What is liposuction?

  • In liposuction, a surgeon uses a hollow tube known as a cannula to remove pockets of excess fat from various parts of the body. The cannula is inserted through small incisions made in the skin.
  • In some procedures, the fat is loosened with water or liquefied by laser to facilitate its removal.
  • The procedure is minimally-invasive and is usually performed under local tumescent anesthesia.
  • Some patients may be given a sedative.
  • An IV line is sometimes used to maintain the patient’s fluid balance.
  • The patient’s blood pressure, heart rate and blood oxygen levels are monitored during the procedure.
  • After fat is removed, the incisions are usually left open to allow for drainage.

What to expect after the procedure

Following the procedure, the treated area is bandaged and a compression garment placed over it. The compression garment is worn for one to two weeks. Post-surgical issues include:

  • Pain, which may last as long as two weeks.
  • Bruising lasting up to two weeks.
  • Swelling lasting two weeks to two months.
  • Numbness lasting several weeks.
  • Possible drainage in the treatment area, depending on the surgical technique.

Most patients can go home the same day as the surgery, though you will need to have someone else to drive you home. Patients receiving general anesthesia are generally discharged at a later time. Post-operative mobility is limited, depending on the procedure. Patients can resume normal activity several days to several weeks following surgery, depending on the procedure.

How to prepare for the procedure

Before the procedure, the doctor will review the patient’s medical history and perform a physical examination. This is the time for the doctor and patient to discuss expectations, potential risks and outcomes of the procedure. In addition:

  • The patient should be in healthy condition.
  • The patient should have realistic expectations.
  • The patient should report any history of allergic reaction to anesthesia.
  • The patient should tell the doctor about any prescription and over-the-counter medication, as well as supplements that they are currently taking.
  • The patient should avoid shaving the treatment area prior to surgery.
  • No blood-thinning drugs should be taken for at least two weeks prior to surgery.
  • Smoking must be avoided for at least two months prior to surgery.

Before (left) and after (right) 6 months after tumescent liposuction - love handles.

Photo courtesy of H. Brody

Before (left) and after (right) - 1 year after liposuction to left arm.

Photo courtesy of Melanie Palm

When is it appropriate and who is not the right candidate?

Liposuction is appropriate for the following conditions:

Patients who have chronic or persistent health conditions such as poor blood circulation, diabetes, heart disease or lung disease are not good candidates for the procedure. The procedure is not intended for weight loss; patients who anticipate extraordinary weight loss are not good candidates.

Possible Risks

  • Allergic reaction
  • Infection
  • Tissue damage
  • Skin necrosis
  • Puncture of an internal organ
  • Contour irregularities
  • Blood clots
  • Toxic reaction
  • Fluid imbalance

Before (left) and after (right) - liposuction to flanks and waistlines along with fat transfer to buttocks.

Photo courtesy of Melanie Palm

Before (left) and after (right) liposuction to chest and arm.

Photo courtesy of Melanie Palm

Before (left) and after (right) abdomen liposuction.

Photo courtesy of C. Jacob

Before (left) and after (right) neck liposuction.

Photo courtesy of C. Jacob

Is liposuction painful?

The procedure is minimally invasive and requires only local anesthesia. Afterward the treatment area may be mildly painful for as long as two weeks. Pain is managed by either a prescription or over-the-counter pain reliever.