Treatment of liposuction complications

Chapter 46 Treatment of liposuction complications


Numerous cannulae and instruments have been introduced for use in liposuction.13 The tumescent technique and the concept of ultrasonic or laser lipolysis are now widely accepted to assist in more advanced and safe liposuction procedures.4 Even with the considerable advancements in techniques aided by various new instruments, the complications related to liposuction, however minor, are still a concern.5 Moreover, numerous previous studies in the literature have focused on and highlighted safety considerations in liposuction. There is a lack of strategy and treatment guidelines for complications of liposuction. In this chapter, a good guideline for the treatment of complications from liposuction is provided, which range from life-threatening to esthetic complications.

Complications and Their Management

Life-threatening or Systemic Complications

Fat Embolism Syndrome (FES)

There is still confusion regarding fat embolism (FE) and fat embolism syndrome (FES). FES is a phenomenon secondary to FE. Hence, FES is a more accurate term regarding complications after liposuction, because the patient suffers a cascade of symptoms. The incidence of FES in liposuction is currently unknown.

The classic triad includes respiratory distress, cerebral dysfunction, and petechial rash. Other signs and symptoms include thrombocytopenia, anemia, tachycardia, hypocalcemia, and fever.

Diagnosis using ventilation–perfusion scan may show the matching defects.68 Differential diagnoses include fluid overload, pulmonary edema, aspiration pneumonia and various other causes of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).9 Most of all, differentiation of FES from pulmonary embolism is important because the treatment is very different. Heparin can be harmful, for obvious reasons, in the early management of FES.

There are no definite preventive measures for FES. However, using small caliber cannulae and serial suction rather than megaliposuction is generally recommended.

Treatments using intravenous ethanol, heparin, and low molecular weight dextran have largely fallen from favor. Medical management now consists mainly of high-dose corticosteroids, which have been shown to prevent the development of FES in several prospective randomized trials.1012 The role of corticosteroids is considered to inhibit the inflammatory reaction to the presence of fat in the circulatory system after liposuction.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Pulmonary Embolism (PE)

There are three major factors that are important in the development of DVT and PE. The first is the development of venous stasis, the second is the activation of a blood coagulation cascade, and the third is injury to the vascular endothelium (Virchow’s triad).13

Preoperative and early postoperative ambulation is crucial for preventing this event. Epidural anesthesia will increase blood flow to the lower extremity, lessen stagnant blood flow, and may reduce thrombotic complications. Shortening the anesthesia time may be beneficial; hence serial liposuction rather than large volume liposuction is recommended. Compression garments to the ankles avoid a tourniquet effect at the knee.

For high-risk patients, intermittent pneumatic pressure devices rather than continuous devices may be beneficial. Low-dose subcutaneous heparin (2500 U every 12 hours, beginning 2 hours preoperatively) may further reduce the incidence of DVT but it should be remembered that it can also simultaneously increase the risk of bleeding. For most practitioners, fractionated heparin appears preferable to unfractionated heparin.

Initial therapy consists of intravenous heparin, usually by a bolus dose of 5000 to 10 000 U.

A heparin drip at approximately 1000 U/h is then titrated to maintain an activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT) of approximately twice the normal length. This necessitates hospitalization and frequent blood tests. Oral anticoagulant therapy with warfarin is usually initiated shortly thereafter and continued for a minimum of 6 weeks. Prothrombin time (PT) levels must be monitored during follow up to maintain an INR in the therapeutic range.


Tumescent infiltration provides profound hemostasis in large volume liposuction.15 Bloodless aspiration virtually eliminates the possible sequelae of shock and hypovolemia. The ideal ratio of subcutaneous fluid to total aspirate is controversial. The surgeon must weigh the risks between excessive blood loss (inadequate subcutaneous fluid) and pulmonary edema (excess subcutaneous fluid). Fluid shifts between interstitial fluid and plasma volume can result in intravasation (hypervolemia) or extravasation (third spacing). Excessive infiltration obviously should be avoided. According to our 14-year experience with 2398 cases, the need for blood transfusions is rare. It must be remembered that 2000 ml aspiration of supernatant fat is regarded as a decrease in hemoglobin count by 1. Some of the drawbacks of blood transfusions include potential infection, transfusion mismatch, circulatory overload, microthrombi, and postoperative anemia.

Healthy normovolemic patients can tolerate a moderate reduction in hemoglobin count with multiple compensatory mechanisms. In clinical settings, normal tissue oxygenation is maintained with hematocrits as low as 20, if the subject is healthy and remains normovolemic.16

Esthetic Complications

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Jul 23, 2016 | Posted by in Aesthetic plastic surgery | Comments Off on Treatment of liposuction complications

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