September 15, 2011

Today, there is a great deal of pressure on women to conform to an ideal look and body proportion. But no matter how hard they diet and exercise, many women cannot reach this goal. There are areas of fat deposits that just do not seem to disappear. Looking for a solution to this problem, some women turn to liposuction. Liposuction, also known as lipoplasty, is a procedure that can help remove unwanted fat deposits.

It must be emphasized that liposuction is not a substitute for diet and exercise and should not be used as a quick fix. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has found that several criteria can help predict who will have the best results from liposuction. A woman should be reasonably close to her ideal body weight, have relatively good skin tone, and have few stretch marks. However, these are ideal conditions and many women who do not fulfill these criteria can have good results from liposuction.

Liposuction can be performed on almost any area of the body: cheeks, chin, neck, upper arms, breast or chest area, back, abdomen, waist, hips, buttocks, thighs, inner knee, calves, and ankles. For example, liposuction may be performed to bring the hips and waist into better proportion, to reduce a bulging stomach, or remove excess fat from the upper arms.

Liposuction is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures performed today and has been given a lot of attention in the media. Some advertisements give the impression that liposuction is a simple procedure without any downtime. This certainly is not true and the decision to undergo liposuction should not be taken lightly. The procedure is performed in an operating room with a general anesthetic or sedation, on a sameday surgical basis.

Women seeking liposuction should make certain that it will be performed in an accredited facility under sterile conditions. The procedure involves making one or more small incisions near the area to be suctioned. A wetting solution is then placed in the opening which helps make suctioning easier and reduces the amount of blood lost. In ultrasound-assisted liposuction and power-assisted liposuction, sound waves or a vibrating tube are also used to break up the fat before removing it. A tube connected to a vacuum or suctioning machine is inserted into the opening and the fat is literally suctioned from that area. How much fat is removed is left to the judgment of the plastic surgeon. More than one area can be suctioned at one time. The maximum amount of tissue that may be removed in one procedure is 6 L (about 6 quarts).

The procedure causes bruising and swelling afterward. A mild pain pill is prescribed, and sometimes an antibiotic as well. If more than one area is suctioned, very limited activity is advised for 2-3 days. In addition, a compression garment is worn for 3-4 weeks to control swelling and fluid accumulation and exercise is avoided during that time. The swelling and bruising subside after 1-4 weeks. There is usually some numbness in the suctioned areas, which will also subside within 1-4 weeks. After the first week, the result of the procedure becomes noticeable, but it takes about 3 months before the final appearance is evident.

There are complications associated with any procedure and these must be discussed in detail with your surgeon before undergoing liposuction. Five to fifteen percent of patients experience cosmetic complications such as bumps or dents, wrinkles, discoloration, or small areas of numbness in the treated area. Surgery itself carries some risk, including infection and, very rarely, death. Patients should read about the procedure before talking with the surgeon so that informed questions can be answered. In addition, speaking to someone who has had the procedure is very helpful. Sometimes the surgeon will offer this. If not, do not be afraid to ask. Your surgeon should also have “before and after” photos to give a better idea of the results that can be expected.

One of the most commonly asked questions relates to weight gain. If a woman gains weight after liposuction, she will gain weight proportionately, that is, the weight should distribute evenly. Another question relates to cellulite. Liposuction will not treat cellulite and may in some cases make it look worse. Liposuction can provide good cosmetic results for carefully selected patients. All the risks and benefits should be discussed in detail with your surgeon at the first visit so that you can make an informed decision about whether this procedure will benefit you.

SEE ALSO: Body image, Cosmetic surgery, Obesity, Weight control

Suggested Reading

  • Medem. (2002). Plastic surgery: Liposuction. Arlington Heights, IL: American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation.
  • Pitman, G. H. (Ed.). (1993). Liposuction and aesthetic surgery. St. Louis, MO: Quality Medical.
  • Teimourian, F. (1987). Suction lipectomy and body sculpturing. St. Louis, MO: C.V. Mosby.


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