Lipoplasty Safety

New York, NY (October 23, 2000) — Historical Perspective: Lipoplasty (liposuction) is the single most requested aesthetic (cosmetic) surgical procedure in the United States, with more than 287,000 procedures performed in 1999 [statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS)]. From its introduction in the U.S. in 1982 until the early 1990s, lipoplasty had among the lowest complication rates of all aesthetic surgical procedures. However, as new techniques were introduced, and physicians found they could remove larger amounts of fat, the incidence of major complications, including fatal outcomes, rose alarmingly.

Pre-1998 Data: A 1998 survey conducted by the plastic surgeons' Lipoplasty Task Force found that 0.3% of patients (70 out of 24,295 cases) undergoing lipoplasty during the previous twelve months had experienced significant complications. These complications included contour irregularities, unplanned hospital admission and prolonged swelling. There was one fatal outcome per 5,000 procedures. Another survey, published in the January 2000 issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, also is based on procedures performed prior to 1998. Neither survey reflects the current state of lipoplasty safety.

Physician Guidelines Developed: In January of 1998, based on the available information concerning fatal outcomes associated with lipoplasty, the plastic surgeons' Lipoplasty Task Force established that the primary factors increasing risk include: 1) excessive amounts of fluid and local anesthesia, 2) excessive fat removal, 3) performance of multiple unrelated procedures in the same surgical session, 4) poor patient selection/patient health, and 5) inadequate postoperative monitoring of patients undergoing large-volume fat removal. All of these factors can be avoided. Safety guidelines were endorsed by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. An intense educational effort was undertaken by the plastic surgery organizations, including ASAPS, to communicate the task force's findings to their member surgeons through meetings, seminars and plastic surgery publications.

Current Data: Results of the educational efforts were dramatic: Mark Gorney, MD, Medical Director of The Doctors' Company, a leading malpractice carrier, reports that "Since October 1998, there have been no (zero) significant insurance claims and no (zero) fatal outcomes associated with lipoplasty performed by our 1000 insured board-certified plastic surgeons." Complications may follow any surgical procedure, even with highest level of care, but this data support the fact that lipoplasty is a safe and effective operation when performed in accordance with accepted standards of practice by a surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.


The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world's leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body. ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; Active Members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and nonsurgical aesthetic procedures. International Active Members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.


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