Liposuction, also called lipoplasty, is a surgical procedure that slims and re-contours the body by removing excess deposits of fat on the abdomen, thighs, buttocks, underarms, neck, and face. It is helpful in removing those persistent pockets of fat that diet and exercise are unable to accomplish.
How Does It Work?
With liposuction, a thin stainless steel tube, called a cannula, is inserted into the fatty layers of skin through a small incision. The cannula is then “waved” back and forth to break up the fat. A powerful suction pump, which is attached to the cannula, extracts the unwanted fat from the body.
The technique has evolved significantly from the 1980s, when the modern version of the procedure first appeared in France. One of the major advances is the development of various “wet” techniques, including tumescent liposuction. These techniques infuse the fat with a wetting solution consisting of salt water, a local anesthetic, and sometimes adrenaline (which shrinks blood vessels). The solution helps minimize bruising and bleeding.
New techniques have also been developed for breaking up the fat. Some liposuction procedures, for example, use sound waves to loosen the fat (ultrasound-assisted liposuction), while other use intense pulses of light from a laser probe (laser-assisted liposuction). Which procedure is right for you will depend on a variety of factors, which your physician will explain to you during your initial consultation.
Am I a Good Candidate?
You should be healthy, physically fit, and a non-smoker. Your skin should be firm, but elastic. Liposuction removes fat, but it does nothing for loose skin. That’s one reason the procedure is sometimes less effective on older people.
You should also, of course, have first tried diet and exercise to reduce the unwanted fat. Liposuction is designed only for those stubborn pockets of fat that refuse to budge when you’re at your optimum weight.
What Are the Risks?
Major complications from modern liposuction procedures are rare, but include bleeding, blood clots, infections, and nerve damage. Most complications occur when another cosmetic procedure, such as a tummy tuck or facelift, is done on the same day or when too much fat is removed during a single procedure. Taking away too much fat can also leave the treated area looking lumpy or “dented.” For those reasons, it’s much better to schedule two procedures several weeks apart if you’re having a lot of fat removed than to try and do “everything” all at once.
How Long Is the Recovery?
You’ll feel groggy and nauseated for up to 24 hours after the procedure, so be sure to have someone who can stay with you during that time. The treated area will be swollen, slightly bruised, and numb. Those side effects may take several weeks to completely go away.
Your physician will give you explicit instructions on which medications to take to keep youself comfortable during the recovery period. You’ll also be told how to care for the treated area. Be sure to follow these instructions carefully. You should be able to return to most of your regular activities within 3 to 7 days.