Liposuction, or suction-assisted lipectomy, as it is also called, is the most frequently performed plastic surgical procedure in North America. It is done through very small incisions which are usually placed in skin folds.
A rigid metal tube with hole(s) at the end is passed through the fat layer. The tube (called a cannula) is connected to a suction pump, and fat is sucked out. The cannula is passed through the area several times from different directions, resulting in a ” Swiss cheese ” effect on the fat layer. After surgery, the patient wears a girdle or pressure garment, and the holes in the fat layer are pressed flat and heal. This process takes about 6 weeks.
What’s new and improved?
Marketing has focused on additional techniques to liquefy fat, with or without liposuction, utilizing trendy names like “SmartLipo™” (laser assisted) and” Vaser™” (sounds like laser, but is actually ultrasound assisted):
Ultrasound applied either externally or through the liposuction cannula has been around for over 15 years.
Power assisted liposuction (a powered handpiece moves the cannula back and forth) has also been available for many years.
Laser delivered through the liposuction cannula or externally, is more recent.
Water jet assisted liposuction is another recently introduced device/technique.
My take: Great claims are made for all these devices – less bruising, less swelling, better skin shrinkage, etc., but there are no good double blind, randomized studies to back up the claims.
My experience suggests that the differences, if any, are small. Many of the devices reduce surgeon fatigue and make it easier to use smaller cannulas. This is probably the most important aid to better results.
Who is it for?
Liposuction depends on the skin contracting down after the fat has been sucked out. If the skin has lost its elasticity, and does not shrink, it will hang in folds. If you are very overweight, or your skin is very loose and flabby in the areas you want treated, liposuction will probably give a poor result.
Many people however are heavy in one area despite dieting. Buying clothes is difficult if your upper and lower body are different sizes. If you are fairly slim above the waist, but heavy in the buttocks and thighs, liposuction should be helpful. Similarly a roll of fat at the waistline, or fatty bulges on the outside of the hips can be corrected.
Suctioned fat has been re-injected in other areas, to correct contour problems of the face or body. Iff this fat fails to survive as living tissue, it may be gradually re-absorbed over the next three to twelve months, or converted into lumps of scar tissue.
What to expect
Unless a small area is being treated, general anesthesia is needed. Because of fluid shifts into the suctioned areas, an overnight stay in hospital or a post surgical facility is sometimes wise. You can expect significant bruising afterwards, and will have to wear a pressure garment over the treated areas constantly for about six weeks. Often the skin is numb for two or three months. Strenuous activity should be avoided for at least four weeks, and typically you will need three to ten days off work.
Your new shape may be so improved that the treated area is one or two clothing sizes smaller. Also, of course the contour and appearance will be permanently changed. Even if you later gain weight, you will gain weight evenly. The treated area does not “grow back” disproportionately.
For the first time you may be able to choose clothes without trying to conceal one body area, and wear a swimsuit without feeling self-conscious.
If you are considering Liposuction in Orange County, please click here to contact Newport Beach Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Bailey, for a consultation.
Before and After Pictures
Click on the picture to see more liposuction photos.