Also referred to as ‘Lipo’, Liposuction is a cosmetic surgical procedure that aims to eliminate fat from specific body areas like abdomen, thighs, hips etc. As the name implies, it uses suction technique to get rid of excessive fat as well as shape and contour these areas. Additional terms patients refer to liposuction as, include body contouring and lipoplasty.

Liposuction is not a typical weight-losing method. However, the procedure is for you if you have fatty deposits in specific spots with an otherwise steady weight. As part of the weight losing regime, you would rather be more successful in shedding quite a few pounds through regular exercise and diet than liposuction. There are over 200,000 liposuction cosmetic surgeries each year.

Which body areas can be treated?

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
  • Cheeks, chin and neck
  • 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.

How does it work?

If you are overweight or obese, fat deposits increase in number and size. Through liposuction, these fat cells are reduced in number through various methods such as injection, ultrasound and laser as discussed below. A thin tube or cannula is connected to a vacuum that suctions out fat from your body. The shape and appearance of your body as well as the volume of fat, directs the amount of fat to be removed.

Your skin will mould around the treatment contours depending upon its elasticity. Skin with more elasticity will appear smoother while that with low elasticity may appear loose. Liposuction, as such, will be done by one of the following techniques as deciphered by your surgeon, depending upon the target area, your expected outcomes and whether you have been treated with liposuction before.

Tumescent liposuction

Tumescent liposuction, of all is the most common technique. Your surgeon will inject a mixture of saline water, local anesthetic (lidocaine) and epinephrine. This will make you as pain-free and comfortable as possible during the procedure.

A cannula is then inserted through a cut in the skin on one end and is connected to a vacuum suction on the other end to remove the fat and the fluids. Your body fluids are replenished through an intravenous line.

Ultrasound-assisted liposuction (UAL)

During UAL, a metal rod is inserted into your skin and ultrasound waves are emitted through it. This breaks down the cell wall of the fat cells to liquefy them. The liquefied fat deposits can then be suctioned out easily. VASER-assisted liposuction is a new generation UAL technique in which a device is used that decreases the risk of skin injuries and improves skin contours.

Laser-assisted liposuction (LAL)

LAL is also known as SmartLipo. In this technique, a laser fibre is inserted into the skin a high intensity laser light is used to emulsify fat deposits. The liquefied fat can then be removed through the cannula.

Power-assisted liposuction (PAL)

This technique will be employed by your surgeon if copious amount of fat needs to be removed or if you have a history of undergoing liposuction procedure. It involves the use of vibratory motion of the cannula to drive out the fat. PAL merits over others, in that it causes less pain and swelling and allows a more precise removal of fat.

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 the 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, i.e. you don’t have any blood disorder, heart disease, diabetes etc.
  •  Your weight is within 30% range of your ideal weight
  • You have elastic and firm skin
  • You do not smoke                  

Risks associated with Liposuction

As with any other surgery, Liposuction also carries some risks. Possible complications associated with liposuction include

  • Contour irregularities caused by cannula insertion
  • Fluid accumulation beneath the skin
  • Transient numbness in the treatment area
  • Skin infections
  • Internal puncture due to deep penetration of the cannula causing damage to internal organ
  • Fat embolism- break outs of pieces of fat clogging vessels away from the parent site and stop blood flow
  • Complications from components of anesthesia such as lidocaine and epinephrine

What to expect?

The liposuction procedure should take place at a clinic or surgery centre. Be sure to get it done from an experienced and accredited practitioner to avoid any undesired complication. Discuss with your surgeon any reservations that you have and expect him to take your complete medical history. Also, elaborate to your doctor, your expectations from the procedure. You might be asked to stop taking some medications like blood thinners or NSAIDs two to three weeks before surgery. You might also be asked to go through some lab tests before the procedure.

If only a small amount of fat needs to be removed, your procedure might take only a chair-side appointment before you are good to go. However, if a large amount of fat needs to be removed or if your doctor suggests doing other procedures along with liposuction then you might need a hospital stay. It’s always a good idea to accompany a close friend or relative with you for the procedure.

At the start of the procedure, your surgeon will mark out the treatment area and might take your photos for later to compare with the post treatment outcomes. You will then be given either a local or a general anesthesia depending upon the type of liposuction procedure selected for you, before the start of the actual treatment procedure.

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.

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