Liposuction Quick Facts
- Best Candidates: People who are seeking to eliminate localized deposits of fat
- Procedure Length: 1 to 5 hours
- Inpatient/Outpatient: Inpatient or outpatient
- Anesthesia: General, local with sedation or regional
- Results: Permanent
- Procedures in 2020: 211,067 (source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons)
Liposuction is a popular cosmetic procedure used to remove localized pockets of fat from the body. These deposits can appear as unwanted bulges on the face, torso, arms and legs and may not respond to diet and exercise. Liposuction can be used to eliminate isolated fatty deposits to reshape the body and provide an improved contour. The majority of liposuction patients successfully achieve an improved appearance and an increase in self-confidence.
The procedure information contained in this article will give you a good introduction to liposuction. Schedule a consultation with a Top Plastic Surgeon to receive a medical examination and discuss your options for body contouring with liposuction.
Both women and men can experience isolated pockets of fat that will not go away despite the best of efforts. These people may become frustrated by losing weight and still having troublesome bulges that are resistant to dieting and exercise.
Liposuction is a surgical procedure that targets localized fatty deposits in the abdomen, hips, buttocks, inner and outer thighs, calves, knees, ankles, back, chest, upper arms, neck and face. More than one area of the body can be treated during the same procedure. Liposuction can also be performed in conjunction with other body contouring procedures, including tummy tucks, arm lifts, thigh lifts, lower body lifts and buttock lifts.
Removing pockets of isolated fat can dramatically improve the shape of your body and provide a boost to your self-esteem. You will see an immediate difference in the body's contours and will probably find that certain items of clothing fit better.
How Liposuction is Performed
Liposuction can take from 1 to 5 hours depending on the technique used, the number of sites treated and the volume of fat that is present. The procedure may be performed in your plastic surgeon's surgical facility, an outpatient surgery center or a hospital. If a smaller volume of fat is removed, liposuction is usually performed as an outpatient procedure, allowing you to go home on the day of surgery. An overnight stay in the hospital may be required if a larger volume of fat is removed or if liposuction is used along with other plastic surgery procedures.
Liposuction can be performed under general anesthesia, local anesthesia with intravenous sedation or regional anesthesia, depending on the technique and the preferences of you and your surgeon.
You may be asked to donate blood in advance if the procedure is extensive or if liposuction is to be performed in conjunction with another procedure.
Tumescent liposuction, the most common liposuction technique used today, involves the injection of medicated fluid prior to fat removal. This fluid is a mixture of saline solution (which causes the fat to swell and stiffen for easier removal and less trauma to surrounding tissues), lidocaine (an anesthetic) and epinephrine (which causes the blood vessels to constrict and lessens bleeding). The amount of fluid used may be up to three times the volume of fat being removed and is suctioned out along with the fat.
After the fluid is injected, a thin tube called a cannula is inserted through one or more small incisions, usually less than a quarter of an inch in length, to suction out the fat. Your plastic surgeon will place the incisions as inconspicuously as possible within natural skin creases. The cannula is connected to a vacuum pump that provides the suction action. Intravenous fluids are administered during liposuction to replenish body fluids that are removed along with the fat. Tumescent liposuction can often be performed with no anesthesia other than the anesthetic that is contained in the medicated fluid.
A similar approach to liposuction called the super-wet liposuction technique involves the injection of a lesser amount of medicated fluid. The amount of fluid used is usually equal to the amount of fat removed.
Ultrasound-Assisted Liposuction (UAL)
Ultrasound-assisted liposuction (UAL) is sometimes used in combination with tumescent liposuction. The surgeon inserts a metal rod that emits ultrasonic energy and ruptures the walls of the fat cells as it passes through the areas of fat. The liquefied fat is then suctioned from the body using a cannula and vacuum pump. UAL is particularly beneficial when liposuction is performed on fibrous areas of the body, such as the upper back and the male chest.
Power-Assisted Liposuction (PAL)
Power-assisted liposuction (PAL) is a new technique that uses a cannula with a tip that rapidly vibrates. The vibration loosens the fat cells so that less force is required to remove the fat using tumescent liposuction. PAL causes less trauma to the surrounding tissues and results in less pain and swelling. PAL is often used to perform liposuction on fibrous areas of the body and to allow smaller areas, such as knees and ankles, to be treated with greater precision.
