Introduced in the U.S. in the early 1980s, liposuction, also called liposculpture, lipoplasty, or suction lipectomy, is a cosmetic surgery technique developed by cosmetic surgeons to remove stubborn fat deposits that don't respond to dieting and exercise. These fatty bulges are most commonly found in the thighs, hips, abdomen, buttocks, knees, ankles, calves and arms. They are also found in the facial areas such as the chin, cheeks, jowls and neck. Liposuction can be performed alone or in conjunction with other cosmetic surgery procedures such as a tummy tuck, facelift or chin augmentation to achieve the desired result.
Are You a Good Candidate?
The best candidates for liposuction are healthy men and women with good skin elasticity and realistic expectations for liposuction. "Realistic" means that improvement, not always perfection, is the goal. The fatty bulges should be localized to a few areas and the individual should be near their ideal body weight. Cellulite, or waffled skin, will not be cured by liposuction.
It is natural for women, in particular, to accumulate fatty deposited on the hips, buttocks and abdomen; and fat in men tends to accumulate around the mid-section. Some men experience gynecomastia, or enlarged breasts.
Liposuction can enhance the appearance of men and women of all ages while boosting self esteem. This procedure is not for obese people. It is not meant to replace good eating and exercise habits, or to counter obesity, however, liposuction can offer help to remove unwanted fatty deposits in many areas of the body.
Your cosmetic surgeon will discuss your condition to see if liposuction is right for you.
There Are Risks in All Surgical Procedures
Liposuction is a very popular procedure that is a normally safe and effective method of removing excess fat. Like all surgery, any cosmetic surgery involves some level of risk. To help ensure a successful outcome, the patient should be a good candidate, the surgeon should be well-trained in liposuction techniques, the surgical facility should be properly equipped and the patient should follow the doctor's instructions and advice.
Even with the most skilled surgeon, however, variations from the ideal result are possible. Complications include uneven skin surface, especially in patients with poor skin elasticity, bleeding, infection, discoloration, fluid accumulation beneath the skin, numbness and scarring. Although complications with this surgery are extremely rare, infection and excessive loss of fluid can lead to serious illness and even death.
Liposuction can offer a new shape for people who never thought it was possible. Discuss the benefits and risks with your surgeon given your particular circumstances.
During your consultation, you and your cosmetic surgeon will discuss the areas of your body you'd like to change. You may undergo an examination to thoroughly assess your fat storage, skin elasticity and review your medical and health history. Your surgeon can discuss the placement of incisions and what other procedures may need to be performed to achieve the proper result. He or she will discuss what medication you should avoid, such as any that affect blood coagulation, and you may be asked to stop smoking for one to two weeks before and after surgery.
Although you'll be mobile immediately following your liposuction surgery, you will want to arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery and to help out around the house for a day or so.
The Surgery -- How It Is Done
Although an overwhelming majority are performed on an outpatient basis, some extensive liposuction procedures may require a brief hospital stay. Depending on the extent of your liposuction, your cosmetic surgeon may use a general anesthesia, where you will be fully-asleep during the surgery. Newer liposuction techniques involve injecting the area to be suctioned with a special fluid/anesthesia combination prior to suctioning. This is called tumescent liposuction. The fluid constricts the surrounding blood vessels, making the procedure nearly bloodless, while minimizing the pain. The rest of procedure is performed in the same way as traditional liposuction.
Liposuction begins as your surgeon makes small incisions, approximately one-half inch in length or less, near the area where fat is to be removed. A thin, hollow tube, called a cannula is inserted, and is attached to a machine or syringe that creates a strong vacuum. Your surgeon will then strategically manipulate the cannula under the skin to remove the unwanted fatty deposits.
Depending on the type of anesthesia, you may feel pressure, movement, or an occasional stinging sensation during the procedure, but not actual pain. Your surgeon will determine the amount of fat to remove by feeling and pinching the skin throughout the surgery.
After Your Surgery
Most patients are mobile immediately after liposuction, although an extra day or two of bed rest may be needed when large amounts of fat are removed. Keep in mind that healing is a gradual process. Your surgeon will want to begin normal activity as soon as possible to reduce post-operative complications, but in some cases you may be advised to avoid strenuous activity for a few weeks. Light exercise is usually permitted within a few days.
Your surgeon may recommend that a tight-fitting garment, similar to a girdle, be worn after surgery to reduce swelling. This may need to be worn for up to six weeks. Your stitches, however, will be removed within a week-and-a-half if they are not the type that dissolve.
You may not feel great just after your surgery. You've been given extra fluids during the procedure, and you'll likely experience swelling and some bruising, but this is only temporary. You may feel a little bruised and sore as if you'd overexercised that part of the body, but you should be able to resume work in a few days. Your doctor will recommend the exact timing, given your particular circumstances.
The New You
Remember, liposuction is a surgical procedure, and your body has to heal before you see the full benefits. Your results will likely be visible within two or three weeks, but the full effect may not be fully evident for six months to a year after surgery in some cases.
You should maintain a balanced diet and exercise regularly to fully enjoy the new you for years to come. Many patients find that their liposuction is such a psychological boost that it gives them the incentive to exercise even more than before to improve other parts of their physique. With realistic expectations, most patients are pleased with the improvements from their liposuction procedure. The goal is for you to be more comfortable with your body and happy with your new shape.