Despite its incredible popularity, liposuction is an often misunderstood plastic surgery procedure.
How does it work? How is it done? What can it do? And what can it not do?
Liposuction is done by a qualified plastic surgeon, who inserts a special hollow metal tube into the desired treatment area in order to safely extract excess stubborn fat from various parts of the body where the patient desires its removal. The required surgery is done under general or local anesthesia and lasts from 1-3 hours, depending on the size and location of the treatment area. The results of liposuction surgery last indefinitely (forever), though they do not prevent a person from later gaining additional weight in the treatment area.
Table of Contents
How liposuction is done, step by step
Explained simply, how liposuction is done is the following:
1. Candidacy check:
A qualified medical doctor ensures you are a good candidate for the procedure. This means, a) That you are in good health, and b) that liposuction will in fact help you reach your goals for surgery. If your goals are primary weight loss, liposuction is unlikely to help. If your goals are to reduce certain stubborn pockets of fat that haven’t responded to diet and exercise, and you are in good health, liposuction is likely a great option. It is the gold standard in surgical body contouring and is done by both women and men of varying body goals.
2. Surgery Day:
When it is determined that you are a good candidate, you’ll visit your plastic surgeon’s office again on the day of your surgery. Your surgery day is usually 2-6 months after your initial consultation, and this should be seen as a good sign as your surgeon is in high demand.
3. Preop Mark Up:
Immediately prior to your surgery, your surgeon will write “all over” the treatment area with various colored markers that will help him or her determine where to extract fat from, and where not to. These markings are done while you are standing up, and then are most helpful to your surgeon while you are lying down for the actual procedure. They help your surgeon help you meet your goals for the procedure, because they ensure that when you are standing again, your body will look good and “right.” These markings also help ensure that both you and your surgeon are “on the same page” with regard to what you want to specifically resolve with the surgery.
4. Anesthesia; General or Local:
Liposuction surgery may be done under either local or general anesthesia. In “awake liposuction,” local anesthesia is usually combined with oral sedation and the patient is conscious for the procedure. In liposuction done under general anesthesia, the patient “sleeps through” the whole procedure. What determines which method of anesthesia is to be used is the size and location of the treatment area, as well as the general comfort level of the patient. Liposuction under local anesthesia is prone to fewer complications, though local is not always possible or advisable. If you are having liposuction as part of a Brazilian butt lift, or simply as a surgical procedure to treat excess fat in the abdomen, you will very likely be put under general anesthesia, whereas if you were having “submental liposuction” to treat a double chin, you’d likely be alright with local anesthesia. General anesthesia is more costly, but is often preferred by patients who don’t wish to experience some of the more harsh aspects of the procedure while awake. The recovery process following general anesthesia is also longer and harder on the body than the same for local anesthesia. Your surgeon will carefully weigh all of these factors to determine which is best for you, but as a general rule, general anesthesia is used for liposuction of the abdomen, while local anesthesia is often an option for under the chin, the neck, and the upper arms.
5. Tiny Incisions Made:
Your surgeon next creates two or more small incision points in or around the area of your body that is to be treated. The more separate treatment areas that are planned, the more of these tiny incision points that are required. These small incision points are where your surgeon will then place the actual device that will be used to suck out the fat. This device is a long hollow tube that goes much further into your fatty tissue in order to suction it out.
6. Cannula Inserted, Over and Over to Remove Fat:
The fat-sucking device used in liposuction is called a cannula, and it is basically a thin stainless-steel metal straw that acts as a vacuum. It removes the stubborn fat in the area to which it is applied. This is a fairly rough process that involves moving the device around in rapid motions, in and out, that help break up the fat and remove it from the body. (Once inserted, the device isn’t pulled out and reinserted for each push, but is kept within the body.) The device doesn’t pull out muscle, ligaments, or bone since these are much harder to extract, and your surgeon is specifically trained not to hit them while doing your surgery. Of course, liposuction can cause mortality (death), which is why it is extremely important to ensure your surgeon is qualified, which usually means board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
7. Repeat Until Satisfaction:
The relatively rapid back and forth motions are continued in the treatment area, as your surgeon moves the tip of the cannula around in order to reach all of the fatty tissue that you want removed. “Satisfaction” is reached when the surgeon sees that a sufficient amount of fat has been removed from the treatment area that he or she believes is all that can be safely removed while working to accomplish your goals for the procedure. There is a liposuction limit to the total volume of fat and bodily fluids that can be safely removed in any one surgical session of liposuction. The fat removed during liposuction surgery is then either: a) Re injected into your body, should you desire that (such as the breasts or buttocks) or, b) Disposed of.
