Liposuction is the cosmetic surgical procedure of re-shaping different parts of the human body by utilizing a suction process to remove fat from specific areas, making them slimmer and better proportioned. The parts of the body most commonly requested to be worked on are the neck, arms, thighs, buttocks, hips and abdomen. Other areas that draw the interest of potential candidates are calves, ankles, chest, back, and in some instances, parts of the face as well.
Although the procedure has received attention from patients seeking to reduce their overall weight, studies have shown that long term weight loss effects are minimal at best. On the other hand, the procedure targets patients with particular aesthetic expectations for their bodies who want to change the shape and outline of their body.
Typically, the procedure is carried out on patients whose bodies haven’t responded well to dieting and exercise – although it is also used for the purpose of breast reduction. The procedure can either be performed as a standalone or alongside other plastic surgery procedures.
It is worth noting that Liposuction does not remove cellulite from the body, is not a treatment for obesity, and should very much be considered to be a process that molds the shape of the body rather than one to reduce excess weight. When weight is gained, fat cells increase in both size and volume. A number of fat cells in a particular area can be reduced using Liposuction, the amount of which would depend on the appearance of the area and volume of fat. The changes in body shape will then be permanent, provided your weight remains stable.
Once the Liposuction is complete, the skin then molds to the new contours within the treated areas. If you have good skin tone and elasticity, it is likely that your skin will appear smooth. However, if you happen to have thin skin with poor elasticity, skin in the treated areas may appear loose.
Studies have shown that long term weight loss effects are minimal at best
All you need to know
There are several possible reasons why you might be considering a Liposuction procedure. Listed below are some of the most common ones:
- Exercise and dietary regimes have not resulted in the desired physical body changes that you had in mind, with fatty deposits being retained in particular areas despite your best efforts
- You might be considering breast reduction for health or aesthetic purposes (or both)
- You have a highly specific expectation for your personal body contours and general appearance that you would like to see properly realized
Now that you’re familiar with what Liposuction is, let’s have a look at some of the things you need to do to prepare for the procedure.
Preparing for the Procedure
What type of Liposuction?
There are several different types of Liposuction treatment that you can opt for. Common to all Liposuction is the use of a thin tube called a Cannula, which is connected to a vacuum pump (aspirator) that suctions the fat from your body.
The most common type is known as Tumescent Liposuction. Here the surgeon injects a sterile solution consisting of saline, lidocaine and epinephrine into the area where the fat is to be removed. A rapid back-and-forth motion (fanning) is then applied with the cannula allowing the surgeon to extract tough fat more easily. This method can sometimes result in less pain and swelling, allowing the surgeon to remove fat with more precision, particularly on smaller areas such as knees or ankles.
There is also Laser-Assisted Liposuction (SmartLipo TM) in which a laser beam is used to produce a burst of energy which results in the liquification of the fat, prior to its extraction by suction.
Steps to take before surgery
There are a number of things you can do to prepare yourself adequately for your Liposuction procedure, as well as to guarantee that you achieve the best physical outcome possible. Exposure to nicotine by way of cigarettes needs to be avoided at least 2 weeks before the date of the procedure. This is to deter complications arising during the procedure relating to risks involving anesthesia, pneumonia and blood flow, as well to ensure a steady recovery after the operation.
Doctors also strongly advise against the consumption of alcohol at least 48 hours before the procedure commences. Additionally, certain prescription medications which can increase bleeding in the body such as aspirin, anti-inflammatory medication and certain herbal supplements should be stopped. There are however some supplements that may assist with recovery and doctors believe a low fat diet 2 weeks prior to surgery might also be useful with this. Nevertheless, make sure to declare all your medications and supplements to your doctor at the earliest and request advice on your dietary habits before and after the procedure.
You should not eat or drink anything after midnight, the day before your surgery. Also be sure to take a shower before arriving for surgery which serves to reduce the threat of bacterial infection. Finally, it’s a good idea to wear loose fitting and comfortable clothes which are easy to put on and take off. This is to avoid putting any additional strain on your body after surgery, which may be exacerbated if you need to bend and stretch when clothing or undressing yourself.
