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Liposuction is a procedure that can help sculpt the body by removing unwanted fat from specific areas, including the abdomen, hips, buttocks, thighs, knees, upper arms, chin, cheeks and neck. During the past decade, liposuction, which is also known as “lipoplasty” or “suction lipectomy,” has benefited from several new refinements. Today, a number of new techniques, including laser assisted liposuction, ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty (UAL), the tumescent technique, and the super-wet technique, are helping many plastic surgeons to provide selected patients with more precise results and quicker recovery times. Although no type of liposuction is a substitute for dieting and exercise, liposuction can remove stubborn areas of fat that don’t respond to traditional weight-loss methods.
If you are considering liposuction, this section will give you a basic understanding of the procedure — when it can help, how it is performed and how you might look and feel after surgery. Please ask us if there is anything about the procedure you don’t understand.
To be a good candidate for liposuction, you must have realistic expectations about what the procedure can do for you. It’s important to understand that liposuction can enhance your appearance and self confidence, but it won’t necessarily change your looks to match your ideal or cause other people to treat you differently. Before you decide to have surgery, think carefully about your expectations and discuss them with your surgeon.
The best candidates for liposuction are normal-weight people with firm, elastic skin who have pockets of excess fat in certain areas. You should be physically healthy, psychologically stable and realistic in your expectations. Your age is not a major consideration; however, older patients may have diminished skin elasticity and may not achieve the same results as a younger patient with tighter skin.
Liposuction carries greater risk for individuals with medical problems such as diabetes, significant heart or lung disease, poor blood circulation, or those who have recently had surgery near the area to be contoured.
During your initial consultation, we will evaluate your health, determine where your fat deposits lie and assess the condition of your skin. We will explain the body-contouring methods that may be most appropriate for you. For example, if you believe you want liposuction in the abdominal area, you may learn that an abdominoplasty or “tummy tuck” may more effectively meet your goals; or that a combination of traditional liposuction and Laser Liposuction would be the best choice for you.
Be frank in discussing your expectations with us. We will be equally honest with you, describing the procedure in detail and explaining its risks and limitations.
Liposuction may be performed in an outpatient surgery center, or in a hospital. Small procedures may be performed in the office procedure room. Various types of anesthesia can be used for liposuction procedures. Together, we will select the type of anesthesia that provides the safest and greatest level of comfort for your surgery.
If only a small amount of fat and a limited number of body sites are involved, liposuction can be performed under local anesthesia, which numbs only the affected areas. However, if you prefer, the local is usually used along with intravenous sedation to keep you more relaxed during the procedure. Regional anesthesia can be a good choice for more extensive procedures. One type of regional anesthesia is a spinal anesthetic. However, some patients prefer general anesthesia, particularly if a large volume of fat is being removed.
The time required to perform liposuction may vary considerably, depending on the size of the area, the amount of fat being removed, the type of anesthesia and the technique used. There are several liposuction techniques that can be used to improve the ease of the procedure and to enhance outcome.
After surgery, you will likely experience some fluid drainage from the incisions. To control swelling and to help your skin better fit its new contours, you may be fitted with a snug elastic garment to wear over the treated area for a few weeks. You will be prescribed antibiotics to prevent infection.
Don’t expect to look or feel great right after surgery. Even though the newer techniques are believed to reduce some post-operative discomfort, you may still experience some pain, burning, swelling, bleeding and temporary numbness. Pain can be controlled with medications, though you may still feel stiff and sore for a few days. It is normal to feel a bit anxious or depressed in the days or weeks following surgery. However, this feeling will subside as you begin to look and feel better.
Healing is a gradual process. Although we do not want you to overexert yourself, you should maintain a minimum level of activity to reduce swelling and to help prevent blood clots from forming in your legs. You will begin to feel better after about a week or two and you should be back at work within a few days following your surgery. The stitches are removed within the first week to 10 days.
Activity that is more strenuous should be avoided for about two weeks as your body continues to heal. Although most of the bruising and swelling usually disappears within three weeks, some swelling may remain for six months or more. You will be scheduled follow-up visits to monitor your progress and to see if any additional procedures are needed.
If you have any unusual symptoms between visits — for example, heavy bleeding or a sudden increase in pain — or any questions about what you can and can’t do, inform your doctor.
You will see a noticeable difference in the shape of your body soon after surgery. However, improvement will become even more apparent after about four to six weeks, when most of the swelling has subsided. After about three months, any persistent mild swelling usually disappears and the final contour will be visible.
If your expectations are realistic, you will probably be very pleased with the results of your surgery. You may find that you are more comfortable in a wide variety of clothes and more at ease with your body. Additionally, by eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, you can help to maintain your new shape.