Liposuction: What Can I Expect?

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You may want to get rid of stubborn fat that just won’t shift by dieting and exercising. If you’re considering having liposuction, you may have a few questions: is it painful, will you have scars afterwards, and what are the risks? In this article, we answer these questions to help you to decide whether liposuction is for you.


What is Liposuction?

Liposuction has many names. It is referred to as lipo, lipoplasty, liposculpture, lipectomy, body contouring or body jet lipo. It is a cosmetic surgery that breaks up and sucks fat from your body in targeted areas. Areas often treated by liposuction include, tummy, hips, thighs, flanks, back, and neck. One thing to remember is that liposuction is not a weight-loss treatment – liposuction is used for areas of fat that you have been unable to shift with diet and exercise.

During liposuction, fluid containing local anaesthetic and adrenaline is injected to reduce bruising and pain in the areas that have been treated. Small incisions are made in the skin (less than 1cm each), and a hollow metal tube called a cannula which is connected to a suction tube is inserted through the incision in your skin. The cannula is passed through the fat to break it up and suction is applied to remove the excess fat. Up to 3 or 4 litres of fat can be removed in one session. The incisions are closed with absorbable stitches that fall out at around 2 weeks.

After liposuction, skin can become loose or there may be folds visible in the skin once the underlying fat is removed as the skin may not shrink.


What is body jet liposuction?

Body jet liposuction (also called water or aqua lipo) uses a pressurised water system. Fluid is pushed through the cannula to dislodge the fat and suction is use to remove the fat. In traditional liposuction, fluid is injected into the areas and the movement of cannulas through the fat disrupts the fat and suction is used to remove the fat. In both traditional and body jet liposuction, the fluid contains local anaesthetic and adrenaline to reduce bruising and pain in the areas that have been treated.


How long do I need to stay in hospital for liposuction?

Liposuction is usually done under general anaesthetic as a day surgery procedure meaning that you can go home the same day.


Is liposuction very painful?

Liposuction can be painful and can take 2 to 3 weeks for the pain to improve. However, the amount of pain depends on the size and number of areas treated and the amount of fat removed.

The fluid used in liposuction contains local anaesthetic to reduce discomfort in the areas that have been treated. However, when this anaesthetic wears off, you can expect to feel some discomfort and have swelling and bruising. The larger the area treated, the greater your pain will be. The soreness is likely to remain for around 3 weeks, but taking regular painkillers can help with this.


How soon after lipo will I see results?

It can take a few months to see your final shape as there will be swelling of the treated areas. After 6 months, you should start to see the results of your treatment.


What sort of scarring and recovery can I expect?

The incisions made in the targeted areas are small (between 0.5 – 1.0 cm). Initially the scar can be red or inflamed but it fades and blends in to your skin, becoming less noticeable over time.  

Your recovery will depend on how much fat is removed. If just a small amount of fat is removed, you should be able to return to work within a few days. If you have more substantial liposuction, you may need up to two weeks off work.

If you had major liposuction, you should:

  • Rest for a few days after liposuction but still be mobile around the house.
  • After a few days, you may feel comfortable enough to go out for short walks and resume normal activity and exercise after 2 weeks.
  • Strenuous activity should be avoided for 4 weeks.
  • Resume driving after 2 to 3 weeks once you are pain free and feel comfortable to do an emergency stop.
  • You will need to wear a pressure garment such as a vest or leggings depending on the area treated for 4 to 6 weeks to help with the swelling and provide support.


What are the dangers of liposuction?

Liposuction is major surgery and carries risks that should be considered. The dangers of liposuction are usually related to how large the procedure is in terms of the surface area of your body and whether multiple procedures are being done during the same operation. However, if performed by an experienced and qualified plastic surgeon, liposuction is generally a safe procedure with minimal risks.

Possible complications specific to liposuction include:

  • Oozing of the injected fluid through the small wounds first few days.
  • Bruising, swelling and pain.
  • Friction burns when the cannula rubs against your skin.
  • Contour irregularities or asymmetry where liposuction was performed.
  • Skin can become loose or there may be folds visible in the skin once the underlying fat is removed and the skin does not shrink. Surgery to remove the excess skin may be required and this could lead to more scarring.
  • Numbness or altered sensation in the treated area.
  • Skin colour changes.
  • Asymmetry due to amount of fat removed from each side or what was present before surgery.
  • Results don’t meet your expectations with Under or over treatment of the area.
  • Changes over time due to ageing, pregnancy or putting on or losing weight
  • Allergic reaction to tape, stitches or solutions.
  • Fat embolism, where fat gets into the blood vessels and travels to the lungs and causes a blockage. This is a medical emergency but happens very rarely.
  • Damage to deeper structures, including nerves, blood vessels, muscles, bowel and other organs. This happens only rarely.


What are the benefits of liposuction?

There are many benefits of liposuction. They include:

  • Can help remove stubborn fat that diets and exercises can’t.
  • A more contoured appearance.
  • Can boost confidence and self-esteem.
  • A wider choice of clothes in some cases.
  • Useful for body contouring in patients following significant weight loss.

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