Liposuction-the most popular cosmetic operation in the US, where unsightly fat deposits are quickly dispersed has been responsible for at least five deaths.
The victims all died from a sudden lowering of blood pressure and bradycardia, a slow heart rate.
The deaths were discovered by researchers who investigated 48,527 deaths referred to the medical authorities of New York between 1993 and 1998.
Under current US legislation, adverse reactions to liposuction do not have to be reported.
Researchers from New York University Medical Center believe the deaths are linked to the drug lidocaine, used in the procedure to extract the fatty deposits. Although the recommended dose is as high as 55 mg of lidocaine per kilogram of body weight, all of the victims had between 10 and 40 mg of the drug per kilogram at time of autopsy.
They fear that many more deaths have been linked to liposuction, but not recorded as such. The number of liposuction procedures in the US more than doubled between 1992 and 1997, with 149,000 procedures carried out in 1997 alone (N Eng J Med, 1999; 340: 1471-5).