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Kannada Actress Allegedly Dies After Liposuction: Are Medical Mishaps Common?

The death of 21-year-old Kannada TV Actress Chetana Raj after plastic surgery, raises questions.

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Kannada television actress Chethana Raj reportedly passed away after a plastic surgery procedure at a hospital in Bengaluru on Monday, 16 May.

The 21-year-old TV actress had reportedly been admitted for a "fat-free surgery" early 16 May. However, in the evening, her health reportedly took a turn for the worse, with water collecting in her lungs.

The actress' parents have alleged that it was the doctor's negligence that caused the death. According to reports, Chethana hadn't informed her parents about the surgery.

Are life-threatening mistakes during surgery common? If you're undergoing surgery do you need to take any specific precautions? While the story develops, we spoke to Dr R Gopinath, Senior Consultant & Retired Professor of Plastic Surgery from Madras Medical College.

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Are complications common during liposuction or plastic surgery? Is water collecting in the lungs something that happens if a surgery goes wrong?

Fluid collecting in the lungs is called a pulmonary edema. This can happen during any surgery or surgical procedure. It's not limited to just liposuction or plastic surgery. The fluid collects in your lung's air sacs and it makes it difficult to breathe.

What could cause fluid to collect in the lungs during a surgery?

Well, if the patient has any other preconditions, any potential muscle diseases, or even an allergic reaction to specific drugs, it could lead to fluid buildup in the lungs after a surgery.

For example, some people are allergic to succinylcholine chloride, which is a muscle relaxant that's administered along with general anaesthetic during surgery. If they're allergic to succinylcholine, which is a muscle relaxant, it could lead to fluid build-up in the lungs.

What precautions do doctors take before performing a surgery?

Before surgery, we conduct a thorough investigation into the patient's medical history and present condition. We test their blood sugar, their blood pressure, and if they're older we might conduct an electrocardiogram (ECG) or and electroencephalogram (EEG), as a part of the investigation. An ECG will help check the patient's heart and electrical activity, and the EEG will let us understand their brain activity.

What precautions do patients have to take before a surgery?

Before surgery, we ask the patient to be on an empty stomach. If they've eaten something, they need to wait at least 4-8 hours before the procedure. This is because while recovering, the patient will vomit, while they're still under anaesthetic. If they're still unconscious when this happens, this vomit can go back into their lungs and they could asphyxiate on their own vomit.

If the patient is on insulin, we ask them to skip their morning dose of insulin. If they're on medication for blood pressure, they must take their medication on an empty stomach.

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Are there any liposuction-specific precautions or risks a patient faces?

We have to ensure that the patient's blood pressure isn't too high. Further, there's a risk of something called fat embolism. Fat embolism is when globules of fat enter the bloodstream, leading to a block or a clogged blood vessel.

The sudden reduction of fat leads to the patient's fat breaking up into small globules. A globule could enter the blood supply and go and block a blood vessel flowing into the lungs, causing problems.

Is there any category of patients you would not advise liposuction for?

We don't usually suggest liposuction as a weight reduction or weight loss method. We also avoid either extreme when it comes to liposuction - we usually won't remove less than 20 kilos of fat and almost never more than more than 45 kilos of fat.

Liposuction to remove less than 25 kilos of fat usually is for gynecomastia, which is an increase of breast gland tissue in boys or men, caused by an imbalance between estrogen and testosterone.

We also try to avoid performing plastic surgery on people who are too young or too old.

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Despite all precautions and safety, can things go wrong during or after a surgery?

Yes. Things can go wrong despite all precautions. There's nothing called absolute safety in these cases. It could be 1 in 1000 or 1 in 2000 cases, but things can go wrong despite every precaution and safety being taken.

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