Liposuction is a procedure that can help sculpt the body by removing unwanted fat from specific areas, including the abdomen, hips, buttocks, thighs, knees, upper arms, chin, cheeks and neck. Although no type of liposuction is a substitute for dieting and exercise, liposuction can enhance your appearance by removing stubborn areas of fat that don't respond to traditional weight-loss methods.
During the past decade, liposuction has benefited from several new refinements. A number of new techniques, including ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty (UAL), the tumescent technique, and the super-wet technique, are helping many plastic surgeons provide selected patients with more precise results and quicker recovery times.
In some cases liposuction is performed alone; in other cases it is used with plastic surgery procedures such as a face lift
, breast reduction
or tummy tuck
If you're considering liposuction, this will give you a basic understanding of the procedure, when it can help, how it is performed and how you might look and feel after surgery. It won't answer all of your questions, since much depends on your individual circumstances. Please ask your doctor if there is anything about the procedure that you don't understand.
The best candidates for liposuction
To be a good candidate for liposuction, you must have realistic expectations about what the procedure can do for you. It's important to understand that liposuction can enhance your appearance and self-confidence, but it won't necessarily change your looks to match your ideal image or cause other people to treat you differently. Before you decide to have surgery, think carefully about your expectations and discuss them with your surgeon.
The best candidates for liposuction are normal-weight people with firm, elastic skin who have pockets of excess fat in certain areas. You should be physically healthy, psychologically stable and realistic in your expectations. Your age is not a major consideration; however, older patients have diminished skin elasticity and may not achieve the same results as a younger patient with tighter skin.
Liposuction carries greater risk for individuals with medical problems such as diabetes, significant heart or lung disease, poor blood circulation, or those who have recently had surgery near the area to be contoured.All surgeries carry some uncertainty and risk
Thousands of liposuctions are performed successfully each year. When done by a qualified plastic surgeon who is trained in body contouring, the results are generally quite positive. Nevertheless, there are always risks associated with surgery and specific complications associated with this procedure. Be sure to discuss the risks and any concerns you may have with your surgeon.Planning your surgery
In your initial consultation, your surgeon will evaluate your health and determine the extent of fat deposits in your areas of concern. Be sure to tell your surgeon if you smoke, and if you're taking any medications, vitamins, or other drugs.
Be frank in discussing your expectations with your surgeon. He or she should be equally frank with you, describing your alternatives and the risks and limitations of each.
There are three common liposuction procedures: traditional, tumescent or super-wet, and ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty.
Traditional liposuction is a surgical suctioning of excess fat deposits in one or more trouble areas. The tumescent or super-wet procedure includes an infusion of saline with adrenaline and possibly an anesthetic prior to suction. Ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty uses ultrasonic energy to liquefy excess fat prior to suction.
In any case, your surgeon should work with you to recommend the procedure that is right for you and will come closest to producing the desired body contour.
During the consultation, your surgeon should also explain the anesthesia he or she will use, the type of facility where the surgery will be performed, and the costs involved. In most cases, health insurance policies do not cover the cost of liposuction, but you should check your policy to be sure.Preparing for your surgery
Your surgeon will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for surgery, including guidelines on eating and drinking, smoking, and taking or avoiding certain vitamins and medications.
If you smoke, plan to quit at least one to two weeks before your surgery and not to resume for at least two weeks after your surgery. Avoid overexposure to the sun before surgery, and do not go on a stringent diet, as both can inhibit your ability to heal. If you develop a cold or infection of any kind, your surgery will probably be postponed.
Whether your surgery is done on an outpatient or inpatient basis, you should arrange for someone to drive you home after your surgery, and to help you out for a day or two after you leave the hospital, if needed.Where your surgery will be performed
Many surgeons perform liposuction in an outpatient surgical center or an office-based facility. Others prefer the hospital, where their patients can stay for several days.Types of anesthesia
Your doctor may select general anesthesia, so you'll sleep through the operation.
Other surgeons use local anesthesia, combined with a sedative to make you drowsy. You'll be awake but relaxed, and the region on your body where the surgery will occur will be insensitive to pain. (However, you may feel some tugging or occasional discomfort.)The surgery
Liposuction is performed through small, conspicuous incisions.
Once the anesthesia has taken effect, a sterile solution is infused to reduce bleeding and trauma. Then the procedure is performed with a thin hollow tube, or cannula, which is inserted into the incisions made in the fatty areas between skin and muscle. The cannula loosens excess fat by using a controlled back and forth motion. Then the dislodged fat is suctioned out of the body using a surgical vacuum or syringe attached to the cannula.
The length of the procedure will vary with the amount of fat needing removal. A secondary procedure may be necessary to reduce excess skin for patients who have a large amount of fat suctioned. These considerations typically apply to patients who have had more than 5 liters of fat removed.After your surgery
There will be bruising, swelling and soreness for a few weeks. Some patients will be sent home with a compression garment or elastic bandages to cover the treatment areas and help your skin contour to your new shape. Sometimes drains are attached at the incision points to remove any excess blood or fluid.
If you experience shortness of breath, chest pains, or unusual heartbeats, seek medical attention immediately. Should any of these complications occur, you may require hospitalization and additional treatment.Getting back to normal
Recovery from liposuction is usually quick. Most people can return to work within a few days and resume normal activities in about two weeks, but some require more time.
Exercise will help you heal better. Even people who have never exercised before should begin an exercise program to reduce swelling, lower the chance of blood clots, and tone muscles. Vigorous exercise, however, should be avoided until you can do it comfortably.
Following your physician's instructions is key to the successful recovery from your surgery. It is important that the surgical incisions are not subjected to excessive force, swelling, abrasion or motion during the time of healing.Your new look
It may take several months for the swelling to fully dissipate. As it does, your new contours and enhanced self-image should continue to develop.
With continued practices of healthy diet and fitness, the loss of excess fatty tissue should be permanently maintained. 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.