Aarthi Agarwal death: Don't risk life with cheap liposuction surgeries

Beware of cosmetic centres offering liposuction surgery to remove large amounts of body fat for less than Rs 70,000. They are likely to cut corners that put you at risk of serious complications and death. A look at liposuction after Telugu actor Aarthi Agarwal died after a botched surgery.
Updated on Jun 09, 2015 12:56 AM IST
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None | By, New Delhi

Beware of cosmetic centres offering liposuction surgery to remove large amounts of body fat for less than Rs 70,000. They are likely to cut corners that put you at risk of serious complications and death.

Telugu actor Aarthi Agarwal, 31, died of cardiac arrest from liposuction surgery-related complications in New Jersey on Saturday. Apart from obesity, she also had pulmonary illness.

“To cut costs, some people conduct liposuction under local anaesthesia and don’t include an anaesthetist (in the team), who must be part of the team to control the dose and the complications related to anaesthesia, if any. Most liposuction deaths are from lidocaine (anaesthetic drug) toxicity that can cause cardiac arrest,” says Dr Sunil Choudhary, head of Plastic & Reconstructive surgery, Max Hospitals.

“The surgery should just be done on healthy people. Liposuction is not a weight-loss surgery, it should be only done to remove stubborn fat and fatty deposits that don't respond to dieting and exercise,’ says Dr Choudhary. “For weight loss, bariatric surgery is the surgery of choice.”

Agrees Dr Vivek Kumar, plastic and cosmetic surgeon, Ganga Ram Hospital: “Liposuction is body-contouring, where surgeons remove stubborn fat from the thighs, hips, abdomen, knees, ankles, calves and arms.”

“Suction should not be more than five litres, but unethical practitioners offer to take out more, which puts the patient’s life at risk,” says Dr Choudhary.

If the total suction is more than five litres, the fluid imbalance leads to major biological changes in the body and the patient should be kept in hospital for at least 24 hours, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) guidelines. “Many clinics don’t admit the patient for 24 hours to save on cost, which makes it difficult for them to identify early signs of complications such as perforations, infections and death,” says Dr Kumar.

Though liposuction can be done as a day-care procedure if the suction amount is less than theee litres, it needs the same post-operative care as any other major surgery. Among the common complications are:

Toxicity: Large volumes of the diluted anaeshetic lidocaine may cause lightheadedness, drowsiness, tinnitis (a ringing in the ears), slurred speech, numbness of the tongue and mouth, muscle twitching and convulsions. In high doses, lidocaine toxicity can stop the heart.

Infections: Can be acquired in the clinic or at home. These can cause life-threatening toxic shock if not treated quickly.

Fluid imbalance: Along with fat tissue, a lot of liquid and blood is also removed. The surgeon may also inject large amounts of fluids during liposuction. This may lead to fluid imbalance that can cause heart problems, fluid collecting in the lungs, or kidney problems.

Embolism: Fat loosened by suction can enter the bloodstream through ruptured blood vessels and get trapped inside and travel to the lungs and cause difficulty breathing, or to the brain and cause a stroke.

Puncture vital organs (visceral perforations): During liposuction, the canula or probe can puncture or damage internal organs, which would need follow-up repair surgery. Visceral perforations can also kill.

Seroma: Serum from the blood may pool in areas from where fat tissue has been removed.

Nerve compression: This may lead to increased pain sensitivity or numbness in the area of the surgery.

Read: Stars who went for liposuction


    Sanchita is the health & science editor of the Hindustan Times. She has been reporting and writing on public health policy, health and nutrition for close to two decades. She is an International Reporting Project fellow from Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and was part of the expert group that drafted the Press Council of India’s media guidelines on health reporting, including reporting on people living with HIV.

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