What is liposuction?
Liposuction is a cosmetic fat removal procedure. It can permanently remove fat cells (adipocytes) that store fat from a particular section of your body that you want to improve. Liposuction helps get rid of fat deposits that don’t respond to diet and exercise.
Other names for liposuction are lipoplasty or “lipo.”
Where on my body can I get liposuction?
You can have a liposuction procedure anywhere on your body where you have deposits of fat. Some of the most common areas of your body include your:
- Abdomen, stomach or waist.
- Hips or “love handles” (flank).
- Back or chest.
- Face, cheeks, chin or neck.
- Inner knee, calves or ankles.
- Upper arms.
Who is a candidate for liposuction?
Candidates for liposuction should meet certain requirements to make sure their procedure is effective and safe. Candidates who qualify for a liposuction procedure include:
- Adults with an average or slightly above-average weight.
- People who have firm skin with elasticity (high in the elastin protein) and a good muscle tone.
- Adults who have good overall health.
- People who have pockets of fat that don’t respond well to diet and exercise.
- People with realistic goals for the outcome of the procedure.
These are common qualifications that healthcare providers evaluate before recommending treatment. Your provider will let you know if liposuction is right for you.
Who might not be a candidate for liposuction?
Certain factors could cause a liposuction procedure to be unsuccessful or pose a threat to your overall health. You might not be a candidate for liposuction if you:
- Are underweight.
- Have a BMI over 25.
- Have a serious, life-threatening health condition or a condition that can make healing difficult.
- Have unrealistic expectations for the procedure.
- Have poor skin quality.
Liposuction alone can’t improve saggy, loose skin. This is common after significant weight loss. If your goal is to get rid of loose skin, your healthcare provider might recommend liposuction along with excess skin removal.
Can older adults get liposuction?
Age usually isn’t a factor that your provider needs to consider when discussing liposuction. However, people over the age of 65 may have skin that’s less firm or has lost some elasticity.
Can men get liposuction?
Yes. People of any sex can undergo liposuction. For men or people assigned male at birth, healthcare providers may recommend liposuction to treat some types of gynecomastia or enlarged male breast tissue.
Why is liposuction done?
You might consider having a liposuction procedure if you:
- Tried dieting and exercising for several years and certain areas of your body don’t respond or refuse to shrink naturally.
- Want to smooth out fatty bulges on your body.
- Want a permanent body modification.
- Can dedicate four to six weeks for your body to recover after surgery.
Can liposuction help with obesity?
Liposuction isn’t a weight-loss solution and it doesn’t treat excess weight or obesity. Most people choose to have a liposuction procedure to remove unwanted fat from certain parts of their body. Liposuction isn’t a full-body weight-loss method. While the treatment is permanent, your body can regrow fat where you had it removed.
Everyone’s body is unique. You might follow a nutritious diet and exercise regularly but still have trouble losing weight. If you have excess weight, talk to your healthcare provider about weight management treatment options to help you reach your goals.
How common is liposuction?
Liposuction is one of the most common plastic surgery procedures. In the United States, more than 200,000 liposuction procedures happen each year. Around the world, liposuction represents between 15% and 20% of all plastic surgeries.
What are the types of liposuction surgeries?
There are different types of liposuction procedures available to meet different goals of your treatment. Different types of liposuction include:
- Tumescent liposuction: Tumescent liposuction is the most common liposuction procedure. Your surgeon injects a saline (salt water) solution into your fatty areas. The mixture contains medicines such as epinephrine, which shrinks your blood vessels. This solution helps your surgeon remove fat easily and reduces blood loss. Other medications are sometimes included to provide pain relief.
- Ultrasound-assisted liposuction (UAL): Your surgeon uses ultrasonic energy via a metal rod placed underneath your skin to liquefy your fat before removing it from your body.
- Vibration Amplification of Sound Energy at Resonance (VASER): VASER liposuction uses a stainless steel tool (cannula) with grooves and ultrasound waves to easily break up and remove fat cells and fat from your body. This is a type of UAL.
- Suction-assisted liposuction: Suction-assisted liposuction is a traditional form of liposuction that uses a vacuum to remove fat from your body.
- Power-assisted liposuction (PAL): Power-assisted liposuction uses a small, stainless steel tool (cannula) that moves back and forth over your fat to break it up. The cannula makes removing fat easier for your surgeon and the procedure is more precise.
- Laser-assisted liposuction (Smartlipo™ and SlimLipo™): Your healthcare provider will use strong laser lights on a small, flexible tube (fiber) to break down and liquefy your fat to simplify removal. Laser-assisted liposuction only needs a small incision in your skin to perform the procedure.
