Cosmetic Procedure May Help Reduce Risk of Heart Disease, Stroke, Diabetes

DENVER - Long considered a purely cosmetic procedure, a new study suggests liposuction may also have significant health benefits. A study being presented at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) annual conference, Plastic Surgery 11 THE Meeting, September 23-27, in Denver, reveals for the first time that liposuction patients experience a reduction in triglyceride levels and white blood cell counts, possibly decreasing their risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

"High triglyceride levels are known to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease," said Eric Swanson, MD, ASPS Member Surgeon and study author. "The decrease in these levels after liposuction was surprisingly dramatic, and revealed that the permanent removal of excess fat cells by liposuction has a major impact on circulating levels of triglycerides."

The study measured triglyceride and cholesterol levels in 322 patients undergoing liposuction and/or a tummy tuck. The majority of patients, 71 percent, had liposuction only. Triglyceride levels in patients with normal pre-operative levels were unchanged. However, those patients with elevated, at-risk levels (≥150 mg/dl) experienced an average 43 percent reduction in triglyceride levels after surgery - about twice the effect achieved with a drug commonly prescribed to reduce triglyceride levels. The effect was similar in both men and women. According to the author, this does not mean liposuction can replace medications in patients with very high triglyceride levels.

"These findings suggest that patients who are considering liposuction who have at-risk triglyceride levels may reduce their risk of developing these serious health problems, while correcting body disproportions," said Dr. Swanson. "Patients not only look better, but may be healthier too."

The study also found that white blood cell counts decrease, on average, 11 percent after liposuction. High white blood cell counts are associated with a raised level of inflammation within the body and have been linked to coronary heart disease, obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. No significant changes in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, or HDL cholesterol were detected after liposuction. Dr. Swanson emphasizes the need for future research to determine whether these favorable changes in triglyceride and white blood cell levels translate to reduced health risk.

Dr. Swanson says the study raises questions about the way body fat contributes to disease risk. "For years, it has been assumed that ‘visceral fat' surrounding the internal organs has greater metabolic importance and is more directly linked to cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk than ‘subcutaneous fat' that lies under the skin. These new findings support recent studies suggesting subcutaneous fat, which can be reduced by liposuction, is just as metabolically important."

According to the ASPS, more than 203,000 liposuction procedures were performed in 2010 in the United States. Liposuction is the fourth most popular cosmetic surgical procedure.

The study, "Prospective Clinical Study Reveals Significant Reduction in Triglyceride Level and White Cell Count after Liposuction and Abdominoplasty, No Change in Cholesterol Levels," is being presented Sunday, September 25, 10:15 a.m., at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

Reporters can register to attend Plastic Surgery 11 THE Meeting or arrange interviews with presenters by contacting ASPS Public Relations at (847) 228-9900 or in Denver, September 23-27, at (303) 228-8410.

About ASPS

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the world's largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons. Representing more than 7,000 Member Surgeons, the Society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises more than 94 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the Society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. ASPS advances quality care to plastic surgery patients by encouraging high standards of training, ethics, physician practice and research in plastic surgery. 

Contact ASPS

Media Relations
(847) 228-9900
media@plasticsurgery.org