Liposuction is the removal of excess body fat by suction using special surgical equipment. A plastic surgeon typically does the surgery.
Fat removal - suctioning
Liposuction is a popular type of cosmetic surgery. It removes unwanted deposits of excess fat, to improve body appearance and to smooth irregular or distorted body shapes. The procedure is sometimes called body contouring.
Liposuction may be useful for contouring under the chin, neck, cheeks, upper arms, breasts, abdomen, buttocks, hips, thighs, knees, calves, and ankle areas.
However, liposuction is a serious surgical procedure and may involve a painful recovery. Because liposuction can have serious or occasionally fatal complications, you should carefully think about your decision to have this surgery.
Several different liposuction procedures exist:
A liposuction machine and special instruments called cannulas are used for this surgery. The surgical team first preps the operative site and administers either local or general anesthesia. Through a small skin incision, a suction tube with a sharp end is inserted into the fat pockets and swept through the area where fat is to be removed. The dislodged fat is "vacuumed" away through the suction tube. A vacuum pump or a large syringe provides the suction action. Several skin punctures may be needed to treat large areas. Your surgeon may approach the areas to be treated from several different directions in order to get the best contour.
After the fat is removed, small drainage tubes may be inserted into the defatted areas to remove blood and fluid that gather during the first few days after surgery. If you lose a lot of fluid or blood during the surgery, you may need fluid replacement (intravenously) or, very rarely, a blood transfusion.
The following are some of the uses for liposuction:
Liposuction is generally NOT appropriate for these uses:
Many alternatives to liposuction exist, including a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty), removal of fatty tumors (lipomas), breast reduction (reduction mammaplasty), or a combination of plastic surgery approaches.
Certain pre-existing conditions should be checked and brought under control before liposuction, including:
There are also risks associated with liposuction, including:
Finally, make sure to review and sign any informed consent (legal) and permission forms for photographs.
Before your surgery, you will have an initial patient consultation, which will include a history, physical exam, and a psychological evaluation. You may need to bring someone (such as your spouse) with you during the visit. You may need a second consultation to give you time to think over the surgery.
You should feel free to ask questions, and to feel satisfied with the answers to those questions. A properly informed person makes a better patient. You must understand fully the pre-operative preparations, the liposuction procedure, and the post-operative care. Understand that liposuction may enhance your appearance and self-confidence, but it will probably not give you your ideal body.
Before the day of surgery, you may have blood drawn and be asked to provide a urine saple. This allows the health care provider to rule out potential complications. If you are not hospitalized, you will need a ride home after the surgery.
After the surgery, bandages and compression garments are applied to keep pressure on the area and stop any bleeding, as well as to help maintain shape. Bandages are usually kept in place for at least 2 weeks. You will need the compression for several weeks. Your doctor may call you from time to time to check on your health and to monitor your healing. A visit back to the surgeon will be required. Sometimes people gain weight after liposuction. This is due to the increased fluid from surgery.
Liposuction may or may not require a hospital stay, depending on the location and extent of surgery. Liposuction can be done in an office-based facility, in a surgery center on an outpatient basis, or in a hospital. For reasons of cost and convenience, liposuction of smaller volumes is usually done as an outpatient. You may need to stay in a hospital if a larger volume of fat is being removed, or if you are having other procedures done at the same time.
Most informed patients are satisfied with the cosmetic result of their surgery. Informed patients understand that there are limits to what liposuction can accomplish.
The liposuctioned area may appear larger than before surgery because of swelling. You must wear a tight stocking, girdle, or snug elastic dressing over the treated area to reduce swelling and bleeding, and to help shrink the skin to fit the new contour. You should wear this garment for as long as your surgeon told you.
You will likely have swelling, bruising, numbness, and pain, but it can be managed with medications. The stitches will be removed in 5 to 10 days. Antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent infection.
You may feel sensations such as numbness or tingling, as well as pain, for weeks after the surgery. Walk as soon after surgery as possible to help prevent blood clots from forming in your legs. Avoid more strenuous exercise for about a month after the surgery.
You will start to feel better after about 1 or 2 weeks following liposuction surgery. You may return to work within a few days of the surgery. Bruising and swelling usually go away within three weeks; however, you may still have some swelling several months later.
Your doctor will check your progress through follow-up visits. If you have any questions or problems between office visits, call your doctor. Your new body shape will begin to emerge in the first couple of weeks; however, the improvement won't become more visible until about 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. By exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet, you can help maintain your new shape.
Burns JL, Blackwell SJ. Plastic sursgery. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008: chap 73.
Kucera IJ, Lambert TJ, Klein JA, et al. Liposuction: contemporary issues for the anesthesiologist. J Clin Anesth. 2006;18(5).
Pelosi MA, Pelosi MA. Liposuction. Obstetrics and gynecology clinics of North America. December 1, 2010; vol. 37: pp 507-519.