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Issue Date: July 2006 Issue


Ask the Plastic Surgeon

Question: I’ve heard horror stories about people who had extensive liposuction surgery that took hours and nearly died. How does something like this happen and how much fat can be safely removed in one liposuction surgery?
Question: I’ve heard horror stories about people who had extensive liposuction surgery that took hours and nearly died. How does something like this happen and how much fat can be safely removed in one liposuction surgery?
 
Answer: We’ve all heard the kind of stories that you mentioned, they are very tragic and extremely avoidable! A number of factors could lead to such a scenario but there are three main things for a prospective patient to be concerned with if interested in liposuction these are: their overall general health, the credentials and experience of their surgeon and the facilities in which the procedure is to take place. The first and most important issue prior to liposuction or any other elective surgery is the health of the patient. A concerned and credible physician will always ask extensive questions about a patient’s health history and have a medical clearance done prior to operating on someone, to ensure that they can tolerate the planned surgery. It really is the responsibility of the patient to do research into the credentials and experience of the surgeon that they are choosing for the procedure. Patients will go to a physician based on the cost of the procedure assuming that a cheaper surgery will turn out the same. This is often a red flag to the eventual outcome. The reality is that a more experienced surgeon in a safe surgical environment is always going to cost more than a less experienced surgeon doing surgery in an environment that will lower his overall prices for a procedure. Thus, the old adage; “You get, what you pay for!” A hospital or an accredited surgery center are truly the ONLY places that are safe for an extensive liposuction procedure. An office setting is all right for a small refinement technique but not for a large area procedure. Regarding the question about the amount of fat being removed in one procedure, there is no way for me to give a set amount because each case is different. Such a decision is based upon several factors, some of these would include: the size of the patient, their general health, the amount of tumescent solution required, the color of the fat and saline (aspirate) coming out during the procedure; this indicates blood loss, and the elasticity of the patients skin. These factors, along with continuous interoperative monitoring, (vital signs, etc.) dictate the amount of fat that can be safely removed from a patient during a procedure. All of these things are inherently important. An experienced surgeon will know when it is safe to remove a lot of fat and when to stop the procedure if necessary. Also, keep in mind that he amount of fat removed does not equate to pounds lost, as in dieting. Liposuction effects the inches lost in the areas that are treated.
 
Submit your questions to “Ask the Plastic Surgeon” at allnewu@AOL.com. Questions may be condensed and reformatted for the column.
 
Questions are answered by Dr. Mark A. Foglietti, a nationally recognized board-certified plastic surgeon and author.

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