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Your guide to liposuction

Cosmetic surgery

Liposuction surgery, which involves the removal of excess fat from beneath the surface of the skin, accounts for one in ten of all male and female cosmetic procedures in the UK.

Although it is considered less risky than a tummy-tuck, the greater the amount of fat to be removed, the greater the risks arising from the procedure, which may leave patients with unsightly dents and bumps, and other skin abnormalities. 

There are different liposuction techniques and they produce different results. As with all surgical procedures, there are risks involved which range from minor to more serious and life-threatening.

The majority of cosmetic work is carried out in private medical practices rather than by the NHS. A doctor who practices cosmetic surgery should have undertaken qualified training and is required to be on the Specialist Register in Plastic Surgery at the General Medical Council. These rules do not apply to doctors who registered with the Council before 2002.

Liposuction is a procedure that should be carried out by qualified, experienced surgeons. Negligent treatment can lead to a painful recovery and cause complications, including:

  • Swelling and bruising
  • Severe scarring and skin abnormalities
  • Burns
  • Bleeding
  • Numbness
  • Build up of fluid on the lungs
  • Injury to stomach organs
  • Infections
  • Adverse reaction to the anaesthetic

A patient can also be initially disappointed with the results and the effects upon their appearance.

At your first consultation and before you sign a consent form allowing surgery to go ahead, your surgeon should ask you about your expectations and what exactly you want to achieve.

A surgeon has a duty of care to:

  • Carefully explain the risks and limitations of liposuction surgery, for example, maintaining a new shape in the long term will require regular exercise and eating a healthy diet.
  • Enquire into your medical history and any conditions or circumstances that may present a risk or lead to complications.

Where a procedure falls below the acceptable standard, a surgeon may be found to be in breach of the ‘duty of care’ you are owed.

Poor cosmetic work can cause patients to suffer more than ongoing pain and distress. The long term consequences of negligent treatment can also leave both permanent physical and psychological scars which may  affect your quality of life and ability to socialise.

Your Legal Friend has many years of clinical negligence experience, helping clients who have suffered disfiguring injuries caused by cosmetic procedures that have gone wrong.

We can help you:

  • Make your case heard
  • Obtain financial compensation
  • Ensure the financial needs of further corrective surgery, support, and counselling will be fully met. 

Liposuction stats

  • Lipsosuction surgery is the fifth most popular cosmetic procedure in the UK.
  • 4,627 of the 45,406 male and female cosmetic procedures in 2014 were for liposuction surgery - up 7% on 2013.
  • 4,138 of the 41,364 female cosmetic procedures in 2014 were for liposuction surgery - up 10% on 2013.          (British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons – BAAPS) 

Liposuction – the basics

Liposuction is the surgical removal of small areas of excess fat from one or more of the following key areas:

  • Abdomen (stomach)
  • Hips and thighs
  • Buttocks
  • Knees and, ankles
  • Upper arms, neck and sides

Surgery is most often performed on the thighs, abdomen and buttocks in women and lower waist and chest in men.

Difference between liposuction and a tummy-tuck

Liposuction is often performed along with a tummy tuck in particular types of procedures. This is because liposuction is intended solely for fat loss and will not tighten loose skin.

  • Liposuction involves the less invasive process of drawing out fat from different areas of the body.
  • A tummy-tuck (also known as an abdominoplasty) is a more major operation focused primarily upon the removal of excess skin and the straightening and/or firming up of the stomach muscles, exclusively around the midsection of the body. 

Before the procedure

Your surgeon should take you through a detailed patient consultation to include:

  • Your medical history
  • Physical examination
  • Psychological evaluation.

Blood and urine samples should also be taken to rule out a potential number of complications.

Your surgeon should explain the limitations, potential risks and complications involved. Liposuction is not intended as a method of weight loss but as a spot reduction and body contouring technique. There are recommended restrictions on the amount of fat that can be removed at any one time.

 It’s important to und erstand that, while liposuction may help to enhance your appearance and self-confidence, it will probably not give you your ideal body.

If you have a medical condition

Your surgeon should carefully check for any medical conditions or health complaints that may present a risk of complications, including:

  • History of heart problems (heart attack)
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Allergic reactions to medications
  • Pulmonary problems (shortness of breath)
  • Allergies (antibiotics, asthma)
  • Smoking, alcohol, or drug use. 

A surgeon should not use liposuction in specific instances

  • On certain areas of the body, such as the fat on the sides of the breasts, because the breast is a common site for cancer.
  • As a treatment for cellulite (the uneven, dimpled appearance of skin over hips, thighs, and buttocks) or excess skin.
  • As a cure for general obesity or as a substitute for exercise and diet. 