The best candidates for liposuction are people who are in good health and want to remove stubborn pockets of excess body fat that are resistant to diet and exercise.
Generally, the best candidates for liposuction:
- Are in good physical and psychological health.
- Are well-informed about treatment options and have realistic expectations.
- Want to improve their appearance by eliminating localized deposits of fat.
- Seek to contour their body rather than lose weight.
- Have skin that is firm and elastic.
Liposuction can present greater risks for people with certain medical conditions, such as poor blood circulation, diabetes, heart disease or a weakened immune system. People with poor skin elasticity may not be good candidates if the skin is not elastic enough to conform to the new body contours. Since the elasticity of skin diminishes with age, older patients may not achieve the same benefit as a younger person with firmer skin.
If you believe that you may be a good candidate for liposuction, a qualified plastic surgeon can evaluate your condition, explain anything about the procedure you don't understand, answer all of your questions and help you decide if the procedure is right for you.
Liposuction carries the same risks as any surgery, which include infection, excessive bleeding and complications from the anesthesia. To reduce your risk, carefully follow all of your plastic surgeon's instructions, both before and after the procedure. Contact your surgeon's office immediately if you have any symptoms you believe may indicate a complication.
The risks associated with liposuction increase when more areas are treated at the same time, a larger volume of fat is suctioned or liposuction is combined with other procedures. The most common risks include:
- Blood clots or fat clots
- Excessive fluid loss
- Fluid accumulation in the lungs
- Unfavorable drug or anesthesia reaction
- Injury to the skin
- Delayed healing
- Temporary or permanent numbness
- Excessive scarring
Patients may experience imperfections in their final appearance that include dimpling, wrinkling and waviness of the skin. The skin in treated areas may sag if it lacks elasticity, especially in older patients. Additional surgery to correct these problems may be recommended in some cases.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the national average surgeon/physician fee for liposuction in 2013 was $2,866. This figure does not include other costs, such as a facilities charge or anesthesia. Your plastic surgeon will provide you with complete information on costs and financing options at your consultation.
The total fee for liposuction can vary considerably depending on the region of the country, the extent of the procedure and your specific needs as a patient. The cost of liposuction is usually not covered by health insurance, as it is considered to be a cosmetic procedure.
If you decide that you might benefit from liposuction, the first step is to locate a qualified plastic surgeon and schedule a consultation. During this meeting, you will be examined by the doctor and discuss your options in detail. The surgeon will recommend a body contouring approach based on your goals, the location of the fat deposits, the amount of fat present, the condition of your skin and your overall health.
The surgeon should fully address all of your questions and give you the full details of the recommended procedure, including the benefits, risks, costs and recovery time. Be sure to ask to see before and after photos of the surgeon's recent liposuction patients.
Be prepared to discuss your medical history, including any vitamins and medications, both prescription and non-prescription, that you take. The doctor will also ask about existing health conditions and allergies.
As the consultation concludes, you may wish to schedule your procedure, take some time to think or seek a second opinion. If you decide to proceed with the procedure, your plastic surgeon will provide you with specific instructions on how to prepare for liposuction. These instructions will include guidelines for eating, drinking, and medications and vitamins to take or avoid before and after surgery.
Normal symptoms experienced after liposuction include soreness, fatigue, and mild to moderate pain, swelling and bruising. Any pain should subside quickly and be controlled with medication. Swelling usually subsides within a few weeks, but residual swelling may last for several months. Contact your plastic surgeon's office immediately if you experience any severe swelling, bruising or pain. Fever can be a sign of infection, so use a thermometer to take your temperature frequently in the first few days after surgery.
You will probably wear a compression garment for several weeks to control swelling and help the skin adhere to the new contours. A surgical drain may be used to remove excess fluids that collect at the site of the incisions before being removed within a few days. Your stitches will dissolve or be removed in a week to 10 days.
For the first few days after your liposuction, take it easy, get plenty of rest and follow all of your post-operative instructions. Your surgeon may ask you to begin walking as soon as possible to prevent blood clots from forming in the legs. Most patients can return to work after a few days but should avoid strenuous physical activity for about a month.