Liposuction is a cosmetic surgery procedure that removes unwanted fat deposits from your body. If you’ve tried diet and exercise, but the fat won’t budge, liposuction can help. The procedure gives you a smoother body shape. Liposuction surgery isn’t a weight-loss procedure.
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.”
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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:
Candidates for liposuction should meet certain requirements to make sure their procedure is effective and safe. Candidates who qualify for a liposuction procedure include:
These are common qualifications that healthcare providers evaluate before recommending treatment. Your provider will let you know if liposuction is right for you.
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:
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.
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.
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.
You might consider having a liposuction procedure if you:
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.
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.
There are different types of liposuction procedures available to meet different goals of your treatment. Different types of liposuction include:
Your healthcare provider will discuss the types of liposuction and make a recommendation based on your desired goals before your procedure.
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.
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:
Before your liposuction procedure, you’ll meet with your surgeon. During this consultation, you’ll discuss:
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.
Your surgeon will give you specific instructions to follow before your liposuction surgery. You may need to:
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.
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:
Combining procedures can combine your healing time, but can also increase risks.
After your liposuction procedure, your healthcare provider will talk to you about:
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.
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.
The benefits of liposuction include:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/01/2022.
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