Liposuction

PlasticSurgery.com Staff Report © 2005-2009

Liposuction is the number one cosmetic procedure performed on men and women in the United States. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), nearly half a million people underwent liposuction in 2004. Many individuals turn to this procedure because dieting and exercise do not always give you the results you’re looking for. Also known as “lipoplasty” or “suction assisted-lipectomy,” liposuction removes fatty tissue from areas of the body that won’t budge. There are numerous techniques associated with this procedure that are designed to make your experience with cosmetic surgery a positive one.

It is important to think of liposuction as a body contouring procedure instead of a weight removal method. While women usually request liposuction for “problem areas” like their hips, thighs, stomach, and neck, men are usually concerned with getting rid of excess fat deposits that have settled around their waist (“love handles”), under their chin, and for the reduction of enlarged breasts; a procedure called gynecomastia. Overall, liposuction will help proportion your body.

As you learn of ways this procedure can benefit your image, consult a plastic surgeon about its risks, uncertainties, and complications. Plastic surgery is not for everybody; therefore you should evaluate your reasons for wanting to enhance your looks. Once the healing process is complete, most patients feel more confident in their appearance and enjoy their new look.

Ideal Liposuction Candidates

The idea of getting plastic surgery can be overwhelming and sometimes confusing. Before deciding if this procedure is right for you, sort through the reasons as to why you’re considering it in the first place. Liposuction is best for normal-weight people with firm, elastic skin who want to remove pockets of excess fat in certain areas. Age is usually not a determining factor (besides being at least 18 years old), but older patients tend to have less skin elasticity than younger patients. Most importantly, ideal candidates should have realistic expectations and be physically healthy and psychologically stable.

Choosing a Liposuction Surgeon and Preparing for Surgery

The most important part of your plastic surgery experience is finding a doctor who is experienced in liposuction. Your search for a good plastic surgeon shouldn’t be taken lightly. Quite simply, your health and image depends on it. You can start gathering names of physicians from friends who’ve recently had the same procedure you’re considering, or continue searching on PlasticSurgery.com to browse through the profile of doctors in your area.

The initial consultation is the best time to gauge the doctor’s personality and professionalism. Handing your body over to a plastic surgeon can be difficult; therefore, finding someone you can trust should be your top goal. During this time, he or she should be able to address all of your concerns by answering any questions you may have, and discuss all that plastic surgery entails. This includes not only the risks and benefits of liposuction, but details about preparing for surgery, recovery options, and the kind of results to look forward to.

To help determine if liposuction will meet your goals, your doctor may do a “pinch test” (measuring the length of skin between his or her fingers by pinching the skin) during this meeting. It is a simple way to determine if you have enough fat cells in a given area. He or she will evaluate your health, determine where your fat deposits lie and assess the condition of your skin.

Liposuction Techniques

A variety of liposuction techniques (sometimes specifically refered to as Liposculpture) were developed over the years for a slimmer and more proportionate body contour. Besides the information posted here, on PlasticSurgery.com, your doctor should be able to provide you with information regarding your options and possibilities with liposuction. However, the basic method of traditional liposuction is used amongst each technique: tumescent, super-wet, ultra-sonic assisted (UAL) and power-assisted liposuction (PAL).

Traditional

Liposuction is a procedure in which localized deposits of fat are removed to enhance the body and re-contouring its shape. During this procedure, a tiny incision is made at the site followed by a narrow tube or cannula inserted in the skin and vacuuming out the fat layer below. The cannula is used to break up the fat cells and suction them out. Traditional liposuction usually takes about one to two hours.

The Tumescent Technique

Anyone who is a candidate for traditional liposuction generally qualifies for the tumescent technique as well. With the tumescent technique, areas of excess fat are injected with a large amount of anesthetic liquid before liposuction is performed. This fluid is saline containing a dilute solution of epinephrine (a drug that contract blood vessels) and local anesthetic, which causes the compartments of fat to become swollen and firm or "tumesced." The expanded fat compartments allow the liposuction cannula to travel smoothly beneath the skin as the fat is removed. The tumescent technique can sometimes last more than four hours.

Super-Wet Method

The super wet method is very similar to the tumescent technique, however less fluid is used. The typical amount of fluid used is equal to the amount of fat being removed. This technique often requires IV sedation or general anesthesia, and generally takes about one to two hours – considerably less surgery time than the tumescent technique.

Ultrasonic-assisted Liposuction (UAL)

During this procedure, ultrasound high frequency waves break up the fat prior to its removal. This is done through a special cannula. This method delivers a combination of vibratory mechanical energy and thermal energy to subcutaneous fat, which is fat that covers the muscle and bone – the deepest level underneath the skin. The UAL technique is commonly used for a secondary procedure when enhanced precision is needed, targeting the fibrous areas of the body. This may be the upper back or enlarged male breasts. UAL is known to take longer than traditional liposuction.

Power Assisted Liposuction (PAL)

Power-assisted liposuction, also called “powered tumescent liposuction,” is one of the latest advances in fat removal. For this technique, a mechanical cannula is used to rapidly break up fatty tissue. This vibration loosens up the fat cells so that they may be suctioned in a gentler manner, causing little trauma to the surrounding tissues. PAL is performed using the tumescent technique, which maximizes the effectiveness of fat removal. It should take at least one to two hours to perform.

Liposuction Risks and Complications

The complications and risks associated with liposuction vary, depending on the technique used. Overall, the most common risks and complications include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Blood clot formations on the leg
  • Excessive blood loss
  • Reaction to Anesthesia
  • Risk of fluid leakage in the bloodstream
  • Asymmetry
  • Hyper pigmentation
  • Swelling
  • Necrosis
  • Burns
  • Numbness

To help reduce complications with liposuction, you should take your time in choosing the right doctor – someone who is qualified and experienced. In order to have a better idea of your expceted results browse PlasticSurgery.com’s before and after liposuction photos.

Recovery

It is normal to feel discomfort after surgery. Because you may experience some fluid drainage from the incisions, a small drainage tube may be inserted beneath the skin for a couple of days to prevent fluid build-up. To control swelling and help shape your new contour, a compression garment should be worn to ease the swelling. This is also worn in addition to pads; this will help to absorb the fluids over the incision areas. Most patients are able to return to work after three to four days depending on the procedure. As you heal, your skin will naturally reshape and tighten over the sculpted area.

Results

There is no doubt that you will notice a difference in your body shape after surgery; however, it may take four to six weeks for the swelling to subside and for you new look to emerge. Liposuction is long-lasting to permanent, considering the patient controls his or her weight. But as aging takes hold of the body, your shape may change. However, if a person gains weight after liposuction, he or she will not accumulate as much fat in the treated areas as before surgery.