Liposuction (or “Lipo”) remains one of the most popular and frequently requested plastic surgery procedures performed in the US. As liposuction options expand, however, it becomes more challenging for patients to figure out what fits their needs. In this article, we’ll discuss the available options for fat reduction and provide guidelines to help you decide which choice will give you the results you desire.
Liposuction is a surgical fat removal procedure that has risen in popularity starting in the 1980s. During the procedure, your board-certified plastic surgeon will make a small incision, insert a tube called a cannula, and suck out excess fat into a surgical-grade vacuum. The fat cells are immediately removed and as long as you maintain a stable weight, you can maintain the result.
While liposuction remains the gold standard for reducing excess fat almost anywhere on the body, there is a wide range of body contouring options out there. These options range from nonsurgical techniques to the actual surgery, and the best options for you depends on your goals, recovery time and budget. Let’s look more closely at these liposuction options.
Traditional liposuction is a surgical approach designed to remove pockets of fat that sit immediately under the skin almost anywhere on the body. However, it is not a solution for reducing fat around the organs or fat under the muscle. It is also is not a reliable method for eliminating cellulite.
Common areas of the body where plastic surgeons perform liposuction include:
- Abdomen and waist
- Back and Flanks
- Hips and Buttocks
Good candidates for liposuction are individuals who are healthy and who expect to maintain a stable weight. While there is no ideal number on the scale, it is important to remember that weight gain after surgery can ruin results. We recommend that patients are at a stable weight prior to choosing liposuction, and maintain a stable weight after surgery.
2. Traditional Liposuction vs. Laser Ultrasound or RF Liposuction
For some patients, laser, ultrasound or RF liposuction may be recommended by their surgeon. Traditional liposuction refers to removing fat via a cannula, while the other adjunct techniques such as laser, ultrasound or RF liposuction also add heat to help the skin contract and tighten after the suction.
The concept is that for patients who already have excess skin, or who will likely have excess skin after liposuction alone, the addition of heat may allow for more fat removal and some contraction of skin. For those patients who still have excess skin after liposuction or liposuction with an adjunct heat technique, skin removal at a later date is still an option.
3. Liposuction and Skin Removal
Prior to your procedure, your surgeon will discuss your liposuction options during a pre-op consultation. Depending on factors such as your age, sex, visible stretch marks, skin elasticity, and how much fat you choose to have removed, your surgeon may recommend combining liposuction with a surgery to remove excess skin.
In fact, this combination of procedures—liposuction plus skin removal—is among the most popular plastic surgeries our doctors perform in our Washington DC surgical facility. When skin is stretched over a layer of fat, this skin is expanded and loses its elasticity over time. Once the fat is removed, that extra skin may not contract back to leave a tight skin envelope. If your surgeon tells you in advance that this will be the case, you may choose to have excess skin removed at the time of liposuction. You may also choose to just have liposuction and know there will be some excess skin afterward that can usually hide well under compressive garments.
When skin is removed at the time of liposuction, it is typically called some type of ‘lift’ like a thigh lift, arm lift or body lift. Another common surgical procedure that removes excess skin at the time of liposuction is a tummy tuck.
In many cases, surgeons perform the liposuction and tummy tuck or body lift during the same surgical session. But because liposuction does cause swelling, sometimes it makes sense to do the lipo first and let the swelling go down before bringing the patient back for the skin removal surgery during a second operation. Our surgeons design each surgery to fit your personal needs.
4. Nonsurgical Options for Fat Reduction
In recent years, nonsurgical or minimally-invasive techniques for fat reduction have become more common. While these techniques will not provide the dramatic results available using liposuction, nonsurgical procedures can be right for some patients.
If you have a low tolerance for anesthesia, are concerned about the risks that come with the surgical options, or don’t want to take the time necessary for a full recovery, a nonsurgical option may be right for you.
Nonsurgical options include technology that uses heat (e.g., SculpSure) or cooling (e.g., CoolSculpting) to reduce fat. During these types of treatments, some fat cells are destroyed. In the weeks following the treatment, your body naturally eliminates the damaged cells giving you a slimmer appearance.
It is important to keep in mind that these minimally-invasive treatments are not meant to be a replacement for liposuction and individual results will vary. While new technology is evolving, trust your experienced surgeon to give you their take on what works and what doesn’t base on your desired goals.
As with any plastic surgery, if you are considering a nonsurgical fat reduction, you will want to do your research. Always discuss with your board-certified plastic surgeon the following:
- Previous surgeries.
- Your body contouring goals.
- Any medical conditions, drug allergies, and previous medical treatments.
- Your current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco, and drug use.
Based on your medical history, preferences, and goals, your surgeon will recommend the liposuction options that are best for you. At Austin-Weston, we tell our patients that no question is “out-of-bounds.” We want all patients to understand their options and make a truly informed choice.
If you live in the Northern Virginia or Washington DC area and believe liposuction may be right for you, contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation at (703) 854-9841 or complete the form below to request an appointment.
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