Liposuction, which is also termed as lipectomy, lipoplasty or liposculpture suction, is a type of cosmetic procedure, which can break up and suck the fat out of the body. It can be used to remove fat from body parts such as the abdomen, neck, buttocks, chin, back, etc. The fat is removed using a hollow instrument known as a cannula, inserted under the skin, after which a powerful, high-pressure vacuum is applied to it. The procedure is carried out under general anesthesia.
Though liposuction can permanently remove fat cells in one’s body, which will alter the body shape, one needs to remember that if the patient refuses to lead a healthy lifestyle after the operation, there is a huge risk that the remaining fat cells will grow even bigger. Though there are some risks in this operation, it is linked to the amount of fat that was removed during the procedure. After the procedure, the skin molds itself to the new contours of the areas which were treated. If your skin tone and elasticity are good, the skin will likely appear smooth. However, if you have thin skin with poor elasticity, the skin in the treated areas might appear loose.
To be able to go through liposuction, it is important that you are in good health without conditions that might cause complications to the procedure. If you have conditions such as diabetes, weak immunity, restricted blood flow or coronary artery disease, complications might likely occur.
Why it is done
People who go through this procedure have more body weight than normal. Therefore, they use it to remove undesirable fat deposits in some specific body parts. However, liposuction should not be considered a treatment for obesity or an overall weight-loss method.
The main purpose of liposuction is to improve the appearance rather than to provide benefits to physical health. The same or even better results can be achieved through a healthy lifestyle, a healthy balanced diet, exercising regularly and proper sleep. Liposuction is advisable only if lifestyle changes have been unable to achieve the results which one was expected. Before one goes for the operation, proper consultation with the doctor is highly recommended.
Before the procedure, it is important that you discuss with your surgeon regarding your expectations from the procedure. Your surgeon will review your medical history and ask you regarding any medical conditions which you might be having and any medications, herbs or supplements that you might use. Your surgeon might also ask that you stop taking certain medications such as NSAIDs, at least around three weeks before the procedure is performed.
If only a small amount of fat needs to be removed, your procedure can be done in an office setting. But if a large amount needs to be removed, the procedure has to be done in a hospital, and it will require you to stay overnight as well. In either case, you should consider arranging someone who can drive you home and can stay with you for at least the first night after the procedure.
Types of Liposuction
Tumescent Liposuction is known to be the most common type of liposuction. The surgeon first injects a sterile solution, which is a mixture of saltwater to aid in removing the fat, an anesthetic to relieve the patient’s pain and a drug that will make the blood vessels constrict into the areas that are being treated. Due to the mixture, the affected areas might swell and stiffen.
After this, the surgeon makes small cuts into the patient’s skin after which he inserts a cannula, a thin tube into the skin. This is connected to a vacuum that will suction the fat and fluids from the body. Your body fluid can also be replenished through an intravenous line.
Laser-assisted liposuction is another technique that uses high-intensity laser light which breaks down the fat to remove them. During this technique, the surgeon inserts a laser fiber through an incision in the skin and emulsifies the fat deposits. After this, a cannula is used to remove the fat.
Power-assisted liposuction is another type of liposuction in where the surgeon uses a cannula which moves in a rapid back-and-forth motion. Due to this vibration, the surgeon can pull out tough fat far more easily as well as faster. This method also involves less pain and swelling and allows your surgeon to remove the fat more precisely. This technique is usually used when you have large volumes of fat that require removal.
Ultrasound-assisted liposuction is a type of liposuction is used in conjunction with the traditional liposuction method. During this method, the surgeon inserts a metal rod, which emits ultrasonic energy under the skin. This can rupture the fat-cell walls, resulting in the breaking down of the fat, making them easy to remove.
During the procedure
Some liposuction procedures might require only local or regional anesthesia, as anesthesia is limited to specific areas of the body. However, other procedures can require general anesthesia, which can induce a temporary state of unconsciousness. You might receive a sedative, through a IV injection, so that you can remain calm as well as relaxed.
Your heart rate will be closely monitored by the surgical team, along with your blood pressure and blood oxygen level throughout the procedure. If you were given local anesthesia, and you feel pain during your procedure, inform your surgeon, as your medication or motions may require adjustment. Depending on the fat that needs removal, the procedure can last up to several hours.
If you were administered general anesthesia, you will wake up in the recovery room. If you are in a hospital, you might need to stay overnight to make sure that you’re not dehydrated or in shock due to the fluid loss.
After the procedure, the swelling should subside within a few weeks. The treated area will look less bulky over time. Within several months, you can expect the treated area to have a much leaner appearance.
Though it is natural for the skin to lose some firmness with aging, liposuction generally gives long-lasting results if you are able to maintain your weight.
There are also a few risks of this procedure, which might result in some complications or side effects. They include:
- Severe bruising which can last up to several weeks.
- Numbness in the affected area for a while, but this is temporary
- Inflammation and swelling which can take up to 6 months to settle
- Thrombophlebitis, a blood clot which forms in a vein can also cause inflammation
- If there is poor skin elasticity or if the fat removal has been uneven, it is possible that the skin can appear withered, wavy, or bumpy.
- Anesthesia involves a small risk of death as well.
- Although it is rare, a skin infection can sometimes occur after the liposuction procedure. This needs to be treated surgically though, with the risk of scarring.
- Although very rare, sometimes liposuction can cause puncture of internal organs.
- Sometimes as the fluids are injected or suctioned, there is a change in the body’s fluid levels, which can cause kidney or heart problems.
- Sometimes, when fluid is injected into the body, it can accumulate in the lungs, which is called pulmonary edema.
- Sometimes, fat can get into the blood vessels, and travel into the lungs, which can block the circulation. Know as pulmonary embolism, this can be quite dangerous life-threatening.
- The cannula movement can sometimes lead to friction burns to the skin or the nerves.