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Liposuction

What is liposuction?

Liposuction is a procedure that removes excess fat through a suctioning process. Although it's not a substitute for weight loss, it can change the body's shape and contour.

Liposuction can be used to remove excess fat that doesn't respond to exercise and dieting, including fat around the thighs, stomach, upper arms, buttocks, or the waistline.

What are some different liposuction techniques?

Some of the different liposuction techniques include the following:

  • Tumescent technique. The tumescent technique involves the injection of a large quantity of a medical solution into a fatty area. The medical solution is a combination of medicines that numb the area, as well as shrink the capillaries and prevent blood loss. Afterward, a tube connected to a vacuum is inserted into the fat to be treated. The fat is then suctioned out.

  • Ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty. In the ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty, a special tube that produces ultrasound energy is used. This ultrasound energy breaks down the walls of the fat cells turning them to liquid. The fat is then suctioned out.

  • Laser-assisted lipoplasty. Lasers help with liposuction by heating fat to make removal more efficient. It causes less bruising and faster healing. 

  • Power-assisted liposuction. A tool on the end of the suction device helps to cut through the fat, making it easier to remove.

Possible complications linked to liposuction techniques

Possible complications of liposuction may include:

  • Injury to the skin or deeper tissues

  • Irregular skin surface. Changes in the skin surface can occur after liposuction, giving it an uneven or baggy look. There can also be changes in the skin color; and areas that may become numb or persistently painful.

  • Greater risks if large areas are treated. The risk for infection, the formation of blood clots or fat clots, excessive fluid loss, and damage to the skin, nerves, or vital organs is greater when large areas are treated.

  • Lidocaine toxicity or fluid in the lungs. If the lidocaine content is too high, it may cause lidocaine toxicity. If too much fluid is injected, it may cause fluid buildup in the lungs.

Who are candidates for liposuction?

Generally, people of normal weight who have localized areas of protruding fat achieve the best results, however, people who are slightly overweight can also benefit from liposuction. The best candidates for liposuction include the following:

  • Normal-weight (or slightly-overweight) people

  • People with firm, elastic skin

  • People who have pockets of excess fat in certain areas

  • Physically healthy and psychologically stable people

  • People with realistic expectations

Age is not a major factor, although older persons with diminished skin elasticity may not have the same results as persons with tighter skin.

About the procedure

Although each procedure varies, generally, liposuction surgeries follow this process:

Where the procedure may be done

  • Surgeon's office-based surgical facility

  • Outpatient surgery center

  • Hospital outpatient

  • Hospital inpatient

Anesthesia options may include:

  • General anesthesia

  • Local anesthesia, combined with intravenous sedation (allows the patient to remain awake but relaxed)

Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: David Lickstein MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2020
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