Maintaining a fit and well-proportioned physique is a priority for many people to look and feel their best. However, for some this may seem like an impossible goal that even a strict diet or disciplined exercise cannot overcome stubborn areas of excessive fat. For those who seek a more trim or better-proportioned body contour, liposuction may be the answer.
Liposuction, also called lipoplasty, is a surgical procedure that removes deposits of excess fat from specific areas of the body, face or neck. Liposuction can be used to trim hips and thighs, flatten the abdomen, shape the calves and ankles or eliminate a double chin.
Is Liposuction right for me?
Liposuction is most commonly recommended for men and women of average body weight who desire a more trim body contour. The procedure can produce excellent results, smoothing areas of excessive fat that appear disproportionate to the rest of the body. Although liposuction is not a treatment for obesity, it sometimes is the only way to eliminate fat deposits that do not respond to diet and exercise.
- Hips and buttocks
- Breast or chest area
- Calves and ankles
- Upper arms
- Inner knee
- Abdomen and waist
- Cheeks, chin and neck
- Be performed on several areas of the body at the same time or be done in conjunction with other cosmetic surgery procedures, as long as you understand that there is increased risk and your surgeon feels that having multiple procedures is a safe option for you.
- Be used to treat some cases of gynecomastia, or male breast enlargement, which occurs in both teens and adult men.
Liposuction may be complicated by existing medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease and previous surgery to the area to be contoured. It's important to discuss any medical conditions such as these with your doctor beforehand.
What should I expect from the consultation?
A personal consultation is the first step for any patient considering liposuction. During this meeting your surgeon will assess your physical and emotional health and discuss your specific contouring goals for the procedure. You should provide a complete medical history, any previous surgical procedures, and any medications you might be taking, even herbal remedies and nutritional supplements. You'll be asked to point out the specific areas for improved contouring, depending on the location, you may need to undress. Your surgeon will fully assess the extent of correction necessary, check the elasticity of your skin and may try to assess the thickness of the underlying fat. Blood pressure and weight will be checked. You may be asked whether you plan to lose or gain significant weight in the future.
How is liposuction performed?
One or more small incisions are made, as inconspicuously as possible, near the area to be suctioned. The slim, hollow tube called a cannula is placed through the incision so the tip penetrates the underlying fat. Then the cannula is connected to the suction pump and the surgeon moves the cannula back and forth through the fat as it's vacuumed through the tube. There are a few variations on the liposuction technique which may be incorporated depending on your unique situation. The tumescent technique is when the fat is previously injected with a salt-water solution with small amounts of adrenaline and sometimes local anesthetic. The ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty or UAL is a two-step technique that uses energy from sound waves to liquefy the fat before it is suctioned. Instrumentation is one other aspect that may be varied in that for some areas, a hand-held syringe may be sufficient to provide the vacuum instead of the suction pump.
How will I learn about the safety of liposuction?
Every year thousands of people experience the benefits of liposuction with no major resulting complications. However it is extremely important to be aware of the potential risks as well as the benefits that are involved with the procedure. This is perhaps the most important discussion in your consultation visit. Be sure to listen carefully as well as ask any questions you may have regarding the safety of the procedure. You can do your part to minimize potential risks by carefully adhering to your surgeon's advice and instruction before and after surgery.
What can I do to prepare for my surgery?
Once your surgery date has been established your surgeon will provide specific instructions to prepare for both before and after surgery. Probable preparations may include:
- Avoiding certain medications that may complicate procedures.
- No smoking for a period of time before and after surgery.
- Arranging for special care post-surgery.
How will I be cared for on the day of my surgery?
Liposuction may be performed in a hospital, an outpatient surgery center or an office-based surgical suite. Your surgeon will determine the best form of anesthesia to provide the most comfort and safety for your particular situation. In some cases, local anesthesia is used (usually with sedation) which numbs only the affected areas. In other cases a regional anesthesia, such as an epidural block (the kind typically used in childbirth) or a general anesthesia may be the best option. Your physical status will be closely monitored throughout the procedure and recovery.
How will I look and feel after surgery?
You will be taken to a recovery area after the surgery. Sometimes small drainage tubes will have been placed beneath the skin. Your surgeon can prescribe any necessary medication to alleviate any discomfort. An elastic bandage or specially designed compression garment may have been applied over the treated areas to control swelling and assist healing. Your surgeon will guide you as to the duration for wearing the garment and how to remove for bathing.
If only a small amount of liposuction has been done, you will be encouraged to get out of bed soon after surgery. If multiple areas have been treated, you will probably remain in bed for a day or two, but still able to get out of bed for meals and visits to the bathroom. Basically, the speed of recovery depends on the extent of your surgery and everyone recovers at a different rate. However, you can expect to recover following this generic time line:
Within the first week
- The swelling will reach its peak and then begin to subside
- Your stitches will be removed
- You may return to nonstrenuous work
After several weeks
- Bruises will fade and eventually disappear
- Areas that felt numb will regain normal sensation
- You may resume most of your normal exercise and activities
- Swelling will continue to subside
What should I know about my results?
Quite soon after surgery you will see a noticeable difference in the shape of your body. However, the best results will appear after a couple of months have passed and allowed the swelling and fluid retention to subside. Most patients experience the final result in about three months time.
After your liposuction surgery, you will most likely find that your clothes fit more comfortably and confidence in your appearance has improved. So long as you maintain your post-surgery weight, your new slimmer contour will be permanent. Many patients who did put on a few more pounds after surgery have found that the weight is more evenly distributed instead of settling in the same problem areas.
How long will I continue to see my plastic surgeon?
After the initial healing period you will have a follow-up visit with your surgeon. In the succeeding months, your surgeon may require you to return for periodic checkups. It's important to keep these appointments to assess your long term results and answer any questions or concerns you may have.