Liposuction (lipo, lipoplasty, body contouring) is a surgical procedure that that uses a suction technique to remove excess fat through a suctioning process.
What Is Liposuction?
Liposuction is a procedure to remove fat from specific areas of the body, such as under the chin, on the hips, thighs, and stomach, arms, neck, breast areas for the women and under the chin and around the waist, or for reduction of enlarged breasts, a condition known as gynecomastia for the men.
What You should know / Frequently Ask Questions
In general, good candidates for a liposuction include:
- Adults within 30% of their ideal weight who have firm, elastic skin and good muscle tone
- Healthy individuals who do not have a life-threatening illness or medical conditions that can impair healing
- Individuals with a positive outlook and specific goals in mind for body contouring
If you are bothered by excess fat deposits located anywhere on your body that don’t respond to diet or exercise, liposuction may be right for you.
Although it is not a substitute for weight loss, it is a way of changing the body’s shape and contour. If you’re overweight, you’re likely to lose more weight through diet and exercise or through bariatric procedures (such as gastric balloon / bypass surgery) than you would with liposuction.
Some of the different liposuction techniques include the following:
The tumescent technique involves the injection of a large quantity of a medical solution into a fatty area. The medical solution is a combination of drugs that numb the area, as well as shrink the capillaries and prevent blood loss. After the injection, a small incision is made into the skin and a tube connected to a vacuum is inserted into the fatty mass. The fat is then suctioned out.
Power assisted liposuction (PAL) is performed using a defined cannula or vacuum tubes which uses small, frequent vibrations to break up the cells of fat so that they can be suctioned out of the body without much difficulty.
Laser-assisted liposuction (LAL). This technique uses high-intensity laser light to break down fat for removal. During LAL, the surgeon inserts a laser fiber through a small incision in the skin and emulsifies fat deposits. The fat is then removed via a cannula.
In the ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty (VASER; Vibration Amplification of Sound Energy at Resonance ) a special probe that produces ultrasound energy is used. This ultrasound energy breaks down the walls of the fat cells turning them to liquid. The fat is then suctioned out.
Heat from the ultrasound device used to liquefy the fat cells may cause injury to the skin or deeper tissues.
The long-term effects of ultrasound energy on the body are not yet known.
In preparing for liposuction surgery, you may be asked to:
- Get lab testing or a medical evaluation
- Take certain medications or adjust your current medications
- Stop smoking
Avoid taking aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs and herbal supplements as they can increase bleeding.
The results of liposuction will be long lasting, provided you maintain a stable weight and general fitness.
Your improved body contour will be apparent when the swelling and fluid retention commonly experienced following liposuction subside.
As your body ages, it is natural to lose some firmness, but most of your improvement should be relatively permanent.
Although good results are expected from your procedure, there is no guarantee. In some situations, it may not be possible to achieve optimal results with a single surgical procedure and another surgery may be necessary.
It is not possible to improve lax skin tone with liposuction.
Following your physician’s instructions is key to the success of your surgery.
It’s important that the surgical incisions are not subjected to excessive force, swelling, abrasion or motion during the time of healing. Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to care for yourself.
As with any major surgery, liposuction carries risks, such as bleeding and a reaction to anesthesia. Possible complications specific to liposuction include:
Contour irregularities. Your skin may appear bumpy, wavy or withered due to uneven fat removal, poor skin elasticity and unusual healing. These changes may be permanent. Damage beneath the skin from the thin tube (cannula) that’s used during liposuction may give the skin a permanent spotted appearance.
Fluid accumulation. Temporary pockets of fluid (seromas) can form under the skin. This fluid may need to be drained with a needle.
Numbness. You may feel temporary or permanent numbness in the affected area. Temporary nerve irritation also is possible.
Infection. Skin infections are rare but possible. A severe skin infection may be life-threatening.
Internal puncture. Rarely, a cannula that penetrates too deeply may puncture an internal organ. This may require emergency surgical repair.
Fat embolism. Pieces of loosened fat may break away and become trapped in a blood vessel and gather in the lungs or travel to the brain. A fat embolism is a medical emergency.
Kidney and heart problems. Shifts in fluid levels as fluids are being injected and suctioned out can cause potentially life-threatening kidney, heart and lung problems.
Lidocaine toxicity. Lidocaine is an anesthetic often administered with fluids injected during liposuction to help manage pain. Although generally safe, in rare circumstances, lidocaine toxicity can occur, causing serious heart and central nervous system problems.
The risk of complications increases if the surgeon is working on larger surfaces of your body or doing multiple procedures during the same operation. Talk to your surgeon about how these risks apply to you.