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Liposuction – How it Works, Risks & Types

Liposuction, also known as lipoplasty, or “lipo” for short, is a cosmetic surgical procedure that uses suction to remove excess adipose tissue from various regions of the body. The aim of this intervention is to contour and shape specific body parts, providing the patient with an aesthetically pleasing appearance. The procedure has been popularized and has been performed on millions of individuals worldwide with satisfactory results. In the U.S., there are over 200,000 liposuction cosmetic surgeries each year.

The basic principle of liposuction involves the insertion of a thin, hollow tube called a cannula through small incisions made in the skin. The cannula is attached to a high-pressure suction device, and the physician uses it to dislodge and suction out the excess fat from the targeted area. The procedure can be performed under general anesthesia, or, in some cases, local anesthesia with sedation.

The success of liposuction lies in the selection of appropriate candidates and the technical expertise of the performing physician. Ideal candidates are individuals who are in good physical health and have stubborn pockets of fat that do not respond to diet and exercise. The patient should have realistic expectations and understand that liposuction is not a weight loss procedure but a contouring procedure.

It is important to note that liposuction should not be considered a substitute for a healthy lifestyle and regular exercise. The results of the procedure are long-lasting as long as the patient maintains a stable weight. Significant weight gain following the procedure can lead to the reaccumulation of fat in the treated area.

Liposuction can be performed on a variety of body parts, including the abdomen, hips, thighs, buttocks, arms, neck, and back. The technique has been modified over the years to cater to specific regions, such as the super-wet technique for the abdomen and the tumescent technique for larger body parts. One of the alternatives to liposuction is Cool Sculpting.

Before the procedure, the physician will perform a comprehensive evaluation of the patient to determine their suitability for the procedure. This evaluation will include a medical history, physical examination, and discussion of the patient’s expectations and goals. The physician will also advise the patient on the type of anesthesia that would be best for their specific case and the expected outcomes.

During the procedure, the physician will make small incisions in the targeted area and insert the cannula attached to the suction device. The cannula is then used to suction out the excess fat, and the physician will carefully contour the area to achieve the desired shape. The length of the procedure depends on the size of the area being treated and the amount of fat being removed. Find a plastic surgeon near me.

Types of Liposuction

Tumescent Liposuction

Tumescent liposuction is a variation of the traditional liposuction procedure that involves the injection of a large volume of tumescent fluid into the targeted area prior to the removal of fat. The tumescent fluid is a mixture of saline, lidocaine, and epinephrine and serves to both numb the targeted area and constrict the blood vessels, reducing blood loss during the procedure. Tumescent liposuction is well-suited for larger body parts, such as the abdomen, hips, and thighs, and provides the physician with greater control and precision during the procedure.

Ultrasonic-Assisted Liposuction (UAL)

Ultrasonic-assisted liposuction, also known as ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty, involves the use of ultrasonic energy to emulsify the fat prior to suctioning. The ultrasound energy breaks down the fat cells, making it easier to suction out the excess tissue. UAL is particularly useful in removing stubborn pockets of fat and can provide the physician with greater precision and control during the procedure. However, UAL is not as widely used as other variations of liposuction due to the added cost and potential for thermal injury to the surrounding tissue.

Laser-Assisted Liposuction (LAL)

Laser-assisted liposuction involves the use of a laser fiber to liquefy the fat prior to suctioning. The laser energy provides a more controlled method of emulsifying the fat and can result in less trauma to the surrounding tissue compared to traditional liposuction. LAL is well-suited for individuals seeking to contour smaller body parts, such as the chin, neck, and arms.

Power-Assisted Liposuction (PAL)

Power-assisted liposuction, also known as powered lipoplasty, involves the use of a motorized cannula to dislodge and suction out the excess fat. The motorized cannula provides a more efficient method of removing fat and can result in less trauma to the surrounding tissue compared to traditional liposuction. PAL is well-suited for larger body parts, such as the abdomen, hips, and thighs, and can provide the physician with greater precision and control during the procedure.

Risks and Side Effects of Liposuction

Although liposuction is generally considered to be a safe and effective procedure, as with any surgical procedure, there are associated risks that must be carefully considered before undergoing the procedure.

