High Liposuction
Death Rate Found
By US Survey
WASHINGTON - Some people are dying to get rid of that extra fat. Literally. A survey of plastic surgeons in the United States suggests that compared to other kinds of operations, more people die during liposuction.
The procedure is called lipoplasty. It involves sucking fat from specific spots on the body. The operation is often performed quickly and in doctors' offices instead of in hospitals.
According to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons (ASPRS), lipoplasty has become the most common cosmetic plastic surgical procedure in the U.S.
In their report, Dr. Frederick Grazer of Penn State University and Dr. Rudolph de Jong of the Thomas Jefferson Medical College suggest that outpatient elective lipoplasty may not be safe.
The report is published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
Grazer and De Jong polled 1,200 members of the American Society of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS), asking them if they knew of any patient who died after liposuction. In 1996, ASPRS members performed 109,353 liposuctions.
The 917 respondents reported 95 deaths in more than 496,000 operations. That works out to one death in 5,224, or 19 per 100,000. The most common cause of death was a pulmonary thromboembolism, a blood clot.
The generally accepted death rate for any kind of elective surgery, the type not needed to save someone's life, is one in 100,000.
The researchers say more people are killed in the U.S. during lipoplasty than in car accidents. The fatality rate for car accidents is 16.1 per 100,000.
The surgeons and the journal admit their survey was not scientific but they say the results are still disturbing.
Dr. Rod Rohrich, professor and chair of plastic surgery at Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, doesn't agree with some of the data but points out that lipoplasty is a major operation and shouldn't be trivialized.
Rohrich says the report shows that people were not treating lipoplasty as a serious operation. Three-quarters of the patients who died were operated on in a doctor's office instead of in an accredited hospital. They died after they returned home.
According to Rohrich, the ASAPS and the ASPRS, the two bodies that regulate and train plastic surgeons, will conduct their own study. The organizations will monitor 2,000 liposuction patients over two years.


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