The Only Liposuction Guide You Need
There is a lot of talk about liposuction – plenty of information to be found on the internet and in doctor’s offices but not really a single place to find all of the information you need – until now. This guidebook will give you the information you need to understand liposuction entirely to include what the various different “types” of liposuction are, how much hype is surrounding it, does it really work, how does it work, what should you look for in a surgeon, and a host of other information. We worked hard to ensure this is the ONE source you need – if there is information lacking or incorrect, feel free to let us know so we can update this document.
The need to remain healthy and hold the right weight and fat levels has become the goal of just about every individual these days. In spite of the need and desire to remain healthy with the body shapes and weight that everybody admires, many people find themselves with unpleasant and disturbing accumulations of fat. Often, people try different methods to get rid of the fat such as dieting and exercise.
White it is important to reduce fat intake and exercise to attain your dream body shape, patience is also important and therefore many people prefer to take a surgical alternative. Of course, having a good understanding of the procedure and how to prepare for it is critical. We wrote an article entirely focusing on preparing for plastic surgery and it has become our most popular article. You can see it here: How to prepare for plastic surgery.
One such option is Liposuction.
Often, when a person exercises they are successful at losing weight but may have stubborn pockets of fat that they are unable to get rid of – these are the ideal Liposuction patients. Liposuction excels at removing fat deposits and improving the shape and appearance of specific body parts. Routine lipo targets include the face, neck, buttocks, thighs, abdomen and hips. Remember though, the liposuction does not remove cellulite – it only removes small accumulations of fat.
The intent of this article is to give you a thorough understanding of liposuction and better enable you to decide if it’s the right path for you. We’ll discuss the history, the different techniques and what the patient should expect as they go through and recover from a liposuction procedure.
History of Liposuction
Introduced by French surgeon Charles Dujarier in the 1920’s, Liposuction is the process of fat removal and body contouring that has become increasingly popular over the years. After a disastrous attempt at removing fat deposits from a model’s legs – resulting in gangrene and amputation – plastic surgery was practially outlawed until later technical procedures were developed and improved. In 1974, liposuction experienced a resurgence in the medical industries and more widespread adoption and acceptance as new techniques were introduced by two gynecologists. Through the 70’s and 80’s, the process was improved and refined and experienced more and more widespread approval and general acceptance.
In the years since, we have seen Liposuction change from the “blunt modeling technique” to today’s highly technical laser removal processes. Somewhere in between those two are today’s steadfast and reliable techniques that everything else is based on.
Types of Liposuction
The media makes good use of the Liposuction hype machine and almost regularly advertises and promotes the latest Ultra-Diametric-Phaser-Fat-Destruction Method but underlying whatever you have read in the papers or online, for the most part the basic technique of Liposuction remains the same. Destroy, alter or liquefy the fat, and then remove it.
You can read about the various methods for getting this done but the prevailing wisdom is that you should select your surgeon rather than select your method of Liposuction. By this, we mean, find a surgeon with excellent references, education and experience, meet with them, form a bond and when you trust them, take their advice on what you should consider doing for your specific body type and desires. There is no cookie cutter formula here in spite of what some websites or even surgical practices may want you to believe. Talk with a surgeon you trust and listen to what they have to say. Each surgeon will have their own experience and opinions about the different types of Liposuction and you should listen to what they have to say. In spite of what the news says, or the manufacturers of the latest equipment will tell you, it is the surgeon’s responsibility to propose the best method for your particular needs and desires.
Ok, enough of that – what are the different types and how do they work?
Tumescent Liposuction is probably the most common form of liposuction and is used by pretty much every Plastic Surgeon that performs Liposuction procedures. During Tumescent Liposuction, a local anesthetic is applied to the area to be worked on and then the patient is injected with a solution of anesthesia and adrenaline which will cause the capillaries to shrink and the fat to harden, or “tumesce”. This tumesced fat is then removed via a cannula attached to a vacuum pump. This procedure ensures the patient bleeds less and heals faster than other forms of Liposuction. This method is often referred to as “Suction Assisted Liposuction (SAL)” or “Power Assisted Liposuction (PAL)”, depending on the method used to suction the fat from the area. With Power Assisted Liposuction, instead of a simple vacuum, the suction is performed by vibrating tool which speeds up the breakdown of the fat deposits.
Ultrasound Assisted Liposuction (UAL)
Ultrasound Assisted Liposuction uses ultrasound equipment to break up the fatty deposits, liquefy them and then they are sucked out of the body. This method works quickly and can work with large amounts of fat in a fairly short amount of time. One variation of this method is Vaser Liposuction, which uses an improved cannula which is grooved and more evenly disperses the energy which results in more efficient breakdown and removal of the fat.