A local anaesthetic is usually applied to the area of body to be treated. A general anaesthetic may be used if required.

Incisions are made in the target areas and then a flexible tube called a cannula is inserted into a vein or cavity to drain away fluid or to administer drugs. -

Types of liposuction surgery

There are several different techniques currently available.

  • Tumescent liposuction - is the most common type of surgery.

A large quantity of medicated solution containing three liquids - a local anaesthetic, a chemical to reduce blood loss and bruising, and an intravenous salt solution - is injected into the target areas. The fat is easier to remove and there is a reduction in the pain, swelling and bruising naturally caused by the procedure. This procedure takes a longer period of time.

  • The super-wet technique - similar to tumescent liposuction but not as much fluid is used during the surgery. The amount of fluid injected is equal to the amount of fat to be removed. The method takes less time but often requires a general anaesthetic.
  • Ultrasound-assisted liposuction (UAL) - uses ultrasonic vibrations to turn fat cells to liquid so they can be more easily drawn out.

There are two methods:

  • External (above the surface of the skin with a special emitter) or
  • Internal (below the surface of the skin with a small, heated cannula).

UAL is often used together with the tumescent technique, in follow-up (secondary) procedures, or for greater precision. This procedure usually takes longer than the super-wet technique.

  • Laser-assisted liposuction (LAL) - uses laser beams to turn fat cells to liquid so they can be more easily siphoned out. The cannula used during LAL is smaller than traditional types.
  • Dry liposuction – produces a significantly higher degree of bleeding and bruising as side effects, so is no longer commonly used. 

What usually happens after surgery

Following the procedure, your surgeon should apply bandages and a compression garment to improve blood circulation, minimise swelling and help maintain your body shape.

Bandages are usually kept in place for at least 2 weeks and the compression garment for a further period of time. Stitches will be removed after 5 to 10 days and antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent infection.

You may feel sensations such as numbness or tingling, as well as pain, which are perfectly normal. Bruising and pain are usually managed with medication and usually disappear within two to three weeks. You may still have some swelling several months later.


Signs that a procedure may not have gone according to plan, which could have been caused by poor technique or negligence, are:

  • Severe scarring and skin abnormalities
  • Uneven areas and dents in your skin, or contouring problems
  • Uneven fat removal
  • "Baggy" skin, especially in older people
  •  Reaction to the anaesthetic
  • Injury of stomach organs
  • Fluid imbalance
  • A build of fluid on the lungs caused by fluid being injected into the body.
  • Blockage of the artery to the lungs caused by fat getting into the blood vessels and travelling to the lungs
  • Inflammation of the veins where the liposuction has taken place
  • Seeping fluid from where cuts were made into the skin
  • Bleeding and / or blood clots under the skin
  • Infections
  • Area treated remains numb for months.

Specific complications:

  • Ultrasound surgery – skin burns.
  • Laser surgery - increased risk of adverse reactions, including infection, dimpling, lumpiness, numbness, scarring, discolouration or sagging skin. Pain can last for months. 

Liposuction – do I have a claim?

There are always risks involved when undergoing any type of surgery and mistakes can leave you with serious injuries and scarring for life.

Your surgeon should have explained exactly what to expect and made you fully aware of where complications may occur in your particular liposuction procedure.

The surgeon is also responsible for ensuring that your surgery is performed to an acceptable standard.

Many of the problems associated with cosmetic procedures can be prevented if:

  • A through pre-surgery examination had been carefully carried out.
  • You were given the full facts and clear advice about potential complications and the limited benefits of a treatment or surgery.

You may have a claim if your surgeon was negligent at any stage, before or after the surgery, and you have suffered:

  • Long term injuries – which continue to cause pain and physical discomfort long after the surgery has been completed.
  • Psychological trauma – caused by unsightly scarring and physical disfigurement, which can lead to a loss of confidence, self–esteem and social well-being.

How Your Legal Friend can help you

When a cosmetic treatment goes wrong or complications arise, it is vital to seek professional legal advice immediately.

As experienced clinical negligence specialists, we know that you will be feeling devastated that your procedure went wrong and fell below the expected, appropriate standard. We also know that you will want to find out why your surgeon failed you in their duty to provide the expected standard of care and treatment.

Our task is to ensure your case is made in order to bring the surgeon to account for why things went wrong and the harm and suffering caused.

Your Legal Friend is committed to ensuring victims of clinical negligence obtain answers and receive appropriate compensation so that their future medical treatment, care and support needs are properly met.