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Ira H. Rex III, MD
American Board of Plastic Surgery

Liposuction

Liposuction is the most commonly performed plastic surgery procedure. Generally liposuction works best for people with pockets of resistant fat that will not respond to exercise.

Liposuction works best on the hips, knees, buttocks, outer thighs, lower abdomen, waist, breasts (gynecomastia in males), and the front and back of the upper legs. Liposuction may also be performed on the chin or neck.

Procedure Notes

Length: 1 to 2 hours or more. UAL: 20-40 percent longer than traditional liposuction.
Anesthesia: Local, epidural, or general.
In/Outpatient: Usually outpatient. Extensive procedures may require short inpatient stay.
Side Effects: Temporary bruising, swelling, numbness, soreness, burning sensation. Tumescent: Temporary fluid drainage from incision sites. UAL: Larger incisions for cannula.
Risks: Asymmetry. Rippling or bagginess of skin. Pigmentation changes. Skin injury. Fluid retention. Excessive fluid loss leading to shock. Infection. UAL: thermal burn injury caused by the heat from the ultrasound device.
Recovery: Back to work: 1 to 2 weeks. More strenuous activity: 2 to 4 weeks. Full recovery from swelling and bruising: 1 to 6 months or more. Use of tumescent technique or UAL may decrease post-operative bruising and swelling.
Duration of Results: Permanent, with sensible diet and exercise.

Liposuction (or lipoplasty) is a body-sculpting procedure to remove fat that is unresponsive to dieting and exercising.  This procedure can be applied to nearly any area of the body and is commonly used on multiple areas during an operation.  Liposuction results in a slimmer and better proportioned figure.  Liposuction is used effectively to reduce love handles, saddlebags, a double-chin, a bulge around the waistline, or other unsightly fatty deposits in order to develop a better shape and create a more beautiful body.

Reasons for Considering Liposuction:

  • Eliminate fat from any of the following areas:
    • Chin and Neckline
    • Back
    • Upper Arms
    • Stomach and Waistline
    • Hips and Buttocks
    • Thighs and Knees
    • Calves and Ankles
  • Create a more proportioned figure

Liposuction is not a replacement for proper exercise and diet.  Instead, liposuction is a reduction procedure for stubborn areas where fat accumulates.  Used in combination with several areas of the body, liposuction can provide a well proportioned body appearance.  Ideal surgical candidates are those already in good physical condition but having stubborn areas that do not respond to diet and exercise.

General Procedure

Liposuction can be done under general anesthesia with the patient asleep or under local anesthesia where the area is numbed and the patient remains awake.  Through a tiny incision, a narrow tube or “cannula” is inserted and used to vacuum out the fatty tissue beneath the skin.  The surgeon determines the amount of fat to be removed by massaging the skin and squeezing the tissue.  After eliminating the excess fat, the incisions are closed by applying a compression dressing or bandage to the area in order to prevent bleeding, reduce swelling, and support the affected area.

There are several different types of liposuction procedures, such as tumescent or ultrasound liposuction, that have developed as a result of recent advancements in new technologies.  Together the patient and the surgeon can discuss which method(s) are best during the initial consultation visit.  Liposuction can last from thirty minutes to several hours depending upon the amount of fat to be removed.  Liposuction surgery is an excellent procedure that can benefit those who want to remove unattractive fatty deposits.

Recovery Process

New techniques allow for faster recovery from liposuction procedures.  The length of the recovery will depend on how extensive of an operation the patient undergoes.  Generally, post-operative instructions call for plenty of rest and limited movement in order to speed up the healing process and reduce the recovery time.  A support garment may need to be worn for several weeks after the surgery, depending upon which area(s) are selected to utilize the liposuction procedure.  Patients sometimes report minor pain associated with surgery which can be treated effectively with oral medication.  While complications are rare, patients can minimize the risk for potential problems by carefully following the directions given after surgery.

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