Dieting and exercise don’t always give us the results we’re looking for. Stubborn fatty deposits around the stomach, thighs, back, arms, neck, and buttocks can linger even though we are otherwise healthy individuals. Fortunately, there is liposuction.
Liposuction is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures and is well-known for its ability to help people sculpt away stubborn pockets of fat. However, what is not as well-known is that there are many kinds of liposuction techniques, each with their own pros and cons.
With the constant advancement of medical techniques and technology, liposuction is continually evolving in its capabilities and efficacy. The classic understanding of liposuction techniques is basically the same: a thin hollow tube called a cannula is attached to a suction device, which is used to suction out fat. The cannula is inserted through tiny incisions, and then the practitioner works to remove targeted pockets of fat.
Since its inception, liposuction has been modified to include the use of lasers and ultrasound energy — techniques such as Vaser, ultrasonic, and SmartLipo. High-definition liposuction is also available, which is a technique that targets a specific area of the body to create a slim, athletic appearance — e.g., six-pack abs. Different technologies like laser or ultrasound are used to enhance the fat-removal process and provide smoother, more natural-looking results.
One of the most popular types of liposuction technique is called tumescent liposuction. This technique involves using large amounts of local anesthetic at the operating site. Tumescent liposuction eliminates the need for general anesthesia and is also known to promote faster healing afterwards.
The Virginia Institute of Plastic Surgery offers both invasive and non-invasive forms of liposuction. Schedule a consultation with board-certified plastic surgeons like Doctors Reps and Burton Sundin to learn more about the different kinds of liposuction and to determine how liposuction can help you.
There are many factors that contribute to a person’s weight gain, including lack of proper diet and exercise, genetics and lifestyle. In many cases, some weight gain can be controlled with proper diet and exercise. However, for a significant part of the population, no amount of dieting or exercise will be able to remove excess fatty deposits in the typical ‘trouble’ areas, such as:
- Stomach / waist
- Upper arms
- Back / flanks
- Hips and buttocks
- Cheeks, chin and neck
- Chest area
Those of us for whom diet and exercise is not enough, liposuction may be the solution for slimming and reshaping these ‘trouble’ areas. Liposuction targets specific areas of the body by removing excess body fat, leaving the treated areas smoother, suppler and in proportion to the rest of your body. Liposuction is not intended for those who are looking to lose massive amounts of weight, but when liposuction is performed in conjunction with other procedures, such as the abdominoplasty, or ‘Tummy Tuck’, the combination can be very effective.
It is important to understand what liposuction can do and what it cannot do. Unrealistic expectations of the liposuction procedure can be disappointing and frustrating. Liposuction is not a treatment to remove sagging skin or cellulite and it is not an alternative to healthy diet and exercise.
What to expect during your consultation
As with any cosmetic enhancement surgery, you should first consider your motivations for surgery to be sure that you’re choosing surgery for yourself and not to fulfill someone else’s’ desires or expectations of you or your body. It is a very personal matter and any decision for surgery should come after careful consideration of all the facts and emotions involved.
Liposuction may be a good option for you if you:
- Maintain good physical health and reasonable weight
- Don’t smoke
- Have realistic expectations
- Are frustrated by your attempts at losing specific areas of fatty deposits through diet and exercise
What to expect during your consultation
In order to create the best possible results from your liposuction surgery, it is important that your surgeon consult with you to discuss your desires and expectations, as well as how liposuction surgery will impact your health, lifestyle and general well-being. It is a good idea to prepare by considering the following before your consultation:
- General medical history, including the results of laboratory work and past surgeries
- A detailed account of current prescription medications, supplements (vitamins or others) that you take
- Any use of tobacco or other drugs
- What are your motivations for surgery? What are your expectations?
At the consultation, your surgeon will also:
- Evaluate your current health
- Photographically document the ‘trouble’ areas
- Based on the information gathered, your surgeon will discuss your surgical options and recommend a course of treatment
- Disclose the risk of common complications associated with abdominoplasty surgery and the use of anesthesia
- Cover what to do the day of surgery
- Cover post-operative care and recovery
Preparing for surgery
In the weeks before surgery, your surgeon may request:
- Further laboratory testing or medical evaluations
- Adjusting current prescriptions
- That you avoid the consumption of alcohol, drugs and abstain from smoking for a certain period surrounding surgery
Finally, pre-surgery, your surgeon will go over the options you may have regarding the location of your surgery. Typically, the liposuction procedure is performed in an accredited surgical center, outpatient ambulatory surgical center or a hospital.
What happens during liposuction?
Depending on your individual circumstances, your doctor will suggest either intravenous or general anesthesia.
Liposuction is a very popular cosmetic procedure because it can produce very dramatic results with very little scarring. In fact, most incisions from liposuction are so small that once they fade with time, most scars are so inconspicuous that they are virtually unnoticeable.
Once the incision is made, a sterile saline solution is injected with the fatty deposit to loosen the fat and prepare it for abstraction. Then the fat is sucked out of the body with a surgical vacuum in a methodical back and forth motion, through a thin tube called a cannula.
See the results
Although you will notice immediate results, your tissues will continue to recover even further as swelling subsides and scars begin to fade, and you will find that your results will continue to unfold over time.
Important facts about the safety and risks of liposuction:
Ultimately, the decision to undergo the liposuction procedure is yours alone. After careful consideration of both the risks and benefits of surgery, you’ll have to weigh the risks against the potential benefits to make an informed decision that you can live with. Your health care professional will go over all potential risks of surgery and will make themselves available to answer any and all of your questions.
Here is a listing of some of the risks associated with liposuction surgery:
- Adverse scarring
- Excessive bleeding (hematoma)
- Complications associated with scar healing, including pain associated with surgery
- Fluids aggregation
- Necrosis, or fatty tissues deep within the affected area may die
- Leg swelling that won’t go away
- Skin loosening or sagging
- Potential risks of anesthesia use
- Blood clots
- Thermal burns from use of ultrasound during surgery (applies only to ultrasound-assisted liposuction)
- Fat clots
Is it right for me?
If you’re one of those people who are bothered by the fact that no amount of reasonable diet and exercise can remove those unwanted ‘trouble’ areas of fat, liposuction may be an option for you.
You may be a candidate for liposuction if:
- You are an adult who is not considered medically obese
- You are generally healthy and do not suffer from any major or life-threatening health conditions
- You do not smoke
- Have realistic expectations and look to use liposuction in conjunction with diet and exercise to maintain weight control
After any surgery, it is important to closely monitor how you feel, especially directly after surgery. Varying degrees of pain are certainly to be expected, however, if you experience any kind of tightness or shortness of breath, pains deep in your chest or an irregular heart beat you should go to the doctor immediately. To avoid complications, it is of paramount importance that you strictly follow your doctor’s post-surgical instructions and be careful!
To maintain shape and pressure, special bandages will be used which will control swelling in the affected areas. Temporary drainage tubes may also be used which will allow for drainage of excess blood or fluid.
Here are some important questions to ask your doctor before surgery:
- Where will I recover directly after surgery?
- Will I be prescribed any post-surgery medications?
- How often do my bandages need to be changed and when will they be removed permanently?
- When will the drain tubes be removed (when appropriate)
- How soon will I need to return for a follow-up visit?
The results will be long-lasting
While some results will be visible immediately, your body will continue to heal and as the swelling subsides, it will continue to unfold a more contoured, shapely body that can be maintained through use of proper diet and exercise. It is important to understand that by following your doctor’s post-operative instructions thoroughly and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you can determine the quality of the results of your liposuction surgery, to some degree.