Also known as lipoplasty and body contouring surgery
Liposuction surgery sculpts your body, eliminating unwanted pockets of exercise and diet-resistant fat from the buttocks, hips, love handles, saddlebags, thighs, calves, ankles, breasts (including male breasts), back, arms and neck. Liposuction is often combined with other procedures to create a desired shape and is one of the safest and most popular cosmetic procedures.
These are the top three pros and cons to weigh when considering liposuction. If you want to focus on those specifically unique to you, please consult with your aesthetic plastic surgeon.
Are you a good candidate for liposuction?
For certain individuals, diet and exercise will never get rid of stubborn pockets of fat. The following are some common reasons why you may want to consider liposuction:
If you are in good general health and have a positive attitude and realistic expectations, you are most likely a good candidate for this procedure.
Liposuction removes fat from your body using suction. In this procedure, small, thin, blunt-tipped tubes (cannula) are inserted through small cuts in the skin. Your plastic surgeon moves these tubes under your skin to target fat deposits and then suction them out. There are a variety of techniques that facilitate liposuction:
SAFELipo is a procedure that has been developed by an Aesthetic Society member that involves a 3-step process of separation, aspiration and fat equalization.
Originally developed to address the challenges of revision liposuction cases, the process removes a significant amount of fat without increasing chances of contour deformities or skin damage.
There are many techniques and new technologies associated with liposuction, as mentioned above under How is liposuction performed?
Some are traditional, such as suction-assisted liposuction (SAL), and others are relatively new. It is important to know that while some new technologies can improve your outcome, choosing a procedure based on “what’s new” is never a medically sound decision. Hearing about a brand name procedure such as Smartlipo or CoolLipo on television, through an advertisement or online does not necessarily mean it is the best procedure for you. Your board-certified plastic surgeon will determine what is best for you based on his or her experience, your body type and your cosmetic goals.
It's important to choose your surgeon based on:
Members of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery are experienced and qualified to perform your aesthetic procedure. Learn how to select a surgeon.
After finding a board-certified plastic surgeon in your area who is experienced in performing liposuction surgery, you will need to make an office appointment to set up your consultation. Generally, because of the in-depth nature of the consultation, there is a cost associated with the initial visit.
During your initial consultation, you will have the opportunity to discuss your cosmetic goals. Your surgeon will evaluate you as a candidate for liposuction and clarify what liposuction can do for you. Understanding your goals and medical condition, both alternative and additional treatments may be considered (see related procedures).
During the initial consultation, you can expect your surgeon to:
You should come to the consultation prepared to discuss your complete medical history. This will include information about:
Based on your goals, physical characteristics and the surgeon’s training and experience, your surgeon will share recommendations and information with you, including:
For a general list of questions to ask your surgeon about his or her background, to find out about plastic surgery safety and to plan your procedure, visit the Planning Toolkit.
We developed these questions to help you:
It is important for you to take an active role in your surgery, so please use this list of questions as a starting point for your initial consultation:
Your surgeon will provide you with preoperative instructions, answer any questions you may have, take a medical detailed medical history and perform a physical exam to determine your fitness for surgery.
In advance of your procedure, your surgeon will ask you to:
Liposuction surgery is usually performed on an outpatient basis. If this is the case, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery and stay with you at least the first night following surgery. If you are undergoing a large volume of liposuction, you may be asked to stay in the surgical facility overnight.
What can I expect on the day of liposuction surgery?
Your liposuction surgery may be performed in an accredited hospital, free-standing ambulatory facility or office-based surgical suite. Most liposuction procedures take ninety minutes or less to complete but may take longer depending on how much fat is removed and the number of liposuction sites. If multiple sites on both sides of the body are suctioned, the procedure could take over three hours.
Your surgeon will discuss how long it will be before you can return to your normal level of activity and work. After surgery, you and your caregiver will receive detailed instructions about your postsurgical care, including information about:
See options for short-term recovery locations in Aftercare and Recovery (Planning Toolkit).
Immediately after your liposuction surgery
The incisions where the doctor inserted the cannula may be leaky or drain fluids for several days. In some cases, the doctor may insert a drainage tube to drain fluid away from the wound.
You will wear special tight garments to keep your skin compressed. Your doctor will tell you how long to wear these, usually for weeks. Some doctors provide these garments but others will tell you where to purchase them before your surgery.
When the anesthesia wears off, you may have some pain. If the pain is extreme or long-lasting, contact your physician. You will also have some redness and swelling after the surgery. In some cases, the swelling will remain for weeks or even months. Contact your surgeon to find out if your pain, redness and swelling is normal or a sign of a problem.
Recovery time frame after liposuction
It is vitally important that you follow all patient care instructions provided by your surgeon. This will include information about wearing compression garments, taking an antibiotic, if prescribed, and the level of activity that is safe. Your surgeon will also provide detailed instructions about the normal symptoms you will experience and any potential signs of complications. It is important to realize that the amount of time it takes for recovery varies greatly among individuals.
The first two weeks
Weeks two to six
Since the healing process is gradual, you should expect to wait at least several months to get an accurate picture of the results of your surgery. The small incisions used for access will fade over a number of months, usually becoming barely visible. For six to nine months, you may experience a fluctuating return of ten to 15 percent swelling with exercise or excessive activity. It is important to see your doctor as scheduled. Follow-up visits will continue for several weeks and then after several months at prescribed intervals.
The results of liposuction surgery are technically permanent because fat cells have been removed. However, your body shape and contours might be affected by weight gain, aging, pregnancy, family genes and lifestyle factors.
It is crucial to maintain healthy habits and a stable weight to maintain liposuction results. Following liposuction, if you continue to eat excess calories, fat will no longer be stored in the cells that have been removed, but will be stored in other body areas.
There is no way to predict where your body will store new fat. What's more, your surgeon will not remove all of the fat cells from your target area, so you could still increase the size of remaining fat cells in that area.
The basic message: keep your weight stable for a long lasting result.
Maintain a relationship with your aesthetic plastic surgeon
For safety, as well as the most beautiful and healthy outcome, it’s important to return to your plastic surgeon’s office for follow-up evaluation at prescribed times and whenever you notice any changes in the treated area. Do not hesitate to contact your surgeon when you have any questions or concerns.
The cost of liposuction varies from doctor to doctor and from one geographic area to another. Because liposuction is elective surgery, insurance does not cover these costs. Many surgeons offer patient financing plans to make the procedure more affordable.
See the national average for physician fees per procedure.
These numbers only reflect the physician/surgeon fees last year and do not include fees for the surgical facility, anesthesia, medical tests, prescriptions, surgical garments or other miscellaneous costs related to surgery.
Choose your surgeon based on quality, training and experience—not cost.
See why ASAPS members are widely recognized for upholding the highest standards in the area of aesthetic plastic surgery by viewing their basic credentials, training and certifications.
Fortunately, significant complications from liposuction surgery are infrequent. Your specific risks will be discussed during your consultation.
All surgical procedures have some degree of risk. Some of the potential complications of all surgeries are:
Other risks specific to liposuction are outlined below:
You can help minimize certain risks by following the advice and instructions of your board-certified plastic surgeon, both before and after your liposuction surgery.