Anesthesia-related Risks

Liposuction is typically performed under general anesthesia or conscious sedation, both of which carry a risk of adverse reactions. General anesthesia carries a risk of respiratory and cardiac complications, and conscious sedation carries a risk of respiratory depression. Patients should inform their physician of any pre-existing medical conditions and take all necessary precautions to minimize the risk of complications related to anesthesia.


Infection is a common risk associated with any surgical procedure, including liposuction. Patients should take all necessary precautions to minimize the risk of infection, including proper wound care, avoiding exposure to contaminated surfaces, and taking antibiotics as directed by their physician.


Bleeding is a common risk associated with any surgical procedure, and although liposuction is considered to be a relatively low-bleed procedure, there is still a risk of bleeding associated with the procedure. The risk of bleeding can be minimized by avoiding the use of blood-thinning medications prior to the procedure and taking proper precautions during the postoperative period.

Fluid Imbalance

Liposuction is a procedure that involves the removal of excess fat and the suctioning of fluid. As a result, there is a risk of fluid imbalance, including dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and fluid overload. Patients should take all necessary precautions to minimize the risk of fluid imbalances, including proper hydration, monitoring of electrolyte levels, and avoiding the use of diuretics prior to the procedure.

Numbness and Tingling

Numbness and tingling are common side effects associated with liposuction, particularly in areas where the procedure has been performed. This is due to the injury to the nerve fibers in the targeted area and typically resolves over time. In rare cases, permanent nerve damage can occur.

Skin Irregularities

Skin irregularities, including dimpling, rippling, and loose skin, are common side effects associated with liposuction. This can be due to a number of factors, including the amount of fat removed, the technique used, and the patient’s skin elasticity. Patients should discuss their specific concerns with their physician prior to the procedure to minimize the risk of skin irregularities

Which body areas can be treated with liposuction?

The goal of Liposuction is to actually get rid of fat that had been unaffected by exercise and diet. These include

  • Abdomen and waist
  • Thighs
  • Hips
  • Upper arms
  • Cheeks, chin and neck
  • Back
  • Inner knee
  • Chest area
  • Calves and ankles

Liposuction can additionally be performed along with other cosmetic surgery procedures such as treatment of gynecomastia (enlarged breast tissue in males), facelift and tummy tuck.

Are you Eligible for Liposuction?

What liposuction cannot achieve is that it cannot get you rid of cellulite or other skin irregularities. Furthermore, it does not help to remove stretch marks on your skin, so if you are hoping so, you’re out of luck. However, you are a good candidate if

  • You are in a good state of health without major medical issues
  • Your weight is within 30% range of your ideal weight
  • You have elastic and firm skin
  • You do not smoke                  

Liposuction Recovery time

After the surgery, you will have some soreness, bruises and swelling at the target area that you should expect to last for a few weeks. Your surgeon might recommend that you wear compression garment for a month or two post-surgery to control the swelling. Take your medications regularly if you are prescribed with antibiotics to prevent infection. Although some people with minor surgery may be able to return to work after a few days, you might need to wait a little longer (a few weeks) to return to your normal daily activities like job and exercise.

How long do the results last?

The swelling subsides after a few of liposuction. You can then expect a less bulky and leaner appearance. The results of liposuction are long lasting as the fat cells are removed permanently during the process. However, you can gain weight again if you don’t follow a proper diet and exercising routine. The new fat deposits can then settle in different areas in your body. To maintain a stable weight, eat lots of vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, low fat dairy products, whole grains and don’t forget to exercise regularly.

Liposuction References

Liposuction: Concepts, safety, and techniques in body-contouring surgery.

Evidence-Based Practice in Liposuction.

Update on Liposuction: What All Plastic Surgeons Should Know.

Evidence-Based Medicine: Liposuction.

Complications associated with submental liposuction: a scoping review.

1 thought on “Liposuction – How it Works, Risks & Types”

  1. Preparing my wife for the potential risks of liposuction will really help her through it if we do it right. Things like anesthesia will really need to be prepared for to avoid her being shocked by the experience. I’ll tell her what to expect before I find a cosmetic spa she can get liposuction from.

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