Your healthcare provider will discuss the types of liposuction and make a recommendation based on your desired goals before your procedure.
Who performs liposuction?
A plastic surgeon performs liposuction. Look for a board-certified surgeon with specialized training and plenty of experience. You’ll typically get the best results from a plastic surgeon affiliated with a major medical center.
How do I choose a plastic surgeon?
Your healthcare provider can recommend an experienced plastic surgeon. You can also ask people you know who had liposuction for recommendations. When meeting with your plastic surgeon for a consultation, ask:
- Are you board-certified in plastic surgery?
- Do you have specific plastic surgery training?
- How long have you been a plastic surgeon and how many procedures have you performed?
- Do you have hospital privileges to perform liposuction?
- Am I a candidate for liposuction?
- What technique will you use?
- How will you perform my procedure?
- What are the risks, complications and recovery time?
- What happens if I don’t like the results?
- What will my body look like a few years after the procedure?
What happens before a liposuction procedure?
Before your liposuction procedure, you’ll meet with your surgeon. During this consultation, you’ll discuss:
- Your skin type.
- Which liposuction option is best for you.
- The effectiveness and safety of the procedure.
- Realistic expectations of the procedure.
- Your complete medical history, including discussing any allergies and medications you currently take.
- Any other questions or concerns you have.
If you’re considering liposuction, it helps to have realistic expectations and goals. Liposuction treats specific areas of your body. It’s not a cure for obesity. Having liposuction doesn’t prevent you from gaining or regaining weight.
How do I prepare for liposuction surgery?
Your surgeon will give you specific instructions to follow before your liposuction surgery. You may need to:
- Follow dietary or alcohol restrictions.
- Take or avoid certain medicines and vitamins.
- Get lab testing.
- Stop smoking.
What happens during liposuction surgery?
Before your liposuction procedure, your healthcare provider will give you anesthesia. You may have local (just in the surgical area) or general anesthesia (which puts you to sleep). Anesthesia makes it so you don’t feel pain during your procedure.
Once the anesthesia starts working, your surgeon will make small incisions in your skin. They’ll insert a suction device attached to a small, stainless steel instrument called a cannula into the fatty areas between your skin and your muscle. Your surgeon will move the cannula around inside of your body to break up or liquefy your fat. Then, they’ll remove excess fat with a suction pipe or large syringe. When your surgeon completes the procedure, they’ll close up the incision site with stitches that are either dissolvable or non-dissolvable.
Your specific procedure depends on the type of liposuction you’re having. It may be an outpatient procedure at your provider’s office or you may go to a surgery center. If your surgeon is removing large amounts of fat, you’ll need to go to a hospital and may need to stay overnight. Even for an outpatient procedure, you’ll need someone to drive you to and from the surgery. How long liposuction surgery takes depends on how much fat your surgeon is removing and the number of areas treated.
Can I get multiple plastic surgery procedures at once?
If you’re interested in other body contouring or plastic surgery procedures, talk to your surgeon about the possibility of performing more than one procedure at the same time. You may be able to have liposuction done at the same time as other cosmetic surgery procedures, such as:
- A facelift.
- Breast reduction.
- Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck).
Combining procedures can combine your healing time, but can also increase risks.
What happens after a liposuction procedure?
After your liposuction procedure, your healthcare provider will talk to you about:
- How to care for your surgical site.
- Medications you may need.
- Your follow-up appointments.
- Complications to watch out for.
While a liposuction procedure can remove fat and fat cells from certain areas of your body, it’s important to keep in mind that you can still gain weight after liposuction. After your recovery, your provider will discuss your results and how you can maintain your new shape after surgery.
As you recover, you may have signs of healing on your body that include:
These signs will fade as your body heals. If your pain is severe, talk to your healthcare provider.
To speed up your recovery time or to help reduce the amount of swelling and pain your feel, you may need to wear a compression garment on the treatment area for several weeks. These garments reduce swelling and help your skin adapt to its new contours. In some cases, you may need a temporary drain in the incision to remove excess blood or fluid. Your provider will offer guidance on your recovery time, especially what to look out for and how to ease discomfort.
Is liposuction painful?
During a liposuction procedure, you won’t feel any pain because your surgeon will use anesthesia. You may experience pain, tenderness or soreness after your procedure for a couple of days, which most people describe as “burning.” Your provider might offer medication to help relieve your discomfort or special wraps or compression garments that you can wear to reduce swelling. Compression garments are tight against your skin but don’t cut off your circulation.
Risks / Benefits
What are the benefits of a liposuction procedure?
