Many people think of plastic surgery as purely cosmetic, but there’s a lot more to this surgical specialty. Plastic surgeons often do reconstructive procedures that can rebuild body parts after an injury or illness.
What is liposuction?
Liposuction or lipo as it is commonly called, is a surgical procedure involving use of small thin tubes called cannula to suction fat out of the body. A person who has gained excess weight and is unable to shed the fat through diet and exercise alone may opt to have liposuction in areas such as the neck, arms, breasts, abdomen, buttocks, hips or thighs. Liposuction is considered cosmetic surgery, meaning it is not medically necessary but is designed to improve the person’s appearance.
Types of liposuction procedures
Before you have a liposuction procedure, your surgeon will explain the different options available to you based on a variety of factors, including how much fat you need to have removed. Liposuction treatments have improved dramatically with advances in technology so recovery time is shorter and less painful.
The types of liposuction include:
- Laser-assisted liposuction – This type of procedure may be used for smaller areas for more precise targeting of fat cells. The laser liquefies the fat cells so they’re easier to suction out through the cannula.
- Super wet technique – This option involves injection of a saline solution into the surgical area, which helps loosen up the fat so it’s easier to suction out. It also helps decrease the amount of blood loss.
- Tumescent liposuction – Similar to the super wet technique, this involves a saline injection along with an injection of anesthesia. Body fat and bodily fluids are removed through the cannula.
- Ultrasound-assisted liposuction – As the name suggests, ultrasound (sound waves) is used to help break up the fat for easier removal.
Each procedure requires local anesthesia (numbing of the surgical area) and some procedures may involve light sedation (you’ll be awake but sleepy and won’t feel anything). If you’re having a larger procedure involving more areas of the body, you may need general anesthesia (fully asleep).
After the liposuction procedure, your surgeon will wrap the area to reduce pain and swelling. You may also need to wear a compression garment, which further helps keep the area firmly held together until healing is complete.
It may take several days to move around comfortably and several weeks to get back to regular activities. It may take a few months to a year to see the full results. You may also have some excess skin in the areas where you had liposuction. In some cases, the skin will stretch back into shape, particularly if you are younger. In other cases, you may still have excess skin and may opt to have it surgically removed.
If you maintain your weight, the liposuction results will remain. If you gain weight, however, you will gain additional fat cells and can ultimately reverse the results of your procedure. Liposuction is not a substitute for healthy weight loss.
As with any surgery, there are some risks associated with liposuction, such as infection of the incision sites (areas of the body where you were cut and where the tubes went in). You may be at higher risk of complications if you have coronary artery disease, diabetes, or a weakened immune system.