Liposcution: Description, Procedures, and Risks

What is liposuction?

Liposuction is also known as a lipoplasty.

Patients who undergo liposuction generally have a stable body weight, but would like to remove undesirable deposits of body fat in specific parts of the body and to achieve the well-proportioned body contours.

Who is this for?

Liposuction is suitable for people that have excess fat, or neck and jowl therapy.

This procedure will not solve cellulite, stretch marks or loose saggy skin problems.

But liposuction is not for everyone. Those that have chronic or ongoing health problems, like diabetes, heart problems, poor blood circulation or lung disease aren’t good candidates, as well as those that are too over weight, those that have clotting disorders (such as thrombophilia, a disorder in which the blood clots easily or excessively), or during pregnancy.

It is also normally accepted that people that are intending to undergo liposuction should avoid blood thinning drugs, like aspirin for 2 week prior to the procedure, and smoking should be stopped at least 2 months prior.

What is the procedure?

The plastic surgeon inserts a hollow tube, called a cannula, underneath the skin to remove pockets of excess fat. The surgeon will make small keyhole incision of 3 mm in the skin. The incision is made in a discreet spot, such as underneath your arm or under your bikini line. The fat is then loosened in three ways, namely by manually using water, laser or with ultrasound.

The procedure is done under local anesthesia, but mostly it’s done in the doctor’s consultation room under conscious sedation. This is while the patient’s blood pressure, heart rate and blood oxygen levels are monitored. 2 liters of fat at a time is removed. The maximum would between 3-5 liters of fat, which is equal to 4-5% of a person’s body weight. The total procedure will take around 3 hours. If there is more fat to be removed, it will be done in a hospital.

After the surgeon is done, they leave the cuts open for drainage. Afterward the treatment area may be mildly painful for as long as two weeks. Pain is managed by either a prescription or over-the-counter pain pills.

What is the risks?

Possible complications include:

  • Allergic reaction here may be an allergic reaction to medications or material used during surgery
    Infection although rare at around 1%. But a skin infections may occur after liposuction surgery. Sometimes this needs to be treated surgically, with the risk of scarring. It is diabetes and patients on auto-immune suppressing medication that are at higher risk, and should ideally not undergo this procedure
  • Tissue damage
  • Skin necrosis
  • Puncture of an internal organ
  • Contour irregularities
  • A built up of blood and fluids. These can lead to infections and tissue damage. This issue occurs most common in the outer and posterior thighs and in the lower abdomen. To treat this, draining piles and antibiotics might be needed
  • Blood clots
  • Toxic reaction
  • Fluid imbalance removing a large amount of fat can lead to a dramatic loss of body fluid
    and a sudden drop in blood pressure, so it is important that it is replaced. But it is vital to get the balance right – giving too much fluid can also be dangerous, and can cause kidney problems.

What problems might occur after the procedure?

  • Pain, which may last as long as two weeks
  • Bruising lasting up to two weeks. Although it can peak by the end of 7 – 10 days. After 2 – 4 weeks there should be no signs of bruising
  • Swelling lasting two weeks to two months. This is normal, as the body has to deal with the trauma. But patients normally will wear a compression garment for a period of 4-6 weeks which will control the swelling
  • Numbness lasting several weeks
  • Possible drainage in the treatment area, depending on the surgical technique.

There can be the problem that an area is over-corrected. This means too much fat has been removed, more than the desired contour line. This could lead to an asymmetry results between the left and right side. The issue is that this is very difficult to correct afterwards.

The opposite is also true. That of under-correction. That is leaving behind excess residual fat behind.

The skin can also be left with surface irregularities. This can be due to inappropriate compression garment, and too much fat removal or too little fat removal. For instance, a well-fitting garment enhances skin retraction. Whereas an ill-fitting garment especially associated with bad posture can lead to surface irregularities.

There is a period of downtime for patients, which can last up to several weeks. They will need help to drive home, and might need a night in hospital for observation.