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Liposuction, also called lipoplasty and body contouring, is a surgical procedure that removes fat from the abdomen, hips, thighs, buttocks, arms, or neck.
Who is a Candidate?
Liposuction is not considered a weight-loss option for overweight or obese individuals; instead, liposuction can help individuals with a stable body weight who have stubborn body fat in specific spots. The surgical procedure can also be used for breast reduction in some cases.
Good candidates for liposuction are in good health and don’t have any preexisting conditions that could complicate surgery, such as coronary artery disease, restricted blood flow, diabetes, or a weak immune system.
How it Works
The liposuction technique reduces the number of fat cells in a specific area. Exactly how much fat is removed will depend on the area’s appearance and volume of fat. As long as the patient keeps their weight stable, the contouring results should remain permanent.
After the procedure, the patient’s skin will mold itself to the new contours of the treatment area. Patients with good skin tone and elasticity are more likely to have skin that appears smooth. Patients whose skin is thin and has poor elasticity, on the other hand, may have skin that appears loose.
It’s important to understand the limitations of liposuction. The procedure won’t improve cellulite dimpling or other irregularities of the skin surface. Liposuction will not remove stretch marks, either.
Potential Side Effects and Risks
The potential risks of liposuction include:
- Irregularities in contour. Patients may have skin that appears bumpy, wavy, or withered as a result of uneven fat removal, poor skin elasticity, or abnormal healing. These irregularities may become permanent, leading to a spotted appearance typically caused by damage beneath the skin from the thin tube used during the procedure.
- Fluid accumulation. Pockets of fluid, called seromas, can form under the skin and need to be drained with a needle.
- Numbness. Patients may experience temporary and possible permanent numbness in the treatment area. Another potential side effect is temporary nerve irritation.
- Infection. Rare, but possible, skin infections may become severe and life-threatening.
- Internal puncture. If the cannula penetrates too deeply, it may puncture an internal organ and require emergency surgical repair.
- Fat embolism. If pieces of loosened fat break away and become trapped in a blood vessel, they may gather in the lungs or travel to the brain, causing a medical emergency.
- Kidney and heart problems. As fluid is being injected and suctioned out, shifts in fluid levels can lead to potentially life-threatening kidney, heart, and lung problems.
- Lidocaine toxicity. Patients may have an adverse reaction to lidocaine, an anesthetic commonly administered with fluids injected during liposuction to alleviate pain, and experience serious heart and central nervous system problems.
The surgeon begins by marking circles and lines on the treatment area(s) and taking pictures to compare before and after images. The patient may be placed under local or general anesthesia, depending on which areas of the body will be treated.
Liposuction can be performed using a variety of techniques, including tumescent liposuction, ultrasound-assisted liposuction (UAL), laser-assisted liposuction (LAL), and power-assisted liposuction (PAL). The technique used during liposuction will depend on the patient’s treatment goals, the area of the body being treated, and whether the patient has previously undergone liposuction.
The entire procedure may take up to several hours, depending on how much fat needs to be removed.
The Recovery Process
It is normal to experience some pain, swelling, and bruising after the procedure. The incisions may be left open for a few days and have temporary drains placed to promote fluid drainage. Patients will need to avoid everyday activities for a few days after the procedure and should wait a few weeks before resuming strenuous activities, such as exercise. Contour irregularities are to be expected as the remaining fat settles into position.