You have likely heard about liposuction hundreds of times, but perhaps you do not know exactly what it involves. Liposuction, also known as body contouring or liposculpture, is the single most common cosmetic surgery in the United States, with more than 400,000 procedures done in the U.S. annually. Liposuction is a cosmetic surgery procedure in which the fat in a particular area of the body is removed via a cannula, a tiny hollow tube attached to a high-pressure vacuum.
Liposuction, also known as body contouring or liposculpture, is the single most common cosmetic surgery in the United States, with more than 400,000 procedures done in the U.S. annually. Liposuction is a cosmetic surgery procedure in which the fat in a particular area of the body is removed via a cannula, a tiny hollow tube attached to a high-pressure vacuum.
Current theories about fat cells state that many fat cells in a given area develop throughout childhood. Still, after puberty, the number of cells generally does not increase. With weight gain, the amount of fat stored in a given cell can increase, but the number of cells will not. This concept explains why removing fat (and fat cells) with liposuction can be permanent. Following liposuction, the number of fat cells in the treated area is reduced. If future weight gain occurs, more fat can be stored in the treated area, but the shape that was achieved will be maintained. For example, if a saddle bag on the outer thigh is removed with liposuction, but after surgery, the patient gains a significant amount of weight, the thigh will become larger, but the saddle bag will remain flat.
Dr. Rice is an experienced liposuction surgeon, having done hundreds of body contouring procedures in his career. In addition to body contouring with liposuction, he also performs liposuction on all of his facelift patients to ensure a lifted and defined neck and jawline. He enjoys the artistic aspect that body contouring/liposculpture entails, and he takes pride in the finesse that is required in such a procedure.
Recovery time for liposuction varies on the extent and number of areas that are treated but is generally not more than 3-7 days. Results are instantaneous, although it sometimes takes several months for swelling to disappear completely.
Liposuction is not a cure for obesity, nor is it a weight-loss method. The goal of liposuction is esthetic. Although mega liposuction (an experimental procedure done in a hospital setting) has been shown to improve a patient's body mass index (BMI), we do not perform liposuction with this goal in mind. Furthermore, liposuction does not remove cellulite or stretch marks.
The liposuction procedure is designed for individuals who have relatively stable body weight but have specific areas of the body they would like to improve in contour. Liposuction is about shape-changing; it works beautifully to bring back the hourglass shape we lose due to lifestyle factors, aging, or childbirth. It can remove stubborn fat deposits under the chin, at the bra line, or that cause the "muffin top" that we despise. It can permanently slim thighs and eliminate "cankles" (when the fat volume of the calf extends into the ankle). Additionally, the ideal liposuction candidate will have adequate skin elasticity and be in good overall health.
Liposuction can be done anywhere there is a collection of fat on the body. However, it is most commonly used to shape the neckline, upper arms, chest or breasts (male or female), back, flanks (love handles), buttocks, hips, thighs (outer and inner), calves, and ankles.
Liposuction procedures typically last between one to four hours, depending upon the size and number of areas to be addressed. The first step is the surgical plan. Before the procedure, Dr. Rice will draw concentric circles and shapes around the areas to be contoured, and he will do this with your input while you are standing up. This method is important because our shape changes when we lie down, and the contours of the area change when the numbing solution has been injected. Part of this plan also includes deciding where it is best to place the ports or openings where the cannulas are to be inserted.
Patients are then taken to our on-site surgical suite, where a nurse anesthetist gives them either twilight anesthesia or, if smaller areas are to be done, oral sedatives. Safety and comfort are always our priorities, and with this in mind, we use the lightest amount of sedation that still keeps our patients comfortable. The areas to be treated are cleansed with surgical soap, and the port sites are numbed with lidocaine. Through the ports, using an injection cannula, the fat is then completely numbed using a tumescent solution containing lidocaine and epinephrine. This solution both numbs the treatment area and reduces the amount of bleeding that may occur.
Once all the targeted fat has been smoothly contoured, dressings and compression garments are put on. More tumescent solution is injected than is removed during the liposuction portion of the procedure to ensure complete numbness and comfort during the procedure. This excess fluid is best removed by allowing it to drain from the ports, most of which are left open for this purpose. The drainage of the excess fluid can be messy, and patients need to be prepared to deal with the draining fluid by using towels and barriers to protect chairs and mattresses from potential staining. It should be noted that drains are not utilized in all liposuction procedures and that the draining period will last for just a few days after your surgery.
After your liposuction procedure, you should expect some swelling, soreness, and bruising. However, the discomfort is typically mild and short-lived. Stiffness and soreness may linger for several days, but pain medication is always provided to help control any discomfort throughout your recovery.
Depending upon how extensive the procedure is, most liposuction patients can return to work within a week. If only one or two areas are done, such as the male chest/breasts or the outer thigh area, you may feel comfortable returning to work after just 1-2 days. We encourage all patients to walk for 15-20 minutes the evening of their surgery to improve circulation and reduce blood clots forming in the legs. We also strongly advise that you avoid strenuous activity for approximately 2 weeks.
If drains are utilized in your procedure, they will be removed 3 days after surgery, and you should be free of all bruising after about 2 weeks. The initial post-surgical swelling should be healed after 4 weeks.
Most patients will notice an immediate improvement in their shape after a liposuction procedure, despite noticeable post-surgical swelling. This swelling can make it hard to distinguish your surgery's true results, but patients should be encouraged to know that they can expect 80% of the swelling to heal by 4 weeks after their surgery. However, it is common for the final 20% of swelling to take up to 6 months to go away completely. It is typical to go through a phase of a firm, "woody" swelling of the liposuctioned area, followed by an itchy phase that can be quite intense, as all the nerve endings traumatized by the procedure recover. Remember, and rest assured, that all swelling and numbness will eventually subside and return to normal.
Body contouring from liposuction can be permanent. As long as you maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen, the fat will not return, and your results will be preserved. For this reason, we encourage our patients to embrace a healthy, active lifestyle that includes mindful eating and regular exercise after their surgery.
Once you have healed completely from your liposuction surgery and all swelling has subsided, your results should be dramatic and beautiful. By continuing to take care of your skin and overall health, you will be able to enjoy your new appearance for years to come.
CoolSculpting is ideal for those who have stubborn problem areas of fat that do not improve with diet and exercise. It is a safe and effective body contouring treatment, which delivers proven permanent and visible results, but it may take more than one treatment to achieve your desired results. Liposuction is a more appropriate treatment if you have larger areas of fat to address. With liposuction, results tend to be more predictable and achievable in one session. Our staff is well-versed in the differences between these two procedures and would welcome the opportunity to provide a consultation if you would like to discuss your goals.