Have Liposuction Questions? Browse FAQ on the Procedure
Yes, there are several different techniques for liposuction, including tumescent, super-wet, ultrasound-assisted, and power-assisted. All of them use a cannula to break up deposits of fat and a suction mechanism to suck the broken up fat out of the body. With both the tumescent and super-wet techniques, the surgeon infuses the area to be treated with a solution of saline (saltwater), epinephrine, and lidocaine. This solution swells the tissue and makes liposuction easier and safer, since it also acts to reduce bleeding and as an anesthetic. The amount of solution used is the main difference between tumescent and super-wet liposuction.
In ultrasonic-assisted liposuction, the surgeon uses either a special cannula that emits ultrasound waves or passes a paddle that emits ultrasound over the skin above the treatment areas. The sound waves liquefy fat cells, which are then suck out by the cannula. There is a risk of burns using ultrasound.
In power-assisted liposuction, the surgeon uses a special cannula that moves back and forth rapidly. The technique is said to produce less trauma than traditional techniques and with no burn risks as with the UAL techniques.
You must remember that liposuction it is not a substitution for a good diet and regular exercise. Liposuction is used for those who cannot lose stubborn targeted areas of fat, no matter how much they diet exercise.
To a certain degree, yes. The fat cells that have been removed are gone forever. But this doesn’t mean that the remaining fat cells in the areas that were treated will not enlarge if you over eat and gain weight. Fat cells have an extraordinary ability to "inflate" considerably to compensate for any fat cells removed from liposuction. Liposuction, in any application, is not to be used for weigh loss.
The consultation is the time for you and your surgeon to discuss your goals and decide if what you want can be achieved realistically. The surgeon should take into account what your body structure is, the elasticity of your skin, and how much fat can be removed safely and aesthetically. You will sit down and talk with the surgeon and you will have a physical exam so that he or she can examine the areas to be treated
In liposuction, small incisions are made and a metal tube called a cannula is inserted. This cannula is passed back and forth to break up deposits of fat, which are then suctioned out through the cannula. Sometimes a tumescent technique is used, in which a solution of saline, lidocaine, and epinephrine are injected into the target area. The solution engorges the tissues to create a firmer working area and the fat cells and solution are suctioned out. Epinephrine reduces bleeding during the procedure.
Ultrasound-assisted liposuction (UAL) involves the use of a special cannula or pads or paddles that emit ultrasound waves. These ultrasonic waves excite the fat cells and liquefy the fat, allowing it to be removed with suction. Unfortunately, there is the risk of burns using the UAL technique. Power-assisted liposuction (PAL) uses a vibrating cannula to help power through the fat deposits and break them up.
In each of these techniques, the loosened or liquefied fat is suctioned out. Sutures are sometimes used to close the incisions, but sometimes they are left open to assist in drainage. You may be asked to wear a special support garment (which is basically a girdle) after liposuction.
The incisions for liposuction are usually made within the natural folds of the body, such as in the folds of your hip or the crease under your buttock. This way, if a scar does develop it is hidden. Unnecessary scarring is generally avoided in all techniques. Discuss incision placement with your doctor during the consultation.
You may feel a little sore, but excessive pain is rare with liposuction. The pain relievers prescribed by your doctor should help with this. There will be swelling and your doctor may recommend arnica for the relief of this. There may be some bruising. You may be asked to wear a support garment postoperatively for the first few days to weeks and then just at night for a few weeks. Some surgeons believe this helps everything heal together smoothly.
You will feel sore, but you should not be in extreme pain after liposuction. You will be swollen and bruised somewhat. It takes about a week and a half for most of the swelling to subside. There is really not too much bruising with average cases, although that is very individual. Some people are prone to bruising more than others. You should take your prescribed pain medication to alleviate any pain or discomfort you may experience.
Most patients return to work within 2 weeks, although some have returned just after 4 days. It is highly individual, but it depends greatly on how extensive your liposuction was. Most surgeons instruct that you should not bend over or exercise until after 3 weeks after your surgery.
You will begin to notice a difference in your silhouette after the swelling subsides. It is advisable to take before-and-after photos of yourself so that you can fully appreciate the results. Just don't start putting on your "skinny clothes" or pants you were wearing right before surgery because you will be swollen and things may be tight until you heal.
Unfortunately, there have been many physicians who take a short course in liposuction and start doing it almost immediately, without the experience needed to do it well. Because this is a lucrative technique with many physicians trying to cash in, there have been many problems. Choose your surgeon wisely. But remember that even with the best surgeons, something can go wrong. Risks in liposuction include bad reactions to anesthesia, fat and surrounding dying, and infection. If the tissue becomes necrotic, it must be removed before a major infection develops. With UAL, patients have been known to receive burns from the ultrasound waves. Major blood loss is a factor in some cases. As is hematoma and infection. Clotting problems such as emboli and pulmonary thromboemboli, which can lead to serious breathing difficulty, can also occur. A clot can also travel to the heart of brain and cause a heart attack or stroke.
There may also be problems with appearance, such as asymmetry, bumps and lumps, or permanent dark spots from the bruising.
Please see our Risks and Complications Section for more information.
Arnica montana, sometimes just called arnica, is an herbal remedy that has been used in Europe for centuries to treat swelling, soreness, and bruising. When properly prepared, arnica can significantly decrease the healing time or the appearance of such. There are several formulations from different companies. Sublingual (under the tongue) types are the most often recommended for plastic surgery. However, never take the raw plant internally. Only use good quality arnica products.
Ask your surgeon. Many physicians and plastic surgeons believe that bromelain (derived from pineapple) can decrease your swelling and bruising. Bromelain, which is derived from pineapples and pineapple stems, is available in health food stores and contains a proteolytic enzyme capable of dissolving proteins. It is most often used after sports injuries and after surgical procedures to help with swelling.
Not all surgeons will agree that homeopathic remedies work. Do not go against your surgeon's wishes and obey his or her instructions. Always ask your surgeon first before taking any medication.