Laser Assisted Liposuction
This is a relatively new technology and works much like the Ultrasound Assisted Liposuction except low energy waves are used to liquefy the fat. This works well on areas of the body with very thin layers of fat such as the face and neck where the fat is destroyed and doesn’t have to be suctioned out but will be absorbed by the body over a fairly short amount of time.
This is a technique not yet available in the United States but showing great promise in South America and parts of Europe. Using this method, a fiber optic device is inserted into a small incision and the light that is beamed through the fiber optics (apparently) only affects material that is yellow in color and in the human body, that yellow material is fat deposits. Like other forms of Liposuction, the fat is liquified and suctioned from the area if a lot of fat is emulsified or, if smaller amounts, can be left alone and body will absorbe it.
There are also non-surgical methods of Liposuction to consider. All of these involve destroying the fat cells and then relying on the body to absorb the fat back into the body, thereby removing the fat from the targeted area.
Lipsonix is a non-surgical Liposuction technique that targets the fat with high intensity ultrasound energy and then, as stated previously, the body then absorbs the destroyed fat deposits.
CoolSculpting is another non-surgical technique and has experienced increased popularity as of late. Using this technique, fat cells are frozen in place, thereby killing them. Over the next few weeks and months the body will simply absorb these now dead cells and the targeted area loses the fatty appearance.
How Liposuction Works
At a very high level, one of the above methods are used to break up and liquefy the fat deposits. Afterwards, a small incision is made and a tool in inserted to suction out the liquefied fat. Easy as that. There are two levels of anesthesia to consider, local and general. With local anesthesia, the patient is awake during the process while with general anesthesia, the patient is not awake. Actually, you’ll often see Liposuction loosely classified as “awake” and “not awake” Liposuction. Either process is normally an outpatient process and the patient will go home the same day with very little pain or discomfort.
Who can perform Liposuction?
This is an area that is receiving a lot of attention. For the most part, any doctor can do Liposuction but studies show conclusively that patients who have Liposuction (or any Plastic Surgery) performed by board certified plastic surgeons are happier with their results. In a recent study, patients of non-board certified surgeons had a 71% satisfaction rate while those who had work done by a board certified surgeon had a satisfaction rate of 92%. Quite a difference. Just because your gynecologist talks expertly about breast augmentation and can, in fact, perform it legally, does not mean he/she is the right person to do it.
Check the board certification of your surgeon!
Does Liposuction Hurt?
There should be no pain during the procedure itself as the patient is either locally or generally anesthetized. After the procedure, most patients will tell you that the first two days after the procedure can be quite uncomfortable and should be managed with pain medications. The amount of fat removed also affects this as more fat removal typically results in more pain. Patients state that the pain remains for several weeks to several months after the Liposuction but that severe pain is unusual. Your surgeon will tell you that severe pain is a sign of something going wrong such as infection or a complication that will require a visit back to your surgeon as quickly as possible.
During the weeks following your Liposuction, most surgeons recommend taking a week off of work after which you can return to your normal routine but with a strong caution against strenuous activity. After about 4 to 6 weeks, most patients will be able to fully return to their normal routine.
As with any surgery, it is critical to closely follow the post-surgery instructions given to your by your surgeon to ensure the quickest and most efficient recovery time.
Are there any risks associated with Liposuction?
Any surgical procedure has inherent risks so it’s not correct to say there are no risks. However, having your procedure performed at an accredited facility by a board certified surgeon greatly diminishes the chance of complications. Some patients have adverse reactions to anesthesia so be sure to let your surgeon know up front if this has ever been a problem for you. At times, there may be infection or excessive bleeding after the procedure and this demands a quick visit to your surgeon so they can determine the problem.
How much does Liposuction Cost?
As with so many other areas, the answer is “it depends”. The cost of Liposuction will vary based on a large number of variables, most of which will be dependent on your particular needs and the surgeon you choose. Because of these variables, it’s difficult to give a firm amount but the national average is $5,950 with prices ranging from $2,500 to $7,500.
If you decide to do multiple areas, you will save money by having them all done at the same time. The costs associated with any surgical procedure go beyond just paying the surgeon. You also have to pay for the anesthesiologist, the facility, the pain meds during recovery and several other fees. These fees can be discounted by doing multiple procedures at the same time. Many Plastic Surgeons will give a flat fee for the basic or primary Liposuction and then an additional fee for each additional area you want targeted.
There are several considerations you should examine before deciding whether or not to have Liposuction and your surgeon will help you with these.
