Several techniques are commonly employed. Most approaches first require the injection of anaesthetic fluid which ‘dilutes’ the fat and prepares it for removal while also numbing the patients pain. Many surgeons will then use ultrasound to break the cell walls of fat cells. This involves using a device which emits high-frequency sound waves which burst cell walls. This ‘liquefies’ the fat, but it may cause pockets of fluid to form after the surgery which must be drained with a needle. The surgeon will then make a cut in the skin and insert a vacuum straw. This will suck away the liquefied fat. The surgeon may also replace fat in other areas of the body to create ‘contouring’ or to combat wrinkling.
Liposuction has come a long way since one of the first patients died following the procedure in 1926. It is now generally regarded as a safe treatment and most patients are happy with the results. However, there remain several risks which the medical professional performing the procedure must take action to prevent. If they fail to do so any one of the following conditions could result:
- Infection: As with all invasive surgery, infection poses a considerable and very grave risk. Patients should be treated with antibiotics and proper counter-infection measures must be taken.
- Scarring and other skin damage: The vacuum straw may cause damage to tissue beneath the skin which can cause a ‘spotted’ appearance. The cut in the skin may also scar if the patient poses a particular scar risk or has been improperly treated. Scars should heal within a year after the surgery.
- ‘Bumpy skin’: Also known as ‘contour irregularities’, some patients may experience a bumpy appearance to their skin. This could be caused by failures during the procedure or the nature of the patients skin.
- Puncturing an internal organ: If the surgeon fails to exercise professional skill they may cause damage to an internal organ. This will require surgery to repair since serious illness and even death can result.
- Thromboembolism: Although very rare, it is possible that fatty matter could enter the blood stream and cause a blood clot. This could potentially block the blood flow. This is a life threatening condition, although action can be taken to reduce the risk significantly.
- Burns: A failure to exercise due care when performing the operation may cause the vacuum straw to burn tissue. Older equipment carries a higher risk of burns forming.
- Blood toxicity: Injecting an improper amount of saline solution during the procedure can cause too much anaesthetic solution to enter the blood stream. If countermeasures are not taken this can cause blood poisoning and eventually death.
- Fluid imbalance: The operation relies upon the use of significant amounts of fluid. If the balance of fluid within the body is not carefully regulated the heart, lungs and kidneys could be damaged.