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(Lipoplasty, SAL, PAL)

Procedure overview

Liposuction is a surgical procedure that removes fat from the body. This is done through a hollow metal tube—known as a cannula—that sucks out the fat much like a vacuum.

The most common form of liposuction surgery is the suction-assisted liposuction (SAL) mentioned above. Another form of liposuction, power-assisted liposuction (PAL), uses a motor attached to the cannula to speed the rate of fat removal. Other procedures use sound waves or lasers to enhance the breakdown of fatty deposits and speed their removal from the body.

Reasons for the procedure

Liposuction is mainly an aesthetic procedure that can help improve your body image and looks. It is best used for:

  • Fat deposits in your body that aren’t in proportion with the rest of your body and don’t go away with exercise or diet

  • Areas that have good skin elasticity and minimal amounts of excess skin

Liposuction can be performed to enhance and improve your appearance in many parts of the body:

  • Buttocks

  • Hips

  • Stomach

  • "Love handles"

  • Back

  • Arms

  • Neck

  • Thighs

  • Calves

  • Ankles

  • Breasts (in both men and women)

Liposuction can be successful for both men and women.

Risks of the procedure

Liposuction has some risks and complications:

  • Indentations or body irregularities at the site of the liposuction

  • Pooling of blood under the skin at the site of the liposuction, known as hematoma

  • Scarring

  • Damage to surrounding body parts and organs

  • Infection

  • Loss of sensation

In some cases, you may not be satisfied with the results from liposuction and you may need to have another procedure to correct any problems. If you have certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or thyroid problems, you may not be a good candidate for liposuction. You’ll want to carefully discuss any medical problems you have with your plastic surgeon.

There may be other risks, depending upon your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor before the procedure.

Before the procedure

  • Tell your doctor about any medications you are taking. You may need to stop taking drugs that increase the risk for bleeding, such as aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen.

  • Also inform your doctor of any herbs or vitamins that you take on a regular basis.

  • If you smoke, you should try to quit smoking before the surgery. Smoking can greatly delay the rate at which you heal.

  • Tell your doctor about any medical conditions you have. He or she can determine if any of these are a concern.

  • Most liposuctions can be done on an outpatient basis. Make sure to arrange transportation before and after your surgery. You will not be able to drive after the procedure.

During the procedure

Liposuction is often performed in a hospital or a plastic surgeon’s office. You can usually go home the same day as your procedure. With more extensive liposuction treatments, an overnight stay might be necessary. Generally, liposuction follows this process:

  1. You will be asked to remove your clothing and wear a medical gown for the procedure.

  2. In most cases,you will have a medication to numb the area where the procedure is to be done along with medication to make to relax and sleepy.

  3. In some cases, you may be given a general anesthetic to put you in a deep sleep.

  4. During the procedure, you will be wired with monitors to check your heart rate, blood pressure, and  the amount of oxygen circulating in your blood.

  5. The doctor will make some small incisions at the sites of the liposuction to allow access of the cannula.

  6. Depending on your specific needs, the doctor will remove the fatty deposits from your body with suction-assisted liposuction (SAL) or power-assisted liposuction (PAL).

  7. In some cases, the plastic surgeon may use ultrasound or laser technology to assist in breaking down the fatty deposits and speeding their removal from the body.

  8. Once the procedure is complete, the surgeon will stitch up and bandage any incisions.

After the liposuction surgery, you’ll be taken to a recovery area for monitoring. You’ll likely be outfitted with a compression garment that helps to shrink the skin in the area where the liposuction is performed.

After the procedure

You will probably feel some soreness or stiffness, like you just did a challenging workout, after your liposuction is complete. You may also experience some swelling and bruising.  In the days following the procedure, you should rest as much as possible, and elevate the part of the body that was affected, if you can. Avoid straining, bending, or lifting as much as possible. Your surgeon may also advise you to continue wearing the compression garment to help with any skin-related issues. 

After about seven to 10 days, you can resume many of your normal activities. The swelling and bruising should also subside by then. Your plastic surgeon will likely also schedule an appointment for you to have your stitches removed. As far as the part of the body that received liposuction, it may take several months to see the final results of the procedure. At that point, you can assess whether it was successful, or if more treatment is needed.