What Is Liposuction?
Liposuction, or suction lipectomy, is a minimally invasive cosmetic procedure that utilizes a thin cannula (a hollow metal tube) to suck fat out of the body. The cannula is inserted into the body through very small incisions, and the surgeon moves it back and forth across the treatment areas, loosening fat and then suctioning it out with the help of a medical-grade vacuum. Treatment areas generally look slimmer and better contoured after resolution of swelling. It should be noted that liposuction is not a replacement for losing weight, and it is usually not effective at treating cellulite or at tightening loose skin.
Ideal candidates for this cosmetic procedure are generally in good overall health. They typically have one or more areas of fat that respond poorly to diet and exercise. Areas that are often treated with liposuction include the thighs, abdomen, arms, back, hips, buttocks, and chest. Liposuction can be used by itself, or it can be combined with other cosmetic procedures like thigh lifts, brachioplasties (arm lifts), and tummy tucks.
What Is Involved In Liposuction?
Liposuction is generally performed as an outpatient procedure. Tumescent solution made up of saline, lidocaine (for numbing), and epinephrine (to reduce bleeding) is typically injected into the areas to be treated. The solution has several effects including:
- Making the tissue swell, allowing easier access to remove fat
- Providing local anesthesia, reducing pain from the procedure
- Constricting the blood vessels to minimize any bleeding
Occasionally, depending on the size of the treatment area and patient preference, there may not be a need for general anesthesia or IV sedation at all!
Liposuction can also be combined with a vibrating power source or with ultrasound or laser sources. Power-assisted liposuction uses vibrations help break up the fat and makes it easier to remove. Ultrasound and laser both use energy to liquify the fat before removing it, also making it easier to remove, but potentially increasing the risk of skin burns from thermal energy.
What Is The Recovery From Liposuction?
Patients will typically experience some swelling, bruising, and soreness in the treatment areas after liposuction. Compression garments and/or elastic bandages are worn for several weeks (up to 6-8 weeks) to help with proper healing and to reduce these symptoms.
Most patients will be able to return to work within several days; however, patients will vary in when they feel comfortable doing so. No strenuous activities should be done for 3-4 weeks. It is not uncommon to have swelling up to 6 months, and patience as well as diligence with the compression garments will be key to getting a great final result.
To access full postoperative instructions, please click here.
What Are The Risks Of Liposuction?
There are always risks associated with surgery and anesthesia, and the anesthesiologist (if required) will discuss these with you. Every effort is made to minimize them. Risks related to liposuction include:
- Loose or sagging skin (especially if striae are present beforehand)
- Worsening of cellulite (especially in delicate areas like the thigh and arms)
- Contour irregularities
- Pigmentation irregularities (higher risk with ultrasound or laser)
- Excess sagging skin may result with the removal of large amounts of fat.
In these cases, direct excision of the skin may be necessary to provide an excellent result.
What Are The Results Of Liposuction?
As mentioned above, swelling and bruising may be present for the first several weeks, but will eventually subside. Swelling may take up to 6 months to fully resolve, at which point the final result will be visible. Incisions are usually very small (less than 1 cm), and so scarring is minimal. The long term results of liposuction are good as long as the patient maintains the pre-surgical weight.
WARNING: The results will be suboptimal if a substantial amount of weight is gained. Weight fluctuation will create loose skin that usually cannot be addressed by liposuction alone.