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The 5 Most Common Complications After Liposuction

Dec 05, 2022
Common complications that occur after plastic or cosmetic surgery procedures. Postop common and complex complications.

When I started working with people who had had a plastic surgery procedure, I didn't really know what I was doing!

Yes, I knew how to do Manual Lymphatic Drainage and I knew how to treat someone with lymphoedema. But, treating someone who had been through the trauma of a surgical procedure was completely foreign to me. And to be honest, pretty scary!

However, I was extremely fortunate I was working in a plastic surgery clinic in Wimpole Street, part of the renowened medical area of London.  Mary, who was the clinical nurse specialist was always at hand. And Chris Inglefield, the owner of the clinic and a highly experienced plastic and reconstructive surgeon encouraged questions and discussions about anything I was unsure of.

Over the years working there and in The London Breast Clinic in Harley Street, I learned a lot about the various complications that occur after surgery, particularly after liposuction.

So, I am going to share with you the 5 most common complications that I have encountered during my career of working with post plastic surgery patients. If you are a therapist treating postop patients, you will know what issues you are likely to come across in your postop practice. And if you are someone who is planning on having liposuction, then you will learn the possible postop complications you might have afterwards. 

While no one predict how one person will heal in comparision to someone else, there are certain precautions you can take prior to having your procedure that will reduce the prospect of complications occuring. I will address those later in the blog. For now, here are the 5 most common complications after liposuction. These are listed in no particular order.

  • Seroma: a seroma is a collection of fluid called serous fluid, contained within a pocket in the tissues. When you have liposuction, spaces are left in the tissues where the fat has been removed and sometimes, if the tissues don't knit together within the first couple of days, a pocket is left which fills up with fluid. This is different from the swelling you will experience after surgery. This swelling is fluid within the tissues. How do you know if you have a seroma? Well, if you gently tap the area in question, it will look and feel like you are tapping a water bed or a hot water bottle. You will notice ripples of water under your skin. And if it's a large seroma, you feel like you have water running or moving around under your skin.
    • If you think you have a seroma, go back to your surgeon, or ask your postop MLD therapists for advice on what to do. If you need to have it aspirated (drained) make sure you go to a medical professional and NOT to a someone who offers to open your incisions and push the fluid out of your body! This is an infection risk. 
  • Infection: infections are less common after liposuction, compared to surgeries that involve larger incisions, like for tummy tuck or breast reduction. However, whenever there has been a breach of the skin, there is always a risk of infection. An infected area of skin starts off feeling warmer than the neighbouring areas, will have a red look and there may be some increase in pain.
    • If you think you have an infection, go to your doctor or surgeon and they will give you some medication that will clear it up quite quickly.
  • Lipo Burns: unfortunately, these are becoming increasingly more common due to surgeons using more aggressive liposuction techniques i.e.: removing excessive amounts of fat and scraping too close to the underside of the skin. Some liposuction devices create energy (heat) in the tissues and if the surgeon is in there too long and scrapes too close the skin surface, you might end up with a superficial burn. Lipo burns can be exacerbated by wearing badly fitting compression (faja). And by having a skin tightening procedure after your liposuction. This is another energy (heating) producing device used to tighten the skin.
    • If you think you have a Lipo Burn, go to your doctor, surgeon or a wound care specialist immediately. They will know how to manage the burn so you aren't left with an unsightly scar.
  • Necrosis: necrosis can happen after a wound infection, wound breakdown and after a Lipo Burn. Necrosis is caused by a lack of oxygen to the tissues. It will be noticeable because the tissue goes black. However, if it is well treated, it will heal.
    • If you think you have a wound healing issue, or have a lip burn, then it's vital you go to see a wound care specialist. They will know exactly what to do to limit problematic scarring.
  • Fibrosis: like lipo burns, is becoming an increasingly common and problematic postop issue. It is particularly common after a liposuction procedure called VASER, which is often used for the popular BBL (Brazilian Butt Lift) procedure. However, unfortunately VASER is being over used on the wrong patient. VASER was not designed to remove large amounts of fat and the results are less than favourable when used on the wrong patient. There are multiple contributors to fibrosis; the type of liposuction used, the wrong compression garment being worn too tight or too loose, poor preoperative lifestyles, smoking and drinking alcohol, too much movement after surgery, and believe it or not, too little movement after surgery . Fibrosis will start being noticeable at around 3 - 4 weeks after your surgery but its important you don't have any aggressive massage, wood therapy, body contouring or other deep tissue therapies at this stage. Your body need to go through it's proper healing process. So, let it do it's thing for at least 12 weeks before looking at any other therapy, apart from your postop Manual Lymph Drainage.
    • If you start seeing or feeling lumpy, bumpy areas of fibrosis, don't panic! Your body has just been through a hugely traumatic procedure. Allow it do to what it does naturally. Have regular Manual Lymphatic Massage Therapy with a therapist experienced in treating postop patients. Ensure you are wearing a well fitting compression garment with bespoke foam underneath (I'm not a fan of the foam boards, or foam wraps you buy off the internet. Get your therapist to 'tailor' some foam to fit you) 

How can you prevent or avoid these 5 most common complications occuring? It's simple, make sure you body and mind are in the best possible state both before your surgery and afterwards.

Upgrade your lifestyle to a healthy one, at least 3 months in advance. I'd recommend 6 months in advance if possible. Eat healthy foods, to include fats, carbs and plenty of protein, especially afterwards. Drink LOTS of water and get a good night's sleep every night. Avoid processed foods and foods with a high salt and sugar content. Reduce caffeine and carbinated drinks. And believe it or not, reducing stress will have a direct benefit on your healing. So, include daily meditation or relaxation techniques. And of course, book your postop lymphatic massage therapy appointments in advance.

If you do all of that, you reduce your risk of complications. I must note here, that it is impossible to completely avoid the risks. Surgery is a BIG deal, causing BIG trauma to your body. However, if your mind and body are in the best condition before your surgery, you give yourself the BEST opportunity for a healthy recovery.

If would like more information on Fibrosis, get my FREE download HERE

If you are a Manual Lymph Drainage therapist who lacks confidence and wants success treating Postop Plastic Surgery patients? Click below to book a FREE 30 minutes discovery call where you can discuss your training needs and I'll share how you can gain confidence to have a successful postop practice.


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