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.
Liposuction at a glance
Liposuction surgery was one of the top five surgical cosmetic procedures performed in 2009. 198,000 people had nose surgery in 2009.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cost is always a consideration in elective surgery. Liposuction prices can vary widely. Prices of liposuction surgery may vary based on the surgeon’s experience, the type of procedure performed, as well as geographic location.
Many plastic surgeons offer liposuction financing plans, so be sure to ask.
The price of liposuction surgery may include:
- Surgeon’s fee
- Hospital or surgical facility costs
- Anesthesia fees
- Prescriptions for medication
- Post-surgery garments
- Medical tests
Your satisfaction involves more than the cost of liposuction
When choosing a plastic surgeon for liposuction, remember that the surgeon’s experience and your comfort with him or her are just as important as the final cost of the surgery.
Most health insurance policies do not cover liposuction costs or its complications.
- Breast reduction: Also known as reduction mammaplasty, reduction of breast size by surgery.
- Cannula: A thin, hollow tube used during liposuction to loosen excess fat.
- Facelift: A surgical procedure, also known as rhytidectomy, to reduce sagging of the mid-face, jowls and neck.
- General anesthesia: Drugs and/or gases used during an operation to relieve pain and alter consciousness.
- Hematoma: Blood pooling beneath the skin.
- Intravenous sedation: Sedatives administered by injection into a vein to help you relax.
- Lipoplasty: Another term for liposuction.
- Liposuction: Also called lipoplasty or suction lipectomy, this procedure vacuums out fat from beneath the skin’s surface to reduce fullness.
- Local anesthesia: A drug injected directly to the site of an incision during an operation to relieve pain.
- Suction lipectomy: Another term for liposuction.
- Sutures: Stitches used by surgeons to hold skin and tissue together.
- Tumescent liposuction: Also known as super-wet liposuction, involves an infusion of saline solution with adrenaline and possibly anesthetic prior to removal of excess fat.
- Tummy tuck: A surgical procedure, also known as abdominoplasty, to correct the apron of excess skin hanging over your abdomen.
- Ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty: Also known as ultrasonic liposuction, uses ultrasonic energy to liquefy excess fat prior to surgical suctioning.
Use this checklist as a guide for consulting with your liposuction doctor
- Are you certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery?
- Are you a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons?
- Were you trained specifically in the field of plastic surgery?
- How many years of plastic surgery training have you had?
- Do you have hospital privileges to perform this procedure? If so, at which hospitals?
- Is the office-based surgical facility accredited by a nationally- or state-recognized accrediting agency, or is it state-licensed or Medicare-certified?
- Am I a good candidate for this procedure?
- What will be expected of me to get the best results?
- Where and how will you perform my procedure?
- What surgical technique is recommended for me?
- How long of a recovery period can I expect, and what kind of help will I need during my recovery?
- What are the risks and complications associated with my procedure?
- How are complications handled?
- How can I expect my body to look over time? After pregnancy?
- What are my options if I am dissatisfied with the cosmetic outcome of my liposuction?
- Do you have before-and-after photos I can look at for this procedure and what results are reasonable for me?
Plastic surgery involves many choices. The first and most important is selecting a surgeon you can trust.
Choosing an ASPS Member Surgeon ensures that you have selected a physician who:
- Has completed at least five years of surgical training with a minimum of two years in plastic surgery.
- Is trained and experienced in all plastic surgery procedures, including breast, body, face and reconstruction.
- Operates only in accredited medical facilities.
- Adheres to a strict code of ethics.
- Fulfills continuing medical education requirements, including standards and innovations in patient safety.
- Is board certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or in Canada by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada®.
ASPS Member Surgeons are your partners in cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery.
Look for the ASPS Member Surgeon logo.