About the Procedure
A Liposuction procedure essentially involves the use of an aspirator to suction fat out from the body via a tube or Cannula. Below we have outlined the general procedural steps that you can expect when undergoing Liposuction treatment as well as the specific variances between Tumescent, UAL and Laser-Assisted Liposuction (SmartLipo TM).
As with most surgical procedures, the first step requires the proper administration of anesthesia. This is necessary to induce the patient into a state of either complete or partial numbness of the body so that no pain is experienced during the operation. Depending on the circumstances of your particular procedure, the doctor will choose either local anesthesia, intravenous sedation, or general anesthesia. Liposuction treatment is generally considered to be minimally invasive and therefore it is most likely that you will receive local anesthesia.
Remember that you should not imbibe any solid foods or liquids after midnight, the day before your surgery is scheduled. This is because when you are under anaesthesia, your body will not be able to react properly to instances of food regurgitation, which can lead to complications.
The most common part of the Liposuction treatment is also the most straightforward. Once you are properly anaesthetized, the doctor will infuse a combination of saline, lidocaine and epinephrine (essentially a diluted local anesthetic) to the areas which are to be operated on. This is to reduce any potential excessive bleeding and trauma that you may otherwise experience.
Next the doctor will place surgical markings on your body to highlight the areas that will require incisions, followed by the actual incision making process itself. A thin hollow tube or Cannula is subsequently inserted into the incision to loosen and dislodge excess fat by applying a controlled back-and-forth motion. The excess fat is then suctioned out of the body via the Cannula, assisted by an aspirator or surgical vacuum.
Laser Assisted Liposuction (LAL) (SmartLipo TM)
This form of Liposuction is almost identical to the Tumescent procedure save for one additional step in the process. With LAL, once the Cannula is inserted into the incision, instead of suctioning out the fat immediately, a laser energy burst is sent to the area of fat being operated on which liquefies it, allowing it to be then extracted easily via the surgical suction vacuum. LAL is perfectly suited to remove small areas of localized fat, resistant to diet and exercise.
Once the surgeon has completed the Liposuction procedure, he will then proceed to close up the incisions that were previously made. In some instances the doctor may wait for the wound to heal slightly before closing it up.
Stitches and sutures may be applied depending on the extent of the work done, however – once again this is unlikely as the Cannula markings are generally extremely tiny. Simple cell regeneration should therefore take care of the healing to a large extent.
Recovery & Aftercare
After your Liposuction surgery is complete, you will need to make some considerations for your aftercare and recovery. Your primary concern is likely to be the resultant swelling from the procedure. Bear in mind that depending on the magnitude and extent of your particular surgery, swelling can take up to a year to completely dissipate, however rest assured that you should see clear improvements within a few months.
Your surgeon will advise you to wear a compression garment post-surgery. The garment is there to provide firm compression to encourage drainage of residual blood tinged anaesthetic, to reduce bleeding immediately after surgery and to reduce swelling the time that the body is healing.
If the procedure that you opted for was a minimally invasive one then you are very much encouraged to resume your routine daily activities as soon as you are comfortable doing so. However, impact exercises and contact sports should be avoided entirely for some weeks but walking should be encouraged after few days.
You may also want to consider lymphatic massage therapy to further aid in your recovery process. Consult your doctor about this to ensure that you are in a suitable condition.
Common Concerns (Risks)
As with all forms of surgery, there are a number of risk factors involved that you should be aware of prior to making your decision. Provided you have adhered to the proper preparatory guidelines, these are some of the risks to be considered.
You may find that your skin appears bumpy, wavy or withered in parts. This may be due to uneven fat removal, poor skin elasticity, or unusual healing resulting in contour irregularities which could be permanent. Additionally, a permanent spotted appearance of the skin may result from damage cause by the Cannula tube.
You may also experience prolonged numbness in the parts of the body operated on, as well as temporary nerve irritation. Although highly rare, skin infections are also a possibility and can be life threatening if left untreated. Equally rare, a Cannula tube may inadvertently puncture an internal organ and may require surgical repair.