Primary among these are whether or not you are an ideal candidate for Liposuction or not. A major consideration here is your current weight. The ideal candidate will be a person who is, for the most part, fit and active but with small deposits of stubborn fat they are unable to get rid of through exercise and diet.
Those with firm and elastic skin are also considered better candidates than those who’s skin has lost it’s elasticity. Bear in mind, removing fat means that the skin that has been stretched over that fatty area will either snap back into place (if it’s elastic) or it’ll droop (if it’s not elastic). This extra skin can be taken care of by other plastic surgery procedures such as a tummy tuck.
In addition to your weight, Liposuction patients should be healthy and able to undergo and recover from surgery.
Another consideration is cellulite. Many women look to Liposuction to remove cellulite only to learn that Liposuction doesn’t remove cellulite and, in fact, if performed on areas with cellulite can result in skin irregularities in the affected area.
One thing to consider that is gaining popularity are the various “Botox in a Bottle” products that are on the market. These are high quality products made with the best ingredients to gain similar results as Botox but without the doctor visit of the associated price tag.
Age is another consideration but possibly not the way you think. Many Plastic Surgeons have no problem performing Liposuction on elderly patients. “Age is just a number”. Why should a 75 year old lady who is concerned about her looks be ineligible for Liposuction? On the other end, however, are the younger patients who may, in fact, be too young for Liposuction.
There are a few myths floating around about Liposuction we should clear up here and now. Some have been mentioned above but we will dive into them in more detail below. These myths must be understood as if you have an incorrect understanding of what Liposuction will do for you, there is a very good chance you will not be happy with the results.
- Obese patients can benefit the most from Liposuction
- This was discussed above when we described the ideal Liposuction patient. Bear in mind, Liposuction is not a weight loss tool (see below) but rather is intended to sculpt or contour problem areas by removing small deposits of fat after dieting and exercise has not helped. An obese patient with the expectation of removing large amounts of fat from all over the body is not an ideal patient, or even a good patient, and their expectations must be reset.
- Liposuction is only for women
- Men have historically made up about 10% of the overall plastic surgery patients with Liposuction leading the list and increasingly becoming one of the most common surgical operations performed on men. Love handles and fat abdomens are the usual targets for men.
- Liposuction = weight loss
- Most Plastic Surgeons will agree and advise their clients that Liposuction is not an effective weight loss method. The intent of Liposuction is to contour the targeted area by removing fat deposits from areas that are unaffected by diet and exercise. The concept of sucking 20 pounds of fat from a person’s mid-section or thighs is not realistic. The maximum amount of fat recommended for any outpatient procedure is 5 liters which equals about 11 pounds – this is the maximum so you can see that the idea of losing 25, 30 or 50 pounds via Liposuction is not realistic.
- Liposuction will remove cellulite
- This is not only false, but can result in worse Liposuction results in areas with cellulite. The nature of cellulite is not related to the fat deposits that are removed with Liposuction so the underlying problem isn’t addressed and when Liposuction is performed on areas with cellulite, the result can actually look worse.
- Obese patients can benefit the most from Liposuction
- Liposuction is the same thing as a Tummy Tuck
- Not quite, although the two procedures go nicely together. If you consider a patient whose skin is lacking in elasticity and firmness who gets a good amount of fat removed from their midsection, you can envision a tummy that is flat but has loose folds of skin draping over it. A Liposuction removes the fat while a Tummy Tuck dresses up the skin and underlying stomach muscles to present a better overall appearance.
- Liposuction causes to you get fat in other areas
- This is a common fear and a question that comes up frequently. The underlying fear here is that when a patient has fat removed from one area, the other areas of their body will get fatter as a result. To understand this, consider an example of a lady who has Liposuction on her thighs. Fat cells have been removed from both of her thighs and her thighs look great. If excess calories are consumed without proper diet and exercise, she can expect to gain weight in the form of fat. Since fat cells have been removed from her thighs, she will not gain fat in her thighs but the fat in other parts of her body will pick up the slack of the missing fat cells – the fat has to go somewhere! The result is that the fat in other parts of her body will increase and that body part will get “fatter”. How to prevent this? Proper diet and exercise! As stated elsewhere, Liposuction isn’t a weight loss tool nor is it a weight gain prevention tool. After a Liposuction, the patient is strongly advised toward a healthier lifestyle.
- Liposuction is painless
- No, it’s not. It hurts. Not during the procedure itself because you’ll be either locally or generally anesthetized but in the days immediately following, there can be a good amount of pain. In the weeks and even months following, this pain can remain and should be treated with prescription pain medications.
We hope you find this information useful and as always if you find information that is incorrect or know of something that would be valuable to be added, feel free to reach out to us and let us know. For more information, we always recommend looking to Real Self and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons websites.