Liposuction: What Is Safe Limit?

Liposuction, or suction assisted lipectomy, is a safe and effective cosmetic procedure in plastic surgery to remove unwanted fat and improve body contour. Patients who are otherwise in good health, and who have areas of fat deposits that do not respond to diet and exercise, are in general good candidates for the procedure. Liposuction remains the gold standard for fat removal and body contouring, despite the addition of multiple non-invasive alternatives for fat reduction. It may also be combined with other cosmetic procedures such as abdominoplasty, facial rejuvenation and fat injections, and breast augmentation, lift, or reduction.

The upper limit of how much fat can safely be removed in one operative session is not yet clear. Large volume liposuction is somewhat arbitrarily defined by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons as 5000ml of lipoaspirate, in order to try to limit the potential risks of higher amounts being removed at a time. A recent research study (1) in the plastic surgery literature seeks to better evaluate and assess the risk of complications of liposuction based on body mass index (BMI). For the total group of over 4500 patients included in the study, the overall rate of complications was 1.5%, of which the majority were seromas (fluid accumulations). Complications were associated with  higher lipoaspirate volume (3.4 liters vs. 2.1 liters on average) and occurred in patients with higher BMIs (mean 28.2 vs. 26.5). The study also concluded that: 1. increasing BMI, although associated with a higher risk of complications, offers a protective effect as to the risk of complications due to higher aspirate volume; and 2. liposuction volumes in excess of 100 ml per unit of body mass index lead to increased risk of complications (3.52% vs. 0.88%).

Dr. Olivia Hutchinson is a top rated board certified female plastic surgeon in NYC with advanced specialized training in aesthetic plastic surgery of the face, breast, and body. Her office off Park Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side is equipped with a fully AAAASF certified Operating Room for the safety, privacy, and comfort of her patients. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Hutchinson, please contact us or call us at (212) 452-1400.

1. Chow, Ian, et al. Is There a Safe Lipoaspirate Volume? A Risk Assessment Model of Liposuction Volume as a Function of Body Mass Index. Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery: September 2015 – Volume 136 – Issue 3 – p 474–483

Posted in: Medical News

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