Liposuction: 10 things to know and 10 questions to ask
1. What is traditional liposuction?
Liposuction (also known as liposculpture) is a surgical procedure that breaks down and removes the subcutaneous fat layer (fat just under the skin) in parts of the body that are notoriously and stubbornly resistant to diet and exercise. This is not a weight loss procedure; instead, it is a way to remove a pocket of fat that is not responsive in otherwise healthy individuals.
2. Where is liposuction be performed?
Some common “problem” areas of the body where liposuction is performed includes:
- Double Chin
- Back of Neck
- Bottom of Upper Arms
- Female Breasts
- Outer Thighs or Saddlebags
- Bra Strap Area
- Abdomen or Belly Pooch
- Muffin Top
- Love Handles
- Male Breasts
Less common areas include the ankles, inner thigh and upper back. The optimal area for each individual is unique, as each person responds to diet and exercise differently. Qualified plastic surgeons consult with patients to determine the areas of their body where liposuction makes sense.
3. What makes an ideal candidate for the procedure?
The best candidates for liposuction are healthy individuals at or close to their goal weight. They are also nonsmokers.
Ideal patients have stubborn subcutaneous fat, in which fat resides between muscle and skin, and not visceral fat in which the layer of fat resides beneath the muscle layer around the abdominal organs.
Additionally, surgeons will evaluate the condition of a prospective patient’s skin before recommending liposuction. Patients with good skin elasticity are good candidates for liposuction, whereas patients with loose skin or cellulite are not, as these conditions can result in uneven or dimpled skin.
4. Is liposuction a weight loss procedure? How much fat can be removed?
Contrary to popular belief, liposuction is not a weight-loss treatment. Instead, it is a fat reduction procedure. The amount of fat that can be removed in an area during a single procedure will vary depending on a variety of factors, including the surgeon’s assessment of the patient’s health and his or her aesthetic goals.
5. How does a patient prepare for liposuction surgery?
Plastic Surgeons will provide instructions for the days leading up to liposuction, but in general, it is most important to enlist a supportive friend or family member that can help drive to and from the surgical center and assist with postsurgical care. Certain medications like aspirin and blood thinners may need to be paused before the procedure. In some cases, blood work is done ahead of time to ensure that the client is a good candidate for anesthesia. Finally, the day of surgery, there will be a period where no food or drink should be taken; this is typically about 12 hours before the appointment time.
7. What happens during the procedure? How is it performed?
Liposuction is a surgical procedure that involves making small incisions in the skin and inserting a tool called a cannula into the fat pocket. This cannula is attached to a suction device or a syringe to extract the fat.
This is typically an outpatient surgery, so while patients may be put under general anesthesia they are often allowed to go home the same day as the surgery.
8. What is the recovery like?
In most procedures, the patient can return to work in a few days and resume all normal activities, like exercise, within 2-4 weeks or less, though recovery and postsurgical care varies depending on the area treated and the amount of fat removed.
Following instructions is the best way to have a recovery that is short and as painless as possible. Some discomfort may be felt. However, lifestyle choices like rest, hydration and not smoking will make healing time faster and complications fewer. The most common postsurgical effects can include some swelling, bruising and tenderness in the area of the procedure. The surgical team will offer some options on pain relief after surgery as well as a list of pain relievers to avoid.
Common postsurgical instructions also include wearing compression garments in the areas that were treated. Modified activities may be recommended for a few weeks afterward to reduce strain on the target areas.
9. What sort of scarring is expected after the procedure?
The cannula is a small instrument, and because of this, the scars are small as well. The number of scars is based on the number of insertion points needed to address the area. Scarring also varies depending on the patient’s skin quality. Surgeons will discuss location and the ways in which they can minimize the appearance of scarring.
10. What kind of results should a patient expect after the procedure?
Plastic Surgeons can help you anticipate and visualize realistic results. Immediately after surgery, there will be some swelling and the skin may be loose. Because of this it can take several weeks to months to see the full extent of the results of the procedure.
The fat cells removed during liposuction are permanently removed. It is important to note, however, that patients can still gain new fat cells, so following a healthy diet, lifestyle and exercise plan after treatment can help prevent new fat gain.
10 questions to ask the surgeon
When choosing a plastic surgeon for this procedure there are at least ten important questions to ask that will help you determine whether they are a good fit for helping you reach your aesthetic goals:
- Are you board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery? Board-certified plastic surgeons have demonstrated knowledge and experience in a number of plastic surgery procedures, and have met stringent standards to attain certification.
- How much experience do you have with liposuction? Asking how many procedures they have done and on what areas of the body can help you to understand a surgeon’s knowledge level.
- What kinds of results can I expect? It can take several weeks for the swelling to resolve, the skin to tighten and the full extent of the results to be seen. The surgeon can help guide you through this process.
- What is the surgery and recovery time? This will vary based on the amount of fat being removed, the target area and the number of areas in the body that are being treated.
- Are before and after photos of similar procedures available to see? Reviewing the surgeon’s past work on similar patients and body areas can help patients get a realistic feel for the surgeon’s work and results.
- What is the scheduling time before surgery? Some surgeons may be booked out for months, while others may have openings next week. Patients looking to complete their surgery and recovery for an upcoming event will want to consider the surgeon’s availability.
- What are costs and is financing available? Costs vary by patient and by region. Understanding affordability and available payment options can better help patients plan and budget for liposuction.
- What kind of postsurgical care is involved for the target area? In many cases, compression garments and reduced use are all it takes to make things better. However, if more or special care is required patients can make or plan for special arrangements to be able to heal optimally.
- Can liposuction be combined with other plastic surgeries to better meet goals? Sometimes, targeting fat alone is not enough to get desired results. Combining liposuction with other procedures is now safer and much more commonplace. In mommy makeovers, for example, liposuction may be combined with a tummy tuck to reduce abdominal stretching and better return the body to its former or more ideal shape.
- What kind of follow-up is required with after this procedure? Some surgeons may require a post-surgery visit to evaluate and confirm that everything is healing on schedule and properly, while others may require multiple follow-up visits as a part of aftercare.
As more people commit themselves to a healthy lifestyle and seek ways to reach their ideal, liposuction presents an often excellent and cost-effective path to achieving these goals. Better understanding this popular procedure can help patients get the best possible treatment and care.