Of course, liposuction is a safe and effective fat removal procedure! But it has its share of risks that every patient should be aware of so that realistic expectations about the results, side effects and complications can be made early on. The risk of nerve damage is one such risk and while it’s relatively uncommon, it can happen to you.
Common Side Effect
Before you panic, however, we must emphasize that nerve damage always happens whenever a skin incision is made. You can test it by feeling the sensations in the area around a scar on your skin. You will likely feel that the sensation on both sides of your scar will be less – it’s a minor nerve injury that, over time, becomes barely noticeable.
But in case of cosmetic surgery, such as in liposuction, the nerve injury can be more significant, if not catastrophic in some cases. The importance of choosing a trained cosmetic surgeon who has extensive experience in the procedure and who can minimize the risk of nerve damage cannot be overemphasized for this reason.
A Surgeon’s Nightmare
Permanent nerve damage is a very rare complication with liposuction, especially when it’s performed by an experienced surgeon. The type of liposuction performed will also influence the level of risk of permanent nerve damage – in general, it’s rare in tumescent liposuction and more common in ultrasonic assisted liposuction. Just remember that, again, nerve injury is a known surgery risk.
With that being said, permanent nerve damage is the nightmare of any surgeon, a nightmare that can happen even when the standard of care has been carefully followed. In liposuction, for example, the nerve damage usually involves numbness at the incision sites as well as numbness and tingling sensations in the treatment area.
Why does the nerve injury happen? When the nerves are cut, stretched and/or cauterized, these are injured. The injury can range from mild sensory nerve deficits, such as the aforementioned numbness and tingling, to serious motor nerve deficits like weakness or paralysis of the muscles. The more severe the damage, the more likely the chance for the injury to be permanent.
The good news is that most nerve injury will spontaneously recover within six to 12 months. There are some cases, however, where complete recovery can take between two and three years. As normal nerve function returns, there may be itching, electrical shock sensations, and shooting pains in the affected area.
But what if the nerve was completely severed? All isn’t lost because there’s a suitable surgical procedure to remedy it.