What is liposuction?
Also known as lipoplasty, liposuction slims and reshapes specific areas of the body by removing excess fat deposits, improving your body contours and proportion, and ultimately, enhancing your self-image.
Despite good health and a reasonable level of fitness, some people may still have a body with disproportionate contours due to localized fat deposits. These areas may be due to family traits rather than a lack of weight control or fitness.
Liposuction surgery can be used to treat stubborn fat pockets in many parts of the body including the thighs, arms, neck, hips, waist, back, inner knee, chest, cheeks, chin, calves, and ankles. In some cases, liposuction is performed alone, in other cases it is used with plastic surgery procedures such as a facelift, breast reduction, or a tummy tuck.
What liposuction won't do:
Liposuction surgery is not a treatment for obesity and is not a replacement for regular exercise and good eating habits. People with stubborn areas of fat and who exercise regularly are the best candidates for this procedure.
What to expect during your liposuction consultation
The success and safety of your procedure depends very much on your complete candidness during your consultation before liposuction surgery. You'll be asked a number of questions about your health, desires and lifestyle.
Be prepared to discuss:
- Why you want the surgery, your expectations and desired outcome
- Medical conditions, drug allergies and medical treatments
- Use of current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco and drugs
- Previous surgeries
Your surgeon may also:
- Evaluate your general health status and any pre-existing health conditions or risk factors
- Take photographs for your medical record
- Discuss your options and recommend a course of treatment
- Discuss likely outcomes of liposuction and any risks or potential complications
Preparing for liposuction surgery
Before liposuction surgery, you may be asked to:
- Get lab testing or a medical evaluation
- Take certain medications or adjust your current medications
- Stop smoking well in advance of surgery
- Avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements as they can increase bleeding
Special instructions you receive will cover:
- What to do on the day of surgery
- The use of anesthesia during your liposuction
- Post-operative care and follow-up
Your plastic surgeon will also discuss where your procedure will be performed. Liposuction may be performed in an accredited office-based surgical center, outpatient or ambulatory surgical center, or a hospital.
You’ll need help
If your liposuction is performed on an outpatient basis, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you to and from surgery and to stay with you for at least the first night following surgery.
Liposuction risks and safety information
The decision to have liposuction is extremely personal and you’ll have to decide if the benefits will achieve your goals and if the risks and potential complications are acceptable.
Your plastic surgeon and/or staff will explain in detail the risks associated with surgery. You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure you will undergo and any risks or potential complications.
Possible liposuction risks include:
- Uneven contours
- Rippling or loose skin
- Skin or nerve damage
- Irregular pigmentation
- Fat clots
- Blood clots
- Excessive fluid loss or fluid accumulation
- Unfavorable scarring
- Thermal burn or heat injury from ultrasound with the ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty technique
- Anesthesia risks
- Bleeding (hematoma)
- Change in skin sensation
- Skin discoloration or swelling
- Pain, which may persist
- Damage to deeper structures such as nerves, blood vessels, muscles, lungs, and abdominal organs
- Poor wound healing
- Persistent swelling in the legs
- Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and pulmonary complications
- Possibility of revisional surgery
Is it right for me?
If you are bothered by excess fat deposits - located anywhere on your body - that don’t respond to diet or exercise, liposuction may be right for you.
Ideal candidates for liposuction are:
- Adults within 30% of their ideal weight who have firm, elastic skin and good muscle tone
- Healthy individuals who do not have a life-threatening illness or medical conditions that can impair healing
- Individuals with a positive outlook and specific goals in mind for body contouring
Be sure to ask questions: It’s very important to ask your plastic surgeon questions about your liposuction procedure. It’s natural to feel some anxiety, whether it’s excitement for your anticipated new look or a bit of preoperative stress. Don’t be shy about discussing these feelings with your plastic surgeon.
Following your physician's instructions is key to the success of your surgery and minimizing liposuction complications. It is important that the surgical incisions are not subjected to excessive force, swelling, abrasion, or motion during the time of healing in order to minimize the side effects of liposuction surgery. Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to care for yourself.
Liposuction procedure steps
What happens during liposuction surgery?
Step 1 – Anesthesia
Medications are administered for your comfort during the surgical procedures. The choices include intravenous sedation and general anesthesia. Your doctor will recommend the best choice for you.
Step 2 – The incision
Liposuction is performed through small, inconspicuous incisions.
First, sterile liquid solution is infused to reduce bleeding and trauma. Then a thin hollow tube, or cannula, is inserted through these incisions to loosen excess fat using a controlled back and forth motion.
The dislodged fat is then suctioned out of the body using a surgical vacuum or syringe attached to the cannula.
Problem areas that can be addressed with liposuction:
Step 3 – See the results
Your improved body contour will be apparent when the swelling and fluid retention commonly experienced following liposuction subside.
With continued practices of healthy diet and fitness, the loss of excess fatty tissue should be permanently maintained. However, substantial weight gain can alter an otherwise permanent result.
Once your procedure is completed, a compression garment or elastic bandages may cover treatment areas. These help to control swelling after liposuction and compress the skin to your new body contours.
In addition, small temporary drains may be placed in existing incisions beneath the skin to remove any excess blood or fluid.
You will be given specific instructions that may include:
How to care for the surgical site(s), medications to apply or take orally to aid healing and reduce the potential for infection, specific concerns to look for at the surgical site or in your general health, and when to follow up with your plastic surgeon.
A special note: Secondary procedures may sometimes be recommended to reduce excess skin. Special considerations are needed when large amounts - usually more than 5 liters of fat - are suctioned.
Be sure to ask your plastic surgeon specific questions about what you can expect during your individual recovery period.
- Where will I be taken after my surgery is complete?
- What medication will I be given or prescribed after surgery?
- Will I have dressings/bandages after surgery? When will they be removed?
- Are stitches removed? When?
- When can I resume normal activity and exercise?
- When do I return for follow-up care?
When you go home
If you experience shortness of breath, chest pains, or unusual heart beats, seek medical attention immediately. Should any of these complications occur, you may require hospitalization and additional treatment.
The practice of medicine and surgery is not an exact science. Although good results are expected, there is no guarantee. In some situations, it may not be possible to achieve optimal results with a single surgical procedure and another surgery may be necessary.
Liposuction results will be long-lasting
It may take several months for the swelling to fully dissipate after liposuction surgery. As it does, your new contours and enhanced self-image should continue to develop.
The fulfillment you feel from the initial results of liposuction should continue as long as you control your weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
A significant weight gain can reverse your results. Following liposuction, your slimmer and better-proportioned body should more accurately reflect the healthy and active life you lead.