Background: Perforation of one or several intraperitoneal organs during a liposuction procedure is an exceptional but underestimated complication. Knowledge of this complication is essential because of frequent delay in diagnosis and possible dramatic consequences.
Methods: Nineteen cases were evaluated by experts and are presented in a retrospective analysis. Sixteen women and three men, aged 24 to 72 years, were operated on in France between July of 2001 and January of 2012. Abdominal liposuction (200 to 2400 ml) was performed in combination or not with an abdominoplasty.
Results: Uncommon pain and an intestinal obstruction were present in all of the patients. The peritonitis was never frank, replaced frequently by infraclinic peritonitis with septic and/or hypovolemic shock. Diagnosis, performed by abdominal scan between days 1 and 7, revealed intraperitoneal gas or liquid. Perforation, unique or multiple, because of the intraperitoneal passage of the cannula, often in the umbilical region and promoted by the presence of a hernia, involved the following organs: ileum (14 cases), jejunum (two cases), spleen (two cases), transverse colon (one case), cecum (one case), and sigmoid (one case). Death occurred in three cases, between days 2 and 11. Eleven patients had temporary ileostomy or colostomy. Associated complications were abdominal wall cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis, thrombophlebitis, lung collection, and late subobstructive syndrome.
Conclusions: Visceral perforation during liposuction, a severe and sometimes fatal complication with late and difficult diagnosis, is not often reported. Careful technique, particularly if an umbilical approach is used, should avoid this dramatic complication.
Clinical question/level of evidence: Therapeutic, IV.