The benefits of liposuction include:
- A solution to remove stubborn areas of fat from your body that don’t respond to diet and exercise.
- A smoother body shape so your clothes fit better.
- A minimal amount of scarring after the procedure.
What are the risks or complications of a liposuction procedure?
Every surgery comes with risks. Liposuction has a good safety record. The risks are limited when you choose a trained, board-certified plastic surgeon. Smaller areas of fat removal involve a shorter procedure with the fewest risks.
Although rare, liposuction risks include:
- Skin discoloration or changes in skin sensation.
- Swelling or poor wound healing.
- Pain or discomfort until your surgical site heals.
- Contour deformities.
Recovery and Outlook
What is the recovery time for liposuction?
Your surgeon will talk to you about your specific recovery time. Each person’s recovery is different, depending on how much fat your surgeon removes and from which area they removed it. On average, it can take up to six months to heal completely. During some of this time, usually the first six weeks, you’ll need to relax and reduce the number of activities you perform to let your body heal.
When can I return to my regular activities after surgery?
If you had an outpatient procedure, you can likely return to work within a few days. You can expect to feel like yourself again about two weeks after surgery. It can take up to six weeks until you’re able to go back to your regular physical activities like exercising.
Will I have scars after liposuction?
You’ll have scars after your liposuction procedure. After surgery, your provider will offer advice on how you can take care of yourself to minimize the likelihood of unsightly scarring or complications as you heal. In general, most people have very small scars after surgery.
Is liposuction permanent?
Yes, liposuction is a permanent cosmetic procedure to remove fat from certain areas of your body. Liposuction permanently removes fat cells. If you gain weight after the procedure, it usually won’t be excessive in the area where you had liposuction surgery. Keep in mind that liposuction doesn’t prevent you from gaining weight and the surgery isn’t a solution for obesity.
When will I see the results of liposuction?
After surgery, you’ll likely have some swelling and fluid retention. You’ll start to see your improved body shape as the swelling and fluids decrease. It may take between three to six months for the swelling to go away completely before you see results.
Will I need a second liposuction procedure?
You can expect good results from liposuction. Most people don’t need a second liposuction procedure unless they choose to cosmetically change the shape of their body in the future. Liposuction is a permanent procedure, but you’re still able to gain weight after the surgery.
When to Call the Doctor
When should I see my healthcare provider?
After your liposuction procedure, contact your healthcare provider if you have:
- Long-lasting or severe pain.
- Fluid or blood leaking out of your surgical site.
- A fever.
- Shortness of breath or chest pain.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does liposuction remove cellulite?
Liposuction doesn’t remove cellulite. Cellulite is a common skin condition that causes your skin to look dimpled. Cellulite often appears on your abdomen, buttocks, hips and thighs. Liposuction is only able to remove the soft tissue from your body. Cellulite doesn’t work with liposuction because underneath your skin, you have fibrous bands of tissue rather than soft, fatty tissue.
What is the difference between liposuction and tummy tuck?
Liposuction and a tummy tuck are both cosmetic procedures. Liposuction permanently removes fat cells from a portion of your body and gets rid of unwanted fat deposits that don’t respond well to diet and exercise. A tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) is surgery to remove excess skin and tighten the abdominal muscles. Some fat is removed with the excess skin, as well. You might consider a tummy tuck if your skin is stretched out for pregnancies or you lost a lot of weight and have excess skin on your body.
How much weight can you lose with liposuction?
The amount of weight you can lose after a liposuction procedure varies based on your goals, what part of your body your surgeon worked on and how much fat was actually removed. On average, most people lose some fat weight after a procedure. Liposuction isn’t a solution to remove all fat from your body or reduce your overall body weight.
Is there a noninvasive form of liposuction?
There are several types of liposuction that are minimally invasive. These types of liposuction speed up your recovery time and lessen the likelihood of scarring. Types of minimally invasive liposuction procedures include:
- CoolSculpting Elite™.
What is 360 liposuction?
The 360 liposuction procedure, also known as Lipo360™, is a surgical liposuction procedure that removes unwanted fat from several areas of your body at one time. Lipo360 focuses on your midsection, which includes your upper and lower abdomen and the space above your hips (love handles). Sometimes, this includes your back. Traditional liposuction only focuses on a single section of your body for fat removal.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Liposuction can offer a permanent solution to get rid of stubborn fat deposits. If you’ve tried diet and exercise but have areas of fat that won’t budge, talk to your healthcare provider about liposuction. The safe procedure can improve your body contour, helping you look and feel your best. Liposuction isn’t a treatment for weight loss. After the procedure, it’s important to stay at a healthy weight to maintain your new shape.
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