What is it?
Also known as lipoplasty and body contouring.
Liposuction is a surgical procedure which sucks the fat from specific parts of the body. This allows certain areas in the body to be shaped, or contoured.
This procedure best suits people with a stable body weight who have too much body fat in specific parts of the body.
If you’re overweight, you’re more likely to get the results you want through a combination of exercise and diet. For those who don’t respond to this, you might consider bariatric procedures such as gastric bypass surgery. Read more about weight loss here.
Liposuction is pretty good at removing stubborn bits of fat from the:
- Chin and neck
- Chest and back
- Upper arms
- Hips and thighs
- Calves and ankles
What you should know beforehand
Just a couple of pointers before you go ahead.
The contour changes from liposuction are permanent-ish. As long as your weight remains stable. If you lose or gain significant amounts of weight after your procedure, you can expect the contours of your body to change again.
Liposuction doesn’t remove excess skin in the tummy. You’ll want to consider a tummy tuck for that.
Liposuction doesn’t improve cellulite or stretch marks. There are other treatments for these issues.
Everyone’s skin behaves differently. What I mean by this is that if your skin tone and elasticity is good, it will mould itself to your new contour after liposuction. But if it isn’t, your skin in the treated areas might look loose after the procedure.
Like any surgery, there are a few risks you should be aware of.
- Infection. Usually of the skin or fatty tissues. Rare, but potentially serious.
- Irregular skin contour. Bumpy skin may result from uneven removal of fat, poor skin elasticity, or poor healing. This can be permanent.
- Scarring. Usually from the insertion site of the tube used during liposuction. This can be permanent.
- Numbness. In the treated areas. This could be temporary or permanent, due to nerve irritation.
- Fat embolism. Rare but serious. When a piece of fat breaks off and travels to the lungs or brain. This is an emergency and can be fatal.
- Organ puncture. Rarely, the tube used during liposuction might penetrate too deeply and nick an internal organ. This is an emergency which might require surgical repair.
- Heart and kidney issues. Due to shifting fluid levels as fluids are suctioned out and injected.
It goes without saying that the better your surgeon, the lower the risks.
This is not an exhaustive list of risks and it’s always best to discuss them with your surgeon before proceeding.
What to expect
As usual, we can split up the process into three sections: before, during, and after the procedure.
You’ll have a chat with your surgeon about your reasons for wanting the surgery and your expectations. It’s important to find a surgeon you can be open and honest with, as that will help them understand your needs better.
They will also go through the risks and other considerations before going ahead with the surgery.
You will be asked about your medical history and any regular medications you take, to ensure you’re safe to proceed and that certain medications (like blood thinners) are stopped in time before your surgery.
Your surgeon may draw on you to guide their procedure. They may also take photos to compare before and after images.
Depending on the type of surgery, you may be awake with sedation and local anaesthesia, or asleep with general anaesthesia. It totally depends on what you have planned.
There are a few different liposuction techniques your surgeon might use. They will have discussed the best option for you before your surgery.
Tumescent liposuction. The OG. Your surgeon injects a solution into the treated area. This consists of salt water (to aid fat removal), an anaesthetic (to relieve pain), and a drug to constrict the blood vessels (usually adrenaline). Your surgeon then makes small cuts into the skin, inserts the thin tube (cannula) under the skin and starts vacuuming out the fat.
Ultrasound-assisted liposuction (UAL). Here, your surgeon inserts a metal rod under your skin which lets out ultrasonic energy. This breaks down the fat in the treated area and allows for easier fat suctioning.
Laser-assisted liposuction (LAL). Here, your surgeon inserts a laser fibre into the skin to zap the fat, making suction easier.
Power-assisted liposuction (PAL). Here, your surgeon uses a more excited cannula which vibrates rapidly. This makes it easier to remove the more stubborn bits of fat with more accuracy.
Liposuction typically takes one to three hours, but taking into account all the preparations beforehand, it’s best to allocate an entire day to the procedure.
No pain, no gain. You can expect to be sore and bruised after the procedure. Your surgeon will prescribe some good pain relief to help though.
You’ll usually have to wear tight compression garments, which help reduce swelling, for a few weeks.
Sometimes, your surgeon will leave a temporary drain in to get rid of excess fluid.
You might need to wait a few days before returning to work – disappointing, I know. And a few weeks before resuming the more strenuous stuff like exercise. That’s a little more of a bummer.
Once the swelling subsides a few weeks after your procedure, you should notice the treated areas looking less bulky. Even more so within a few months, when you can expect to appreciate the full results!
Here are some things you can do for a quicker recovery!
- Stay hydrated - consider the water as fuel your body needs to recover
- Eat well - nutrition is essential here. Prep the meals in advance (thank me later)
- Sleep upright with your knees up - this will minimise the strain on your stitches
- Take Arnica supplements to reduce swelling and bruisng
Liposuction can be a life-changing experience for many people. And in a good way, if you choose the right doctor.
If you follow the advice above, you should be one step closer to getting the results you want!