A Guide to Liposuction Surgery This informative guide is intended for those considering liposuction for themselves or a loved one, as well as people who are simply interested in learning more about the process. As with any medical procedure, one of the best ways to reduce complications and risks is to educate yourself about all of the operation’s aspects, including cost, side effects, technique, and long-term consequences.
What is Liposuction?
Liposuction is a form of cosmetic (or aesthetic) surgery meant to remove fat from beneath the skin. It is an extremely popular procedure, averaging over 400,000 operations per year in the United States alone.
While there are several commonly practiced techniques of liposuction surgery, all involve the insertion of hollow tubes called cannula into small incisions in the skin, called adits, through which fat is suctioned out of the body by an aspirator, or suction.
Who should get Liposuction?
People who maintain a healthy diet who have certain stubborn deposits of fat that do not respond to regular exercise are the best candidates for Liposuction. It is important to realize that liposuction is meant to reshape and recontour your body; it is NOT meant to be a primary tool for weight loss. When used for this purpose, many patients will find themselves disappointed with the resultant weight gain, because fat bulges often return when a healthy diet and exercise regimen are not introduced.
In addition, liposuction will not make cellulite or stretch marks disappear, and when a very large amount of fat is removed, skin will often be loose around those areas and may not regain its elasticity. If you are extremely overweight, have a history of blood clotting or heart disease, or other issues which might make you a risky candidate for surgery, you should be sure to notify any potential doctor whom you may wish to perform liposuction.
How much does Liposuction cost?
There is, unfortunately, no single answer to this question. The major determining factors are based both on the type of patient and the type of doctor. In terms of the patient, their current weight, amount of scar tissue, proposed amount of fat to be removed, and desired area for removal all weigh into the equation. As with nearly all practitioners, there is a wide range of surgeons when it comes to quality, experience, and reliability. Additionally, factors such as geographic location make a significant difference in the final cost of surgery. On a very general level, one can usually expect the abdomen (both upper & lower) and the breasts to be the most expensive areas to have liposuction performed upon, but price varies widely for the reasons mentioned above, and you might be quoted between $3000 to $8000 for the surgical fee alone.
A very common mistake that potential liposuction patients make is to assume that the surgical fee is the same as the total, or global fee. In addition to the actual surgery cost, there is often a significant non-surgical or non-operational fee tacked on, as well as the anesthesiologist’s fee (if required), commonly making the global fee nearly double the surgical fee. See the end of this guide for other tips on avoiding any unpleasant surprises in terms of cost or results if you elect to have liposuction surgery. And remember that most insurances do NOT cover liposuction, because of its status as a cosmetic, and thus elective, surgery. However, you should check with your insurance company to be sure.
Where is Liposuction most commonly performed?
You can get liposuction done on nearly any part of the body, but the most common areas are those which tend to accumulate fat which is difficult to remove via exercise. The abdomen, hips, outer thighs (often known as “saddlebags”), and the flank (also called “love handles”) are the most likely place for liposuction to be performed, particularly on women.
How does Liposuction work?
There are a number of different types of liposuction which have developed over the last 30 years since the surgery became popular. At the moment, the most popular techniques are tumescent liposuction, ultrasound assisted (ultrasonic) liposuction, and laser-assisted liposuction. The type of procedure is determined by the amount of fat to be removed, where on the body the fat is located, and other factors which your surgeon will determine after a consultation.
Tumescent Liposuction involves the injection of a large volume (slightly larger than the amount of fat to be removed) of a diluted local anesthetic solution, usually a combination of lidocaine and epinephrine (adrenaline), which constricts blood vessels and is meant to decrease blood loss during surgery. Once the fluid is injected into the fatty tissue below the skin, the area swells and becomes firm (tumescent), which allows the micro cannulas (tiny hollow tubes) to move more smoothly within the fat, lowering damage to the skin and minimizing invasiveness when the fat is suctioned out through the incisions. This type of liposuction may not require a general anesthetic, though this decision is made by the surgeon, and is often affected by the amount of fat to be removed. One advantage to tumescent liposuction is that it tends to reduce post-operative pain in the majority of patients, due to the fact that local anesthetic tends to last for quite a long time, far beyond the length of the procedure; therefore, little or no narcotic painkillers or other pain medication is usually required during the recovery process.
Ultrasound Assisted, or Ultrasonic Liposuction, uses the energy of ultrasound to liquefy the fat which is being removed. Rather than injecting the area with fluid, ultrasonic liposuction softens or mixes the layer of sub-dermal fatty tissue in order to ease the movement of the cannula. This type of liposuction is particularly helpful on areas of the body where fatty tissue is quite firm, such as the sides, back, around the navel, and the male breast. It is also commonly used when there is a significant amount of fat to be removed.
Laser-Assisted Liposuction is similar to Ultrasonic Liposuction, with the major difference being the use of a laser beam to liquefy the fat layer before removal. Laser may also be used to help tighten the skin during the healing process, when skin is likely to appear loose or stretched. As with Ultrasonic Liposuction, this technique tends to take 2-4 hours longer than the standard Tumescent Liposuction, but is still usually an outpatient surgery; however, there are certain cases in which a patient will be asked to remain at the hospital overnight for monitoring after the operation.
What happens after the surgery?
As mentioned above, most standard liposuction procedures are outpatient ones, and most patients are home within several hours of the surgery. In most cases, the area that was treated will be wrapped tightly in some kind of compression garment or bandage, such as elastic tape, a type of girdle, or support hose. You can expect to keep this on for about 3-4 weeks during the healing process.
Depending on the type of liposuction, you may be prescribed painkillers or other narcotic medication, as well as antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection. You may also be prescribed medication to reduce the amount of swelling, but this often depends on the area of the body being treated.
You can expect to feel significant swelling and see bruising within the first 7-10 days after surgery, as well as some fluid drainage from the incisions. However, many liposuction patients are able to return to work within a few days; this amount of time seems to range from several days to as long as a month for other patients. You can expect to have a follow-up visit to the surgeon within several weeks of the surgery, and further visits may be needed based on the rate of healing or other complications.
How do I choose a plastic surgeon?
There are many ways to find a plastic surgeon who performs liposuction. Internet searches and yellow pages will provide listings, and there are a number of online directories of cosmetic surgery practitioners available. Sometimes, the best source of advice is other people; if you know anyone who has undergone liposuction, ask them for recommendations and about their own experience. If you don’t know anyone personally, ask friends and family if they know of somebody: given the popularity of liposuction, you are almost certain to find someone within your acquaintance that can be a gold mine of information and advice.
While the cheapest liposuction may seem like the best option, be sure to do your homework before deciding on a surgeon. You should consider their reputation and experience, and look online, particularly on user review websites which help you gain a sense of a surgeon’s overall rating and reputation, as well as other important factors such as their professionalism, bedside manner, post-operative care, and average fees.
When calling a doctor’s office to ask for a cost estimate, be sure to inquire whether the quote is the surgical fee, or whether it is the total, or global, fee (including all non-surgical fees). And once you have chosen a surgeon, it is extremely important that you get a written estimate, rather than simply a verbal contract, so that you don’t become the victim of an unscrupulous surgeon after the surgery.
Liposuction surgery may seem like a daunting and scary experience, but if you are well-prepared and knowledgeable about all possible risks and pitfalls, you are far more likely to have a hassle-free surgical experience and succeed in your dreams of reshaping your body.