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Liposuction

Table of Contents

Treatment Overview

Liposuction removes fat from your body using suction. During the procedure, small, thin tubes (cannula) are inserted through tiny cuts in the skin. Fat is suctioned out through these tubes as the doctor moves the tubes around under the skin to target specific fat deposits.

In recent years, improved techniques have made liposuction safer, easier, and less painful.

Liposuction is usually done as an outpatient procedure in a properly equipped doctor's office, ambulatory surgery center, or hospital. In general, it does not require an overnight hospital stay unless a large volume of fat is being removed. Local anesthesia is used in some cases. And you may be given a sedative to help you relax. If a large area or volume of fat is being treated, general anesthesia or deep sedation with a local anesthetic may be used.

Types of liposuction

Techniques include:

Tumescent liposuction.

A local anesthetic is used to numb the area of your body where the tube will be inserted. Next, an anesthetic medicine is injected into the fatty tissue. Then the fatty tissue is removed through the tube. This type of liposuction may not require general anesthesia (which makes you sleep through the procedure).

Ultrasound-assisted liposuction.

This technique uses ultrasound to liquefy the fat, which makes it easier to remove. This technique may be helpful in removing fat from the neck, upper abdomen, sides, and back.

Laser-assisted liposuction.

This technique uses low-energy waves to liquefy the fat, which is removed through a small, thin tube.

What To Expect

After the procedure, the area of the body that was treated will be covered with a compression garment or elastic bandages. This helps to reduce swelling, bruising, and pain. Wear them all the time, except when taking a shower, for as long as your doctor says. You will probably have a lot of bruising and swelling for at least the first 7 to 10 days.

Fluid may drain from the incision sites for several days. You may be given antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection.

After the treatment is finished and the effects of the anesthesia and any sedation have worn off, most people are able to get up and move around. You can return to your normal activities as soon as you feel comfortable. This may take several days to a few weeks. Most people can return to work within a few days. Recovery may take longer if large areas were treated.

Why It Is Done

The main purpose of liposuction is to reshape one or more areas of your body, not to reduce body weight. It is typically used on "problem" areas that have not responded well to diet and exercise. The face, neck, abdomen, and back are commonly treated areas. So are the hips, buttocks, legs, and upper arms.

Liposuction is sometimes used in combination with other cosmetic surgery procedures, such as a "tummy tuck" (abdominoplasty), breast reduction, or face-lift.

Liposuction may also be used to treat certain medical conditions, including:

Liposuction is not used to treat obesity. It will not get rid of cellulite or stretch marks.

How Well It Works

Liposuction is usually very effective at removing fat deposits in small areas. But if you gain weight after having liposuction, the fatty bulges that were removed are likely to return or may appear in a different place.

Some improvement in body shape is usually noticeable right after surgery. And improvement may continue for several weeks or even months as the swelling goes away. The full effects of having liposuction may not be visible for several months to a year.

Liposuction (except for laser liposuction) generally does not tighten the skin over the treated area. After fat has been removed, the skin around the area may be somewhat loose. It may take up to 6 months for the skin to tighten around the treated area, and it may not ever fully tighten. Some people's skin is very elastic and retracts more quickly than other people's skin. Younger skin tends to have greater elasticity than older skin.

Risks

Liposuction done by an experienced doctor in a properly equipped facility is usually safe. Having more than one area treated, or having a very large area treated, may increase the risk of complications during or after the procedure.

Common side effects of liposuction include:

Less common side effects include:

If you gain weight after having liposuction, your body may store the new fat in a different place than where you had fat cells removed. New fat can grow deep inside your body, around your organs, such as your heart or liver. This type of fat can be more harmful to your body than fat that is stored near the surface of your body, such as on your hips or thighs. So people who have liposuction need to be careful not to gain extra weight.

Dangerous complications

If you are having a large amount of fat removed, you have obesity, or you have health problems, your risks go up. Possible complications include:

Liposuction should not be done in people who have severe heart problems, who have blood-clotting disorders (such as thrombophilia, a disorder in which the blood clots easily or excessively), or during pregnancy.

Credits for Liposuction

Current as of: September 20, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff (https://www.healthwise.org/specialpages/legal/abouthw/en)
Clinical Review Board (https://www.healthwise.org/specialpages/legal/abouthw/en)
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