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Liposuction Self Help Advice

Written by Suzanne Leigh

A study based on malpractice suits indicates dermatologists are more likely to produce satisfactory results than other physicians.

Patients undergoing liposuction are more likely to be satisfied with the results if the procedure is performed by a dermatologist, according to a recent study.

In a review of 257 malpractice claims from the Physicians Insurance Association of America, researchers found that less than 1 percent of the suits were filed against dermatologists, although dermatologists perform approximately 35 percent of the procedures.

"We found that liposuction is safest when it is performed as a solo procedure under local anesthesia in an outpatient setting by a dermatologic surgeon," said lead author Dr. William P. Coleman, a dermatology professor at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans.

Last year, plastic surgeons, dermatologists and physicians performed roughly 325,000 liposuctions, making it the nation's leading cosmetic procedure. Any medical doctor is permitted to perform liposuction, but for some practitioners, training consists of little more than attendance at weekend workshops.

Liposuction, or body sculpting, involves the surgical vacuuming of fat from beneath the surface of the skin, typically in the abdomen, thighs, chin or buttocks. Although it is regarded as a safe procedure, serious complications result in one in a thousand liposuctions, including bleeding, nerve damage and, rarely, blood clots and cardiac arrest.

A spokesperson for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) denied that dermatologists were more likely to be a safer bet than doctors certified by the board of plastic surgery. "We are very careful about warning prospective patients what they should look for when they're considering liposuction," she said.

The ASPS urges patients to ask doctors:

  • Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery? (Other organizations say doctors who are board certified in surgery or dermatology should also be considered potential candidates to perform liposuction.
  • Can I contact some of your former patients who have had this procedure?
  • How many procedures of this type have you performed?
  • Do you have hospital privileges to perform this procedure? (A doctor who is not authorized to perform medical functions in a hospital may be less desirable than one who is, even though liposuction frequently takes place in a doctor's office.)

In addition, patients considering liposuction may wish to verify a doctor's training and credentials by calling the Board of Medical Specialities at: 1 800 776-2378.
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