What is Liposuction and How Does it Work

About Liposuction Surgery

Liposuction, a modern cosmetic surgery technique, uses a suction device to remove fatty tissue from the body. Many patients have found liposuction to be an excellent option for sculpting their body by removing targeted areas of excess fat. This technique targets pockets of fat located between the skin and muscle; this is the fat that generally causes unsightly lumps or bulges.

Liposuction is often used to treat ‘problem areas’ like the buttocks, love handles, or abdomen, creating more proportionate body contours by removing stubborn fat that doesn’t respond well to diet or exercise. Many patients find that liposuction improves their self confidence by enhancing their silhouette.

How does liposuction work?

During liposuction, the doctor inserts a small metal tube, known as a cannula, through small incisions into the fat deposits directly underneath the skin. Once in the fat layer, this tube is used to inject a solution containing saline and an anesthetic. This fluid serves to numb the tissue while breaking apart the fat cells for easier removal.

The doctor may use additional methods, such as devices emitting ultrasound or radio waves, to further break apart the fat cells. Once the suction device is turned on, the doctor moves the cannula back and forth, gently sculpting new curves while removing excess fat. Depending on the area being treated and the volume of fat removed, this process may take anywhere from one to five hours.

Liposuction is NOT a Weight Loss Procedure!

Patients considering liposuction should have realistic goals for the procedure. It is important to understand that liposuction is not a fast-track method to weight loss, and should not be used as a substitute for dieting and exercise. While liposuction does remove fat cells from the body, it should not be regarded as a weight loss technique. Instead, view liposuction as a way to smooth lumps and bumps caused by stubborn fat deposits.

Most patients lose less than five pounds of fat through liposuction, though they experience substantial improvements in the appearance their body. Most patients who undergo liposuction are already at or near their ideal weight, and undergo liposuction to remove stubborn fat deposits that are difficult to lose through diet and exercise.

Who is a Good Liposuction Candidate?

Ideal liposuction candidates are at or near their goal weight, or less than 30 pounds overweight. They have specific fat deposits that don’t seem to respond to diet or exercise, and want to focus on the contours of these areas. You should not undergo liposuction treatments if you plan to become pregnant or lose a significant volume of weight, as both of these can cause changes in your body contours. As with most cosmetic procedures, you should not choose liposuction if you have serious medical conditions or concerns, unless you have first discussed the procedure with your doctor. Some medical conditions, particularly bleeding disorders, may make you unable to undergo liposuction. Others require precautions, but will not keep you from undergoing liposuction treatments. Talk to your doctor to find out if you are medically eligible to undergo liposuction.

How is Liposuction Performed?

How does Liposuction WorkDuring liposuction, the doctor inserts a small tube known as a cannula through small incisions in the skin. Once in the fat layer underneath the skin, the tube is used to inject a saline solution containing lidocaine, an anesthetic. This fluid numbs the tissue and helps to break down the fatty tissue, making it easier to remove.

There are many variations on liposuction treatment, most of them designed to result in easier fat removal. The doctor may use ultrasound waves, surgical lasers, or a high-speed vibrating cannula. Using such methods may reduce the overall discomfort of the procedure by avoiding trauma to the surrounding tissues as the fat is removed.

You can expect the liposuction process to last between one and five hours, depending on the specific technique used and the volume of fat being removed. Tell your doctor if you feel pain during the liposuction procedure itself, as there may be adjustments at that time that can be done to alleviate your discomfort.

Does Liposuction Hurt?

While liposuction patients sometimes find that the sensation of the fat being suctioned out of their body is a little uncomfortable, liposuction should not hurt. Because of the local anesthetic included in the fluid injected at the start of the procedure, the targeted area of tissue is numb for the duration of the liposuction procedure. As a result, you should not feel any pain as the fat is suctioned out of your body. Some patients find the sensation a little uncomfortable, but it should not be overly so.

How painful is liposuction?

While any surgical procedure does come with side effects, liposuction surgery has been designed to minimize your discomfort. Although many patients feel uneasy before undergoing liposuction, the treatment itself should not hurt.

There are a few factors affecting the level of discomfort associated with this treatment. Longer procedures involving the removal of higher volumes of fat tend to be a little more uncomfortable than less extensive liposuction treatments. Some patients find treatments on certain sensitive areas of the body, such as the face, to be more uncomfortable than those performed on other areas.

Immediately following liposuction, most patients report that the treated area feels bruised and tender. Any discomfort you feel at this time can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications. Particularly if you have undergone liposuction treatment on a large portion of your body, your doctor may prescribe pain relievers to reduce your discomfort.

Does Liposuction Fat Come Back?

Liposuction permanently removes fat cells from the body. However, this does not prevent you from gaining weight in the future. If you do gain weight, the fat is more likely to accumulate in other areas of the body than in ‘problem areas’ that have been previously treated with liposuction. This can lead to a disproportional body shape and may require corrective surgery.

Many patients wonder if they will look the way they want to after undergoing liposuction. Liposuction can often dramatically improve body contours, creating a more proportional silhouette and enabling patients to feel more confident about their physical appearance. The majority of patients do find that they are more confident with their body and that their clothes fit better after surgery.

How to Prolong the Results of Liposuction Surgery

How you care for your body will have a significant impact on how long the results of liposuction will last. The most important step you can take to ensure long-lasting results following liposuction is to eat a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise. Doing so can help you maintain your weight and prevent future weight gain. With a healthy lifestyle, the results of liposuction can be nearly permanent. On the other hand, studies show that those who do not exercise or follow a healthy diet after liposuction surgery are likely to gain back at least the amount of fat that was removed.

Ways Your Doctor Can Help

If you are concerned about potential discomfort during your liposuction treatment, ask your doctor about methods that may be used to make you more comfortable. For example, some doctors will perform this procedure with conscious sedation. This sedative-based method leaves patients calm and relaxed as the liposuction is performed. Others can provide you with anti-anxiety medications to be taken immediately before the liposuction, or with prescription-strength pain relievers in case you feel the need for them after surgery.

Studies have found that at least 80 to 95 percent of liposuction patients are satisfied with the results. It is important to be realistic about the potential results of liposuction surgery. Liposuction cannot remove every ounce of fat from your body, nor should that be the goal. Liposuction is intended to remove targeted areas of excess fat on specific parts of your body. If you go into the procedure with realistic expectations, you are far more likely to have a successful outcome.

Liposuction Surgery Procedure
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