Lipoplasty Safety Takes a Dramatic Turn, Says American Society

New York, NY (January 19, 2000) — A report published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery on fatal outcomes associated with lipoplasty (liposuction) procedures occurring between 1994 and mid-1998 does not reflect the current state of lipoplasty safety, says Fritz E. Barton, Jr., MD, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), the nation's largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons who specialize in cosmetic surgery. "Lipoplasty is a safe procedure that produces effective therapeutic outcomes when performed by a trained surgeon in accordance with currently accepted standards of surgical practice," says Dr. Barton.

Dr. Barton acknowledges that public concerns about lipoplasty safety are well founded. "Although 16 years of clinical experience in lipoplasty had shown it to be a very safe procedure, plastic surgeons suddenly began hearing about an alarming incidence of serious complications," says Dr. Barton. "We took steps to find out why and to address the problem."

A plastic surgeons' task force determined that factors increasing risks associated with lipoplasty include 1) administration of excessive amounts of fluid and local anesthesia; 2) excessive fat removal; 3) performance of multiple unrelated procedures in the same surgical session; 4) inappropriate patient selection/poor patient health; and 5) inadequate postoperative monitoring following large-volume fat removal. "As a result of the task force's investigation and recommendations, many plastic surgeons have altered their approach to lipoplasty. Consequently, since about mid-1998, we have seen the rate of complications plummet," says Dr. Barton. Dr. Barton's assertions are substantiated by Mark Gorney, MD, Medical Director of The Doctors' Company, a leading medical malpractice carrier for board-certified plastic surgeons, who reports that "since October of 1998 there have been no (zero) claims and no (zero) fatal outcomes associated with lipoplasty procedures performed by our 1000 insured plastic surgeons."

The Doctors' Company data pertains only to procedures performed by surgeons who are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). "Many problems can occur because untrained doctors perform lipoplasty in their offices without peer review," says Dr. Barton. "Studies have shown that the safety of plastic surgery performed by board-certified surgeons in accredited office facilities compares favorably with hospital-based ambulatory surgery, with a rate of complications that is less than ½ of 1 percent." ASAPS advises patients considering lipoplasty to check whether 1) the surgeon is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, 2) the operating facility is accredited, and 3) the surgeon has privileges to perform lipoplasty in an accredited hospital.


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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