Volume 47, Issue 1 (January 2002)
Deaths Associated with Liposuction: Case Reports and Review of the Literature
Tumescent liposuction is a common cosmetic procedure that is performed as an outpatient service in physician's offices and is largely believed to be safe. The protuberant areas of the body containing the undesirable fat deposits are injected with normal saline containing lidocaine and epinephrine for pain control and hemostasis, and the waterlogged cells are suctioned out via cannula through a small incision. We recently encountered three cases in which deaths were attributed to this procedure. Two showed fat embolization in the lung and one died from fluid overload. The osmium tetroxide post-fixed lung sections showed fat emboli in the interstitial capillaries and arterioles. We reviewed the recent literature and found that pulmonary thromboemboli, fat embolization, fluid overload, and lidocaine and epinephrine intoxication are found at autopsy in many cases. Forensic pathologists responsible for determining the cause and manner of death should become familiar with the postmortem findings and risks of liposuction therapy and communicate them to their clinical colleagues and communities.