8. Compression Garments, Pain Medication, Recovery:
Depending on the area you had treated, you may be required to wear compression garments after surgery. These garments not only help to reduce swelling, but they help to ensure that bodily fluids don’t collect where they shouldn’t, and that the skin reattaches itself where needed to the now-reduced area of your body where you were treated.
Pain medication is often prescribed, particularly if a medium to large area of liposuction is done.
By removing specific pockets of extra resistant fat, liposuction aims to help shape and contour the body.
It is not a weight loss procedure, though it does help patients lose a small amount of stubborn weight; approximately 8-10 pounds per treatment.
It’s crucial to know what liposuction can and cannot accomplish for you if you’re thinking about getting it. To determine if the surgery is “worth it” for you, you’ll also need to take some time to analyze the benefits and drawbacks of it.
How does liposuction work?
Liposuction is a type of cosmetic surgery offered by surgeons worldwide, however it may be far less invasive than many other surgical treatments. How much fat you want to have removed and how many locations you want to treat at once can influence how invasive the operation is.
Since general anesthesia is often used by surgeons during liposuction treatments, the patient won’t remember the process and won’t experience any discomfort while the surgery is ongoing. But sometimes, local anesthesia combined with a sedative is utilized in place of general anesthesia.
The surgeon will make a number of tiny incisions in the treated region during the procedure. A solution of saline, epinephrine, and lidocaine is then injected into the region, causing the fat to expand. The “tumescent” method often yields better outcomes and requires fewer blood transfusions.
The surgeon makes tiny incisions and inserts a cannula, a thin tube used to suck out fat, until the proper quantity is removed. The average size of an incision is 1-2 cm. The cannula is then used to extract the fat, sometimes with the use of energy technologies like ultrasound, laser, or radio frequency.
What are liposuction’s benefits and drawbacks?
Like every cosmetic procedure, liposuction has advantages and disadvantages. On the bright side, the procedure eliminates excess, resistant body fat. No matter how hard you work out or how strictly you follow your diet, it may still be able to assist you in losing weight. Your clothing may fit better after liposuction, and you’ll probably feel better about your physical appearance as well.
The fact that liposuction requires surgery is one of its disadvantages. Even though the scars are often extremely minor, you will have incisions and some scarring. Additionally, you’ll probably need time off work to recover following the procedure.
Who performs liposuction?
Your liposuction procedure should ideally be carried out by a board-certified plastic surgeon. You should choose a surgeon that has performed liposuction before and has a lot of documentation to support their claims.
Before deciding to go with the procedure it’s crucial to sit down and talk with any surgeon you’re contemplating. You may learn more about the surgeon’s bedside manner, general knowledge, and level of skill by having a consultation with them.
Additionally, request to examine images of other clients who had liposuction procedures both before and after. This will provide you with an idea of what to expect in terms of results and whether you like the surgeon’s work.
What to expect after liposuction
Usually just a brief time of recuperation is necessary. The amount of time you must miss from work and other obligations might change. After a few days, you could be prepared to go back to work, or you might require up to two weeks to heal.
After the procedure, you’ll probably see some apparent benefits, but you should be ready for some swelling and bruising in the treated region. After a few days or weeks, the bruising and swelling will often go down, and you’ll start to see a change in the lines and shapes of your body.
Liposuction is a form of elective cosmetic surgery that, if the patient goes into the treatment with realistic expectations, has the potential to provide remarkable results. It is not a replacement for losing weight, and not everyone is eligible to get it even if they want to.
In order to maximize your level of preparedness for the procedure, you should schedule a consultation with a plastic surgeon who has received board certification to go through the probable difficulties and dangers. In addition to this, they will be able to break down your liposuction treatment in further depth in order to provide you with a personalized experience.
[Photo by Karolina Grabowska]