedure. Liposuction can only remove the fat present under the skin. It cannot remove the fat surrounding the abdominal organs, and this type of fat can only be removed with diet and exercise.

Initial Techniques

There were significant risks of liposuction with the early procedures. Early liposuction procedures used sharp instruments that resulted in damage to surrounding structures and severe bleeding. It was eventually replaced by a technique that is still used and considered to be a basic approach to the challenge.

Tumescent liposuction requires the injection of a fluid into concentrations of fatty tissues. This fluid usually contains a mixture of IV solutions, lidocaine, and epinephrine. This liquifies the adipose tissue and makes less traumatic to remove, while reducing bleeding and improving pain relief.

Later Developments

Most plastic surgeons perform liposuction with the standard technique, in a certified operating room under anesthesia.  Operating room privileges are very difficult to obtain in hospitals and plastic surgeons are the only specialists allowed to perform liposuction in these high level centers.  Some liposuction procedures are formed with new technologies.  These include laser lipolysis, which actually burns away the fat rather than removing it. Some surgeons use water jets to abrade the fatty tissues rather than scrape them away with a metal tool. Others prefer to pulverize the fat with ultra-sonic waves before making an incision. These procedures add additional risks to the procedure and are not proven to be of significant benefit.

Risks and Benefits of Each Technique

No matter which approach you take to having your excess fatty tissue removed, there will be risks associated with the procedure. Some of these risks, such as infection, are common to virtually all surgical procedures. Anytime you make an incision into your body, there is a chance that infections of various kinds may ensue. However, some risks of liposuction are particular to this type of operation.

For example, it is dangerous to remove too much fat in one day. If a patient needs a great deal of tissue removed, he or she may have to undergo multiple surgeries and greatly increase the risk of adverse complications. Nerve injury is another risk due to the invasive nature of liposuction. Skin necrosis, or the death of skin cells in a specific area, is also sometimes seen in the aftermath of liposuction. Swelling is common after all surgeries, but it can occasionally become severe after this procedure. However, many of the developments in techniques were designed to evade these very risks, and they are quite rare with most modern surgical methods.