Liposuction

Overview

What is liposuction?

Liposuction, also called lipoplasty or just “lipo,” is a fat removal procedure. It can permanently remove fat cells. Lipo helps get rid of fat deposits that don’t respond to diet and exercise.

Why is liposuction done?

You may have tried eating right and exercising for years, yet frustratingly, certain areas of your body refuse to shrink. Some people have fat cells that won’t shrink, no matter how much they exercise or how much salad they eat. If you have some fatty areas that won’t come off, liposuction may be an option. The procedure removes small bulges to give you smoother body contours (shapes).

What body areas can liposuction treat?

Lipo typically treats the:

  • Abdomen and waist.
  • Back and chest.
  • Cheeks, chin and neck.
  • Hips and buttocks.
  • Inner knee, calves and ankles.
  • Thighs.
  • Upper arms.

Does liposuction remove cellulite?

Cellulite is a common skin condition that causes your skin to look dimpled. Cellulite often appears on the abdomen, buttocks, hips and thighs. Liposuction does not remove cellulite.

Who is a candidate for liposuction?

People of any gender can undergo liposuction. For men, providers may recommend liposuction to treat gynecomastia, enlarged breast tissue.

If you are considering liposuction, it helps to have realistic expectations and goals. Liposuction treats specific areas of the body. Having liposuction does not prevent you from gaining or regaining weight.

Candidates for lipo should be nonsmokers who have:

  • Average or slightly above-average weight.
  • Firm, elastic skin and good muscle tone.
  • Good overall health.
  • Pockets of fat that have not responded to diet and exercise.

Who might not be a candidate for liposuction?

People with cellulite have poor skin quality, so they are typically not candidates for liposuction. And liposuction alone can’t improve saggy, loose skin, although providers might recommend it along with excess skin removal after significant weight loss.

Can liposuction help with obesity?

Liposuction is not a weight-loss method and can’t treat excess weight or obesity. It doesn’t replace a nutritious diet and regular exercise. If you have excess weight, talk to your healthcare provider about weight management.

Can older adults get liposuction?

Age is usually not a major consideration when discussing liposuction. However, older adults’ skin tends to be less elastic. They may not get the same benefits from liposuction as a younger patient with tighter skin.

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 common is liposuction?

Liposuction is one of the most common plastic surgery procedures. More than 200,000 liposuction procedures are performed every year in the United States. Worldwide, liposuction represents between 15% and 20% of all plastic surgeries.

Procedure Details

How do I choose a plastic surgeon?

Your healthcare provider can recommend an experienced plastic surgeon. You can also ask people you know who have had liposuction for recommendations. When meeting with your plastic surgeon for a consultation, ask:

  • Are you board-certified?
  • 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 do I need to know before having liposuction?

Before your procedure, you meet with your surgeon. During this consultation, you discuss:

  • Your skin type.
  • Which liposuction option is best for you.
  • The effectiveness and safety of the procedure.
  • Realistic expectations.
  • Costs.
  • Your allergies and medications (including over-the-counter, prescription and supplements).
  • Any other questions or concerns you have.

How do I prepare for surgery?

Your surgeon will give you specific preoperative instructions. 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?

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 go to a hospital and may need to stay overnight. Even for an outpatient procedure, you will need someone to drive you to and from the surgery. How long liposuction surgery takes depends on how much fat your surgeon is removing.

Before the procedure, you get anesthesia. You may have local (just in the surgical area) or general anesthesia (which puts you to sleep). Then your surgeon:

  1. Uses a suction device attached to a small, stainless steel instrument called a cannula.
  2. Makes small incisions and inserts the cannula into the fatty areas between skin and muscle.
  3. Removes excess fat with a suction pipe or large syringe.

What are the types of liposuction surgeries?

A few different liposuction techniques are available:

  • Tumescent liposuction: Your surgeon injects a saline solution into the fatty areas. The mixture contains a painkiller and epinephrine, which shrinks your blood vessels. This solution helps the surgeon remove fat more easily. It also reduces blood loss and provides pain relief.
  • Ultrasound-assisted liposuction (UAL): Your surgeon uses ultrasonic energy to liquefy the fat before removing it.
  • Suction-assisted liposuction (SAL): The most traditional form of liposuction, SAL uses a vacuum to remove fat.
  • Power-assisted liposuction: Similar to SAL, this procedure uses an extra tool to speed up fat removal.
  • VASER: This type of UAL uses a cannula with several grooves, resulting in better fat removal.
  • Laser-assisted liposuction: Procedures such as Smartlipo and SlimLipo™ are similar to UAL but use lasers rather than ultrasound.

Can I get multiple plastic surgery procedures at once?

If you are interested in other body contouring procedures, talk to your plastic surgeon. You may be able to have liposuction done at the same time as other cosmetic surgery procedures, such as a facelift, breast reduction or abdominoplasty (tummy tuck).

Risks / Benefits

What are the advantages of liposuction?

Liposuction offers a permanent solution to stubborn areas of fat. It can give you a smoother body shape so your clothes fit better. Compared to an open body contouring procedure (which uses larger incisions), liposuction:

  • Uses minimally invasive methods and small incisions, leaving only tiny scars.
  • Is shorter and less risky.

What are the risks or complications of liposuction?

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:

  • Infection.
  • Skin discoloration or changes in skin sensation.
  • Bruising.
  • Swelling or poor wound healing.

Is liposuction permanent?

Liposuction permanently removes fat cells. If you gain weight after the procedure, it usually won’t be in the area where you had lipo. Do keep in mind that liposuction doesn’t prevent you from gaining weight.

Recovery and Outlook

When will I see the results of liposuction?

After surgery, you will likely have some swelling and fluid retention. You’ll start to see your improved body shape as the swelling and fluids decrease. Keep in mind that it may take a few months for the swelling to go away completely.

After liposuction, how long will recovery last?

Your surgeon will talk to you about your specific recovery and outcome. Each person’s recovery is different, depending on how much fat the surgeon removes and from which area.

You may need to wear a compression garment on the treatment area for a few weeks. These garments reduce swelling and help the skin adapt to its new contours. In some cases, you may need a temporary drain in the incision to remove excess blood or fluid.

When can I return to my regular activities?

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. For a few weeks after surgery, you may have:

  • Bruising.
  • Swelling.
  • Soreness.

What else do I need to know about life after liposuction?

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about

  • How to care for the surgical site.
  • Medications you may need.
  • Your follow-up schedule.
  • Complications to watch out for.

You can still gain weight after liposuction. To keep your new shape, take steps to maintain your weight with a healthy diet and exercise plan. Your provider will discuss your results and how you can maintain your new shape.

Will I need a second liposuction procedure?

You can expect good results from liposuction. Most of the improvement should be permanent. But in some cases, you’ll need more than one procedure to get the results you want.

When to Call the Doctor

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

After your liposuction procedure, contact your healthcare provider if you have long-lasting or severe pain, redness or swelling.

Additional Details

How much does liposuction cost?

The procedure typically costs a few thousand dollars. Most health insurance plans don’t cover cosmetic procedures, including liposuction. Your plastic surgeon’s staff can explain the costs and your payment options.

Liposuction can offer a permanent solution to 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 is not 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 10/26/2020.

References

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Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy