Review of the liposuction, abdominoplasty, and face-lift mortality and morbidity risk literature

Dermatol Surg. 2005 Jul;31(7 Pt 1):733-43; discussion 743. doi: 10.1097/00042728-200507000-00001.


Background: The statistical discrepancies that exist in the mortality and morbidity risk literature are such that surgeons and patients cannot accurately assess the true risk rates associated with plastic surgery procedures.

Objectives and methods: To review any relevant literature published to date in which the risk rates from liposuction, abdominoplasty, and rhytidectomy are cited and to reassess these figures alongside those published for both elective and emergency general surgeries.

Results and conclusion: Despite the lack of reliable, comprehensive reporting of deaths and complications resulting from cosmetic surgeries, published data demonstrate that the risks associated with liposuction and rhytidectomy compare favorably with those from most general surgical procedures. In contrast, the morbidity and mortality rates from abdominoplasty remain unacceptably high. A significant lack of literature documenting cosmetic breast implant surgery and blepharoplasty risks is observed, which should be of concern to both patients and physicians. Liposuction and face-lift surgery data generally show that surgical centers are statistically safer than hospital operating rooms, although the data have not been standardized for the patients' American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) risk class, the health of the patient prior to surgery. General anesthesia may carry a risk roughly equivalent to or perhaps greater than cosmetic surgery, although, again, ASA class variables confound clear comparison between studies. Recent anesthesia literature refutes the many claims that general anesthesia risks are now remote: a landmark study that surveyed the entire scholarly literature showed a mortality rate of 1 in 13,000, roughly similar to overall cosmetic surgery mortality risks. Moreover, a prolonged operating time has been repeatedly implicated in other surgical literature to be related to morbidity and mortality. The latter certainly has relevance to cosmetic surgery.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Wall / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Lipectomy / mortality
  • Lipectomy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / mortality
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / statistics & numerical data
  • Rhytidoplasty / mortality
  • Rhytidoplasty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk