Risks & Complications with Thigh Lift Surgery

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As with all operations, thigh surgery carries a risk to health.  Some of these are serious risks associated with having an invasive medical procedure under general anaesthetic, while others are less threatening but nevertheless can cause pain, discomfort and can considerably lengthen the amount of time needed for recovery.  These include:

  • Anaesthetic complications
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Multiple Surgical Procedures
  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Scarring

Anaesthetic Complications

Problems with anaesthetics are very rare, but it is possible to have an allergic reaction to the chemicals used, which needs rapid administration of an anti-histamine in order not to prove fatal.  Other problems can occur through the use of a breathing tube, which opens the airways and can allow fluid to enter the trachea and interfere with the functioning of the lungs.

Excessive Bleeding

By opening the skin in surgery, some loss of blood is inevitable.  However, there is the additional, if less likely, risk of excessive bleeding.  This can result in surgery being terminated and a blood transfusion becoming necessary.  It is important to discuss this with your surgeon prior to surgery and to make it clear on your consent form if your religious or moral views prohibit you from receiving a transfusion. 

Bleeding at the site of the operation can cause the development of haemotomas, or bruises.  These can be quite large and reduce mobility.  Some are so severe as to require immediate surgery to drain the blood.

Blood clots

Another risk is that of developing blood clots, or Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).  This can be caused by lack of movement during surgery, or during the post-operation recovery period.  This can be remedied by anti-coagulants, but if undetected can travel to the lungs (creating a pulmonary embolism) or the brain, resulting in the patient suffering a debilitating stroke.  Those most at risk are patients who have previously suffered from DVT.

Multiple Surgical Procedures

The above complications are made more likely with multiple surgical procedures.  Having more than one operation weakens the immune system, puts more stress on the body’s vital organs and leaves the patient under the influence of strong drugs such as anaesthetics for longer.  What is more, the more wounds a patient has, the more sites are vulnerable to infection.  The decision whether to have a number of operations, have longer operations involving multiple procedures at once or to choose selectively which procedures to have rather than have everything desired is therefore a difficult one.  A consultation with an experienced cosmetic surgeon and a doctor who knows your medical history well is definitely advisable if you wish to have more than one surgical procedure.


Surgery brings with it an increased risk of contracting infections.  For this reason, you will probably be offered antibiotics as a precautionary measure both before and immediately after your operation, but antibiotics are not an effective cure against the most aggressive infections and can have deeply unpleasant side effects, such as diarrhoea and nausea.   Some infections can also necessitate surgery again in themselves, for example when necrosis occurs beneath the skin.    Further, recent media coverage has shown that even with the most ambitious of cleanliness standards, it is still possible to get infections such as MRSA from the hospital or home environment, and in a weakened state these can occasionally prove fatal.

Nerve Damage

Another potential risk is that of nerve damage.  The very fine work involved in separating the skin from other parts of the thigh can sometimes result in collateral damage to the surrounding nerves.  Rather than pain, this usually results in localised numbness or tingling around the thighs.  This is a common problem following surgery, but in some cases can remain permanent.


One assured after-effect of thigh lift surgery is scarring at the site of the incision.  This usually improves with time, and can be softened and concealed with creams and makeup. 

However, some scars become keloidal, looking raised, red and larger than the original wound.  While these are benign, there is no proven treatment which can completely successfully eradicate them.

Ultimately, these risks are low and the overall success rates for thigh lift surgery appear to be high.  However, educating yourself about the risks is the best way to prepare yourself and your close ones for any complications which might occur, and ensure that you weigh the risks against the benefits.

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