Liposuction is a surgical fat removal procedure to slim and smooth treated areas and eliminate stubborn fat pockets that persist with exercise and dieting. Body contour can be dramatically enhanced by removing fat judiciously from the right areas. For many patients, liposuction helps to kickstart their fitness goals and serves as motivation to continue toning and shaping their bodies at the gym.
There is a common misconception that liposuction is a simple and fast procedure. It is actually a lengthy multi-step procedure that requires experience to achieve great results. First, tumescent solution is infiltrated into the tissue that we plan to remove. This solution contains epinephrine to constrict blood vessels and reduce bleeding and lidocaine to reduce pain. Next, we perform power-assisted liposuction with the SAFE technique to remove fat through very small incisions with long thin cannulas. SAFE – Separation, Aspiration, and Fat Equalization – is a three-part process to break up the connections between the fat cells, remove fat evenly, and then further smooth the contour and remove any irregularities. Some surgeons also add an additional step of applying energy, such as ultrasound, laser, or radiofrequency energy, to help break up the fat and potentially lead to skin tightening. These energy devices have added risk and have not yet been shown to significantly change outcomes, so I do not currently use them. Some of the newer technologies are promising and research is under way.
The best candidates for liposuction are patients with areas of excess fat and good skin tone. After removal of fat, the skin shrinks back to some degree but there is a risk of loose skin if too much fat is removed. Keep in mind that liposuction is used to enhance the body’s contour, but it is not a weight loss surgery and does not affect the fat on the inside of the abdominal wall that surrounds the organs. Before and after liposuction, it is important for patients to maintain a stable weight for the best possible results. Significant weight fluctuation can lead to contour irregularities that may need to be corrected.
Depending on how extensive the liposuction procedure is, a closed-suction drain may be required for 1-2 weeks after surgery. Drains reduce the risk of seroma, a fluid collection formed by your body in response to surgery.
Patients initially have swelling and may notice areas of firm tissue where liposuction was performed. In most cases, we provide patients with a compression garment to wear for 2-6 weeks after surgery. The majority of the swelling goes away in the first month after surgery, but it takes 3-6 months for the swelling to completely resolve and to see the final result. For many patients, we offer endermologie or manual lymphatic decompression treatments in our spa to help swelling go away faster.