The battle of the bulge. Sometimes, no matter how hard you fight, the bulge has a tougher army. The fact is that certain people have fat cells that will not shrink, despite diet and exercise. If you have a few extra pounds that simply won't come off, liposuction may be an option to remove small bulges that won't budge and to improve your body's shape. The areas most commonly treated include the hips, abdomen, thighs, and buttocks. Liposuction does not remove cellulite, only fat.

Who is a good candidate for liposuction?

A good candidate for liposuction should have realistic expectations about the results of this procedure, as well as these basic qualities:

  • Average or slightly above-average weight
  • Firm, elastic skin
  • Good overall health
  • Concentrated pockets of fat that do not respond well to diet and exercise

Patients with poor skin quality (cellulite) are not good candidates for liposuction, as they may develop skin irregularities from under- or overcorrection of localized fat deposits. Age is usually not a major consideration when discussing liposuction; however, older patients often have less elasticity in their skin and thus may not get the same benefits from liposuction that a younger patient with tighter skin might.

What do I need to know before undergoing liposuction?

The first step before undergoing liposuction is to arrange a consultation with your surgeon. During the consultation, your surgeon will talk to you about:

  • Your skin type
  • Which liposuction options are best for you
  • The effectiveness and safety of the procedures
  • Realistic expectations from the selected procedure, and
  • Potential financial costs.

Don’t hesitate to ask the surgeon any questions you may have.

Once you have decided to have liposuction, your surgeon will give you instructions to prepare for the surgery. This may include dietary or alcohol restrictions or the taking or avoiding of certain vitamins. Be sure to tell your surgeon of any allergies you have, as well as all medications you are taking. This includes over-the-counter and prescription medications as well as herbal supplements.

How is the liposuction procedure done?

Depending on the type of liposuction you are having, it may be performed as an outpatient procedure at the doctor's office or surgery center. If large amounts of fat are being removed, the procedure will be done in a hospital, and you may have to stay in the hospital overnight.

Before the procedure begins, you will be given an anesthesia. Again, depending on how much fat is being removed and the type of liposuction, the anesthesia may be a local, or it may require a general anesthetic, in which case the surgery will be done while you are sleeping.

Once the anesthesia has taken effect, the liposuction procedure is performed using a suction device attached to a small, stainless steel instrument called a cannula. Through small incisions (cuts), the cannula is inserted into fatty areas between skin and muscle, where it removes excess fat with either a suction pump or a large syringe. This results in a smoother, improved body contour (shape). The length of the procedure will vary with the amount of fat being removed.

What are the types of liposuction?

Though the basics of liposuction remain the same, there are a couple of different techniques that can be used during liposuction. These include:

  • Tumescent liposuction: The surgeon injects a solution into your fatty areas before the fat is removed. The solution is made up of a saline solution, a mild painkiller, and epinephrine, a drug that contracts (shrinks) your blood vessels. The solution not only helps the surgeon removed the fat more easily, but it helps reduce blood loss and provides pain relief during and after surgery.
  • Ultrasound-assisted liposuction: Ultrasonic energy is used to liquefy the fat, after which it is removed from the body.

How long does recovery after liposuction last?

Under most circumstances, when liposuction is an outpatient procedure, most people can return to work within a few days and resume normal activities within about two weeks. You should expect bruising, swelling, and soreness for at least a few weeks. However, every person's outcome will be different, based on factors such as volume of fat cells removed and the area of removal. Your doctor will tell you what results you can expect to achieve and how to best maintain your new body shape.

Are the results of liposuction permanent?

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 note that liposuction will not prevent you from regaining weight. To keep your new shape after liposuction, you must maintain your weight and follow a proper diet and exercise plan.

What are the risks of liposuction?

All surgical procedures involve some risk. However, liposuction has a good safety record, and the risks associated with the procedure are reduced when performed by a specially trained, board-certified plastic surgeon. Although rare, risks include infection and skin discoloration. As with all surgery, common sense is important. The risk of medical problems can be minimized by avoiding extremely long procedures or excessive fat removal.

Who can perform liposuction?

If you're considering liposuction, look for a board-certified plastic surgeon with specialized training and a great deal of 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 liposuction covered by insurance?

Like all cosmetic procedures, liposuction is not covered by health insurance plans. Ask to talk with a representative who can explain the costs of the procedure and payment options.


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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: 9/6/2016...#11009