Why get liposuction?
Liposuction is a cosmetic surgery to remove stubborn and/or unwanted fat. People who live healthy lifestyles but continue to have body fat in certain areas of their bodies might get liposuction. Liposuction can be helpful in shaping a person's chin, abdomen, hips and ankle areas.
If you have several pounds to lose, your doctor might recommend diet and exercise if you haven't yet tried it. Liposuction is not a treatment for obesity.
What happens when you get liposuction?
Liposuction is generally an outpatient procedure. Before the procedure, you and your plastic surgeon will discuss whether you will be placed under general or local anesthesia. If it is under general anesthesia, an anesthesiologist will put you to sleep for the operation.
There are multiple ways liposuction can be performed, including suction-assisted liposuction, power-assisted liposuction and ultrasound-assisted liposuction. It's best to walk with your doctor about which procedure he or she prefers and which might work best for you.
Sometimes to perform the surgery, your surgeon will insert a sterile solution into the liposuction site and then suction it out along with the fat. Next, the surgeon will make a few stab incisions that are about one-quarter of an inch long. These incisions will be small and not easy to see after about six months. In many cases, a surgeon will then use a cannula, a hollow metal tube, attached to a vacuum to suction out fat under the skin.
Does it hurt?
You will be sore after the procedure, but the amount of pain varies from person to person. You might also experience some bruising. In general, people take pain medications for up to one week.
What are the risk factors?
With surgery, there's generally a risk of bleeding, infection and wound healing. But with liposuction, those risks are pretty minimal. Infection is rare in liposuction, but a severe skin infection is serious if it does occur.
Fluid buildup is one concern with liposuction. This occurs when seromas, or temporary fluid pockets, form under the skin.
Contour irregularities, where your skin appears lumpy or uneven, could appear if the surgeon causes damage when using the cannula.
There's also risk of fat embolism, which is similar to a blood clot. A fat embolism is a small piece of fat that breaks off and can get into the bloodstream. It can obstruct the blood supply, for example, in the lungs, and cause you to be hospitalized.
One of the risk factors of liposuction doesn't relate to the surgery but rather what happens afterward. After liposuction, you no longer have fat cells in that area of your body.
If you get liposuction and then later gain weight, the fat that might have gone to the liposuction site will find another place to go. It could go to any other area of the body where you retain fat. This is one of the reasons it's important to maintain a healthy lifestyle after liposuction.
What's the recovery time?
You should be able to restart your exercise program after about two weeks, and generally, you feel like your complete self after about four weeks. You might have to wear a compression garment for six to eight weeks to reduce swelling.
Meanwhile, the scars from incisions should be almost invisible within six months.
You won't see the full results from liposuction for at least a few months. There's always swelling after liposuction, and it takes time for all that swelling to go away. You will shrink every week and continue to shrink for three to six months.
What's the follow-up?
After your procedure, your doctor will likely want to see you a various intervals to see how you're coming along.
Most people only get liposuction once in an area of the body. For example, if you get liposuction in your stomach, your doctor likely won't recommend you do that again. Sometimes people get liposuction in another area of the body. It's a decision that should be discussed between you and your doctor.
Source: Dr. Derek Shadid, Shadid Plastic Surgery Associates; MedlinePlus; The American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery