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The untold risks of ‘simple’ cosmetic procedures

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    Liposuction is a cosmetic procedure often marketed or described as a ‘quick fix’ solution to weight problems. But does this make it any less risky?

    By Ben Lees

Due to the distinct lack of regulation in the cosmetic surgery market, it is difficult to put say how many procedures are being performed each year. However, in 2015 the British Association of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) reported that demand for liposuction increased by 20%, with over 5,500 procedures being carried out.

What is liposuction?

With the rise of social media more and more people want to look their best in photos, and with the added bombardment of celebrity bodies, the cosmetic surgery industry is booming. However the industry remains largely unregulated, and patients can easily be misled into thinking procedures are less risky than they are.

Liposuction, a procedure that breaks up and ‘sucks’ fat from the body, is a prime example of this. The weight-loss procedure is often considered as a safe and relatively simple way to shed unwanted fat, and is favoured by celebrities and regular consumers alike; but it’s more serious than many might think.

During a liposuction procedure, fat is removed through a hollow instrument (a cannula) inserted under the skin. A powerful, high-pressure vacuum is then applied to the cannula.

Liposuction is most commonly used on the abdomen, thighs, buttocks, neck, chin, upper arms, calves and back.

What are the risks?

In the first case of its kind in Britain, a woman has nearly died following liposuction when tiny chunks of fat broke free following the procedure and travelled through her body. These chunks of fat then blocked blood vessels in her lungs, damaging the brain and causing her body to shut down.

The woman had what is known as Fat Embolism Syndrome (FES), a life-threatening condition that overweight adults are at a higher risk of developing. The patient, in this case, spent two weeks in hospital and was given oxygen and drugs to help tackle her condition.

Luckily, the patient in this case survived the ordeal. However, the event has drawn attention to the fact that any surgical procedure carries with it – no matter how simple it may seem – a real risk of complications. ‘Low risk’ and ‘less invasive’ cosmetic procedures are no exception to this.

Possible complications specific to liposuction include:

  • Contour irregularities
  • Fluid accumulation
  • Numbness
  • Infection
  • Internal puncture
  • Fat embolism
  • Kidney and heart problems
  • Blood toxicity
  • Aesthetic problems – some liposuction patients find that the surgery does not produce the results they had been assured of by their healthcare providers, for example they may have been left with uneven or bumpy results, or perhaps the appearance after the procedure was not what they had been promised.

What to do if you have suffered a complication

Whilst liposuction is often hailed as a ‘quick fix’ and ‘low risk’ procedure to get rid of excess fat, the complications and risks of the surgery should always be conveyed to a prospective patient.

If you feel that your liposuction was unsuccessful or produced adverse results as a result of negligent treatment, an award of compensation may be available to you.

If you think you may have a claim for clinical negligence following liposuction or you would like to talk to an expert and see where you stand, please do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our specialist cosmetic surgery negligence team.

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