Liposuction, also known as lipoplasty, is one of the most popular plastic surgery procedures in the United States. Every year, hundreds of thousands of American men and women undergo liposuction procedures to eliminate unwanted and persistent pockets of fat in the abdomen, hips, thighs, buttocks and arms.
In fact, liposuction technology has advanced so rapidly in recent years that select types of technology can now be used to refine and remove small areas of fat around the face, waist, knees, and ankles.
How is the procedure performed
Liposuction is designed to permanently and safely remove small localized pockets of fat that do not respond to diet or exercise. Liposuction may be performed in conjunction with other procedures to achieve the optimal result. For example, an abdominoplasty may be performed to treat excess skin and weakened muscles. This procedure may be followed by liposuction to refine the appearance of the abdomen.
Liposuction may be performed under local or general anesthesia. Laser Assisted Lipo, commonly known as Smart Lipo, requires numbing of the treatment area with an anesthetic. The procedure is usually performed in an outpatient surgical center. It may be performed in a hospital where the surgeon has privileges for the procedure. The procedure requires forty-five minutes to two hours, depending upon the number of treatment areas.
There are a variety of techniques that may be used for liposuction. Traditional tried and true liposuction technique is denoted as a surgical procedure in which fat is suctioned from the body using a long, thin device called a cannula. Other procedures include:
- SAFELipo®: A 3-step process that separates and emulsifies fat prior to aspiration, then equalizes remaining fat to minimize lumps, waviness, and dermal adhesions.
- Ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty: fat cells are liquefied for easier removal
- Microliposuction: a smaller cannula is used to remove fat from the contour areas
- Tumescent technique: large amounts of anesthetic fluid are injected to cause the fatty tissues to swell making it easier to remove
- Super-wet technique: similar to the tumescent technique, only the amount of liquid injected is much less
- Laser assisted liposuction: is a relatively new technique that uses a laser to rupture the fat cells, liquefy and remove them through a very small cannula.
Liposuction recovery begins the minute that surgery ends. The patient is usually taken to a recovery room, where the drugs begin to wear off. In modern liposuction, recovery does not involve recovery from general anesthesia, often considered the most unpleasant part of the process. Patients are usually sent home shortly after the procedure, with specific instructions, prescriptions for pain medication, and compression garments. The compression garments play a key role in recovery: in addition to helping the wound heal without tissues shifting, they often prevent blood clots.
During recovery patients must monitor their incision points, and watch closely for infection. If infection occurs, it can lead not only to unsightly scarring, but also to death. Most physicians schedule recovery check-ups that monitor healing. It is crucial for patients to keep their appointments during the recovery time, as early detection greatly improves the chances of averting serious problems.
Most liposuction recovery consists of stages: bruising and numbness should disappear around the same time in the liposuction recovery process, usually within one or two weeks. Swelling subsides a little later, taking at least a few weeks, and more often months. Once the swelling is gone, the recovery is over and you will see the final results of the surgery.
Liposuction results can greatly enhance the appearance and contour of the physical form by eliminating stubborn, unwanted pockets of fat from the body. Liposuction results can significantly improve the shape and appearance of the:
- upper arms
There are many state-of-the-art surgical techniques that have been developed to create optimal liposuction results. The tumescent technique is a very effective procedure that produces successful results without the need for a general anesthetic, though it usually takes longer than traditional liposuction methods.
Liposuction results are best achieved if a patient is at normal weight with firm skin but wishes to refine her shape by removing isolated fat pockets. Once the fat is removed results are permanent as long as a patient adheres to a reasonable diet and exercise program. The skin that covers the treated area usually contracts to conform to the results. In cases where the skin might be a bit too loose, cosmetic surgeons are able to remove excess skin from the area in order to achieve greater results.
As with all medical procedures, there are risks associated with liposuction. Risks are reduced when pre- and post-operative instructions are followed by the patient. Most patients are fully satisfied with the results of the procedure.
Liposuction risks are generally the same as the risks for any surgical procedure. In the hands of a skilled physician risks are usually quite low, but all prospective patients should educate themselves about risks and associated injuries.
The potential risks are of two main types: general surgery risks and specific liposuction risks. General risks include:
- Allergic reaction to anesthesia
- Blood clots
- Nerve damage
These risks are often directly related to incision size and the use of general anesthesia. These risks are decreased when tumescent liposuction procedures are used. Specific liposuction risks include:
- Friction burns
- Fluid accumulation
- Excessive fluid loss
The dangers of liposuction increase in proportion to the amount of fat removed. The risks and dangers of liposuction are increased if a large area is to be treated. There is also a chance that vital organs can be perforated or injured. Other dangers of liposuction can occur during the recovery process, including infection or unfavorable drug reaction.
While the liposuction risks are very real, they represent a small minority of cases, and most of them are preventable with the right doctor and procedure. Due to the serious nature of risks, patients should be certain that they have full faith in their physician, and all liposuction risks should be fully discussed.
The cost of liposuction can vary greatly depending on the location of the surgery, the type of procedure you are seeking, the area and the amount of fat that is being removed, and the technique that the surgeon employs to achieve the finest results. A realistic range is between two and nine thousand dollars. There are many ways that a person interested in achieving liposuction results can make this procedure affordable, including payment plans, loans, and other types of financing.
Different plastic surgeons may structure their costs in a number of ways:
- the liposuction costs are related to the time spent in actual surgery
- the costs are based upon the number of procedures done during the surgery
- the cost is established based upon the amount of fat suctioned out of the body
Patients discussing liposuction costs with their surgeons should make sure they understand the basis for any liposuction costs and are comfortable with the way in which those figures were reached.