Liposuction Overview: Everything You Need to Know
For many individuals, diet and exercise alone simply cannot give them the body shape they desire. If you are bothered by stubborn excess fat deposits that do not respond to changes in diet or exercise, liposuction may be a great solution for you.
Good candidates for liposuction are healthy adults at a stable and maintainable weight, who have good skin tone and diet-resistant areas of fat.
Let’s go over what to expect if you choose liposuction.
Liposuction is used to slim and reshape specific areas of the body by removing excess fat deposits. Our surgeons often recommend this procedure to improve the following areas:
- Hips and buttocks
- Abdomen and waist
- Upper arms
- Inner knee,
- Chest area
- Face and neck
- Calves and ankles
Liposuction can be performed by itself or in combination with other plastic surgery procedures, such as a facelift, breast reduction, or tummy tuck. One important concept is that liposuction only removes fat, and that fat is only from the superficial plane between the skin and muscles. During your consultation, your surgeon will advise you whether they think you might also require skin removal to obtain a good result and whether your areas of concern are treatable with liposuction.
Those who opt for liposuction do so for many different reasons. However, typically, liposuction patients are dissatisfied with the shape or proportions of their bodies. Many women feel self-conscious about having a pear or apple shape. For such women, abdominal liposuction can be a great starting point. With this procedure, one of our board-certified plastic surgeons targets excess fat cells around the abdominal area. Depending on your concerns, several areas of the body can be treated during the same operation for a more dramatic improvement in shape.
For many men, the common complaint is about the “spare tire” or “love handles” around the mid-section. Especially as we age, excess weight can start to collect in localized areas of the body, despite exercising and maintaining a healthy diet. If you are plagued by excess fat deposits, liposuction may be right for you. Overall body contouring can be accomplished by targeting the flanks, hips, and thighs too.
To get a better idea of what can be done using liposuction, compare before and after photos from some of our patients. If you think liposuction might be right for you, the first step is to meet with one of our board-certified plastic surgeons to go over your personal concerns and make recommendations based upon your wishes, budget and recovery time.
How Does Liposuction Work
Liposuction uses a cannula, which is a hollow metal tube, hooked to a suction device to remove excess fat below the skin. The incisions for liposuction are around ¼” long and usually heal similar to an incision for mole removal. In the operating room, these small incisions are first used as access to inject a solution containing medications for pain and to minimize bleeding. Your surgeon then begins to suction out excess fat deposits along with some of the fluid. The remaining fluid is absorbed by your body over the next few weeks after a liposuction procedure. Your surgeon may also use a drain for the first week or so after liposuction to help accelerate the fluid removal process.
Most patients elect to have general anesthesia for liposuction. For a very small area, some patients choose to have local anesthetic alone, but for a larger area or a longer procedure, your surgeon may ask you to have a general anesthetic so you will be comfortable during the operation and your surgeon can focus on getting you the result you want.
In some cases, particularly patients who have had liposuction previously, or who have skin that is not as elastic, your surgeon may use a heating device such as a laser or ultrasound to help stimulate collagen and skin contraction. The heat of the device also helps to break up scar tissue in the area of treatment.
Recovery After Liposuction
Final results are not seen until 3-4 months after liposuction. For the first month or two after surgery, your surgeon will recommend compression garments to help squeeze out some of the swellings and to assist the remaining fat cells intentionally left behind to heal smoothly.
Most patients find the pain element of recovery to be easier than with other types of surgery. The average liposuction patient takes one week off work, but may still need some pain medication at night to sleep soundly after the first week. As the body spends energy to heal itself, it is normal for liposuction patients to feel more tired than normal post surgery. This lack of energy can last for weeks to months after liposuction. Recovery time can vary depending on a patient’s initial health and the size of the area being treated.
The typical postop schedule of appointments is that patients are seen by their doctor the day after surgery, at one week for suture removal, and then a couple more times at regular intervals before the post-op photos are taken around 3 months.
Occasionally, a patient will come into our office for a complimentary consultation with one of our doctors thinking that liposuction can treat obesity or act as a “quick fix” for losing 20 pounds. While liposuction is a great tool for shaping the body, it does not replace the benefits of diet and exercise and should not be used solely for weight loss An ideal liposuction patient is at a stable and maintainable weight before surgery. Excessive weight gain after liposuction can ruin a liposuction result, so having the procedure does come with a commitment to continuing diet and exercise after surgery.
It’s important to realize that liposuction is no substitute for a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a balanced diet and regular exercise program is important for everyone. While liposuction can enhance your results, we always like to see a commitment to living a healthy lifestyle in our liposuction patients.
Selecting a Surgeon You Can Trust
When it comes to liposuction, patients should do their research in choosing a surgeon. One of the most important choices you can make is to enlist a board-certified plastic surgeon. Make sure that your surgeon has the right credentials—do not be fooled by official-sounding boards and certifications. There is only one board recognized by medical schools and hospitals that train plastic surgeons. This is the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
Many states permit any doctor to perform any procedure they see fit, which means a family practice physician, gynecologist or ER doctor can legally perform liposuction after so little as a weekend course. The responsibility of checking a doctor’s credentials rests on the patient in many states so be sure to do your homework.
For patients in overall good shape, but who are looking for a way to improve specific areas of the body, liposuction is a great solution. Liposuction can enhance and reinforce the benefits individuals gain through making healthy choices.
If you live in the Northern Virginia or Washington DC area and are ready to reclaim your confidence, contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation at (703) 854-9841 or submit a form online to request an appointment.