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Treatments & Procedures


(Also Called 'UAL (Ultrasonic-Assisted Lipoplasty)', 'Lipoplasty')

What is liposuction?

Liposuction surgery improves the contour and proportion of your body by removing excess fat from a wide variety of areas. It slims and reshapes for an enhanced self-image.

Areas most commonly treated with liposuction include:

  • chin and neck
  • hips
  • stomach
  • inner and outer thighs
  • knees
  • ankles
  • buttocks

Liposuction also may be used to treat a condition called gynecomastia, or male breast enlargement, which occurs among both teenage and adult men.

Liposuction is not an alternative to weight loss, but does offer a way to a smoother, trimmer body for those with areas of fat that won't go away with weight loss or exercise.

Am I a candidate for liposuction?

The best candidate for liposuction is a person of average or slightly above-average weight, in good health, with a localized area of fat that does not respond well to diet and exercise. Liposuction is not an effective treatment for patients with cellulite (the dimpled skin that typically appears on the thighs, hips and buttocks) or loose, saggy skin.

How do I prepare for liposuction?

Your plastic surgeon will help you prepare for liposuction by giving you an overview of the procedure and telling you what you can do to ensure its success. This depends on your complete understanding of the procedure and includes an open, honest conversation with your plastic surgeon during the consultation.

You should be very clear about what your liposuction surgery will entail, including:

  • What your recovery will be like and how long it may take
  • What preparations you can make for your liposuction surgery
  • The results you can expect

Your surgeon will address all of these matters during your liposuction consultation. However, due to body makeup and medical history, each patient is unique. You should share your medical history fully with your surgeon.

How is liposuction performed?

There are a number of liposuction techniques. They all borrow from surgical principles developed over many years.

In most cases, the first thing the surgeon does is inject a solution into the treatment area. The solution is comprised of salt water, local anesthetic, and a solution to reduce bleeding. This wetting solution also contains epinephrine, a medication that shrinks blood vessels, which helps to decrease bleeding and bruising. The local anesthetic is used to temporarily minimize pain both during and after surgery.

Fat removal is performed using a cannula (thin tube) attached to a vacuum device. After the fluid has been injected, the surgeon makes a small incision (cut) in your skin near the area that contains the fat that will be removed. The cannula is inserted through the cut into the area of excess fat. The tube is attached to a vacuum pump via a flexible pipe. By manipulating the cannula back and forth through the fat, the surgeon can remove the fat cells. Usually, the incisions are closed with a few stitches. Since no skin is removed when liposuction is performed, a surgeon relies on skin contraction or elasticity to maintain its shape.

Are there different options for liposuction?

A key difference between two main types of liposuction involves the amount of wetting solution injected before the procedure.

Super-wet liposuction: The wetting solution is equal to the volume of fat removed. This technique requires intravenous (IV) sedation or general anesthesia.

Tumescent liposuction: The wetting solution is two to three times the volume of fat removed. This solution causes fat deposits to swell (tumesce). Tumescent liposuction is the most commonly used liposuction technique. It requires either local anesthesia sedation or general anesthesia. Both techniques result in less bleeding, and therefore less bruising.

Other types of liposuction include ultrasound-assisted liposuction (UAL), VASER® (ultrasound-guided liposuction) and SmartLipo™, a laser-assisted lipolysis system. While these techniques differ in some details, they all follow certain basic principles that have been developed over many years.

What results can I expect?

During liposuction, the fat cells are removed permanently, so if you gain weight after the procedure, it usually will not concentrate in the area that was treated. However, it is important to understand that liposuction will not prevent you from gaining weight. Liposuction should never be seen as a cure to obesity. To keep your new shape and new weight after liposuction, you must follow a proper diet and exercise plan.

What are the possible risks of liposuction?

All surgical procedures involve some risk. Liposuction has a good safety record, and the risks associated with the procedure are minimized when performed by a specially trained, board-certified plastic surgeon. Although rare, risks include infection and skin discoloration. Patients with cellulite may develop skin irregularities due to under- or over-correction of localized fat deposits. The risk of medical problems from liposuction can be minimized by avoiding extremely long procedures or excessive removal of fat.

What is involved in recovery?

Liposuction is an outpatient procedure, and, generally, recovery is fairly rapid. Most people can return to work within a few days and to normal activities within about two weeks. Every person’s outcome will vary based on factors such as volume of fat cells removed and area of removal. Your doctor will discuss what results you can expect to achieve and how to best maintain your new body shape.

How soon after liposuction will I see the results?

Improvements will be seen early on (within one to two weeks), although maximum improvement will not be seen for one to three months of the surgery. The amount of time it takes for results to materialize varies greatly from patient to patient. You should expect the healing process to be gradual, with swelling related to surgery being common the first couple of weeks following the procedure. When the swelling goes down, you will begin to see the results of liposuction.

How should I choose a surgeon?

If you’re considering liposuction, look for a board-certified plastic surgeon with specialized training and significant experience performing liposuction. Consider going to a plastic surgeon who is affiliated with a major medical center. Ask your plastic surgeon about credentials, training, and how many liposuction procedures he or she has performed.

Is this procedure covered by health insurance?

Like all cosmetic procedures, liposuction is not covered by health insurance plans. Ask to talk with a financial representative from your health care facility so that you understand the costs of the procedure and payment options.

Factors in the cost of liposuction include the size of the patient and the number locations that fat will be taken from; the amount of time of the surgeon, the cost of anesthesia, the operating room costs, and other related items, such as compression garments.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 7/26/2010...#11009