What Is Liposuction?

Liposuction is a type of surgery that breaks up adipose tissue (fat) in an individual's body and then removes it. Liposuction is also referred to as lipoplasty, lipectomy, liposculpture suction, or lipo in the medical community. This type of cosmetic surgical procedure is most often utilized to remove fat from an individual's back, calves, abdomen, buttocks, thighs, chin, upper arms, neck, and back of the arms. Currently, liposuction is the most common cosmetic surgical procedure performed in the United States, with over 300,000 procedures administered annually. Liposuction is not effective for the removal of dimples, stretch marks, or cellulite. Liposuction permanently extracts fat from the body, but there are limits to the quantity of fat that can be safely extracted.

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How The Procedure Works

An individual who is undergoing liposuction will receive general anesthesia or an epidural so they do not feel any pain or discomfort during the surgery. One of many techniques will be utilized to remove the targeted fat tissue on the body. With tumescent liposuction, epinephrine, lidocaine, and saline are injected below the skin into the region to be treated before the fat is suctioned from the body with the cannula. This method helps soften the fatty tissue and minimize the amount of blood vessel damage. Ultrasound-assisted liposuction is a method where ultrasound energizes the cannula used to melt the fat upon contact. This method works by using ultrasound vibrations to rupture to the membranes of the fat cells so they liquefy and are easier to suction from the body. Power-assisted liposuction is a method that uses a mechanical back and forth motion to break up the fat before it is suctioned from the body. A combination of these techniques may be used depending on the part of the body being treated.

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Preparing For The Procedure

Liposuction requires some preparation steps like any other surgical procedure. Arrangements should be made for a friend or family member to transport the patient to and from the facility where they will have their procedure. It is recommended that a patient undergoing liposuction should avoid shaving the area to be treated for a week before their procedure date. Drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking are activities that should also be avoided during the week leading up to a patient's procedure, as they can increase the risk of post-surgical complications. An individual who is having liposuction should not take ibuprofen or acetylsalicylic acid during the two weeks leading up to their surgery. Certain herbal supplements are known to interact with anesthesia and should not be taken in the two weeks before a liposuction procedure, including ginkgo biloba, ginseng, St. John's wort, green tea extract, and garlic. A patient having liposuction should not eat or drink anything for at least eight hours before their procedure.

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Benefits Of Liposuction

There are several benefits of liposuction that cannot be accomplished with the use of other treatment methods. An individual affected by a painful condition referred to as lymphedema may benefit from liposuction because it can decrease their symptoms that include swelling, pain, and discomfort. Men with gynecomastia may benefit from liposuction because it can safely remove the extra adipose tissue that builds up underneath their breasts. Individuals who have lipodystrophy syndrome, a condition where fat is unevenly distributed throughout their body, can benefit from having liposuction because it can make their body more proportionate. Patients affected by multiple lipomas may benefit from choosing liposuction as a method of treatment, over other more invasive tissue removal techniques. Liposuction is one of the less invasive methods of fat tissue removal compared to other procedures, which is beneficial regardless of the reason why the procedure is being done.

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Side Effects To Watch For

An individual who has had liposuction should watch out for certain warning signs of post-surgical complications that have the potential to be life-threatening. Patients should keep an eye out for signs of infection, which include increased swelling, foul odor, warmth, increased pain, spreading redness, and excessive drainage of pus from their incision site. An individual who develops a fever that stays over 100 degrees Fahrenheit can also be indicative of post-surgical infection. They should watch for breathing issues, coughing up blood, and sudden chest pain as these are warning signs of post-surgical pulmonary embolism. This complication is serious and requires immediate medical treatment. Blood clots can develop in other parts of an individual's body after liposuction and they should be aware of any new pain or swelling that occurs in the back of their knee, calf, groin, and thigh. Persistent bleeding from an incision site can be dangerous following liposuction and should be treated immediately.

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Recovery Process

A patient who has had general anesthesia will typically need to stay overnight at the facility for observation following their liposuction procedure. The area that has been treated will be covered with support or elasticated bandages, and antibiotics will be prescribed immediately following the procedure. Bruising in the area treated by liposuction is expected and may take several weeks to heal. If a patient receives stitches during their liposuction procedure, they will be removed after several days at a follow-up appointment. It is normal for a patient who has had liposuction to feel some numbness or loss of sensation in the area treated for up to eight weeks following their procedure. Liposuction results are not typically clear or obvious to the naked eye until all of the inflammation and swelling has resolved. An individual who has had liposuction will need to lead a healthy lifestyle to maintain the new contour of their body. An unhealthy lifestyle can cause the remaining adipose cells to grow larger.