What is liposuction?
Liposuction is an invasive surgical procedure that removes unwanted deposits of fat from specific areas of the body, including the face and neck, upper arms, trunk, abdomen, buttocks, hips and thighs, and the knees, calves and ankles. When performed well, and on suitable patients, liposuction can reshape the problem areas leaving virtually no scars.
It is important to note that liposuction is not a weight-loss solution and does not treat stretch marks or sagging skin.
What are the different types of liposuction?
- Tumescent liposuction is a liposuction technique that reduces blood loss and results in better healing with less bruising and discomfort. Large volumes (1 to 3 litres) of very dilute lidocaine (local anaesthetic) and epinephrine (capillary constrictor) are injected into subcutