Types of anesthesia that may be used

Your surgeon will perform liposuction using either regional anesthesia or general anesthesia: 

  • General anesthesia is a combination of intravenous (IV) medications and gases that put you in a deep sleep. You are unaware of the procedure and will not feel any pain. 
  • Regional anesthesia is also known as a nerve block. It involves injecting an anesthetic around certain nerves to numb a large area of the body. To numb a smaller area, your doctor injects the anesthetic in the skin and tissues around the procedure area (local anesthesia). You will likely have sedation with regional anesthesia to keep you relaxed and comfortable.

What to expect the day of your liposuction

The day of your surgery, you can expect to:

  • Talk with a preoperative nurse. The nurse will perform an exam and ensure that all needed tests are in order. The nurse can also answer questions and will make sure you understand and sign the surgical consent.
  • Remove all clothing and jewelry and dress in a hospital gown. It is a good idea to leave all jewelry and valuables at home or with a family member. The surgical team will give you blankets for modesty and warmth.
  • Meet with your surgeon. Your surgeon will use a special pen to mark the area(s) of your body where fat will be removed.
  • Talk with the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist about your medical history and the type of anesthesia you will receive.
  • A surgical team member will start an IV.
  • The anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will start your anesthesia.
  • A tube will be placed in your windpipe to protect and control breathing during general anesthesia. You will not feel or remember this or the surgery as they happen.
  • The surgical team will monitor your vital signs and other critical body functions. This occurs throughout the procedure and your recovery until you are alert, breathing effectively, and your vital signs are stable.

What are the risks and potential complications of liposuction? 

As with all surgeries, liposuction involves risks and potential complications. Complications may become serious and life threatening in some cases. Complications can develop during the procedure or throughout your recovery.

General risks of surgery 

The general risks of surgical procedures include: 

  • Anesthesia reaction, such as an allergic reaction, toxicity, and problems with breathing 
  • Bleeding, which can lead to shock
  • Blood clot, in particular a deep vein thrombosis that develops in the leg or pelvis. A blood clot can travel to your lungs, heart or brain and cause a pulmonary embolism, heart attack, or stroke.
  • Infection and septicemia, which is the spread of a local infection to the blood

Potential complications of liposuction

Potential complications of liposuction include:

  • Body asymmetry caused by removing different amounts of fat tissue from different body areas
  • Damage to skin, muscle, nerves, and internal organs
  • Fat embolism, which are loosened fat cells that enter the bloodstream and block blood flow
  • Fluid imbalance
  • Irregularities in skin texture or contour, such as dimpling or bagginess
  • Numbness 
  • Pooling of liquid where fat is removed
  • Scarring
  • Skin burns from ultrasound-assisted liposuction
  • Swelling, which can take months to go away
  • Skin discoloration
  • Skin necrosis, which is death of skin cells above the fat removal area. This can lead to a serious infection. 

Reducing your risk of complications

You can reduce the risk of certain complications by following your treatment plan and:

  • Following activity, dietary and lifestyle restrictions and recommendations before surgery and during recovery. This includes physical therapy, occupational therapy and other rehabilitation treatments.
  • Informing your doctor if you are nursing or there is any possibility that you may be pregnant
  • Notifying your doctor immediately of any concerns, such as bleeding, fever, increase in pain, or wound redness, swelling or drainage 
  • Taking your medications exactly as directed. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic before surgery to prevent infection. Take this as directed. 
  • Not smoking. Many plastic surgeons will not perform elective surgery on smokers because of the increased risk of complications. 
  • Telling all members of your care team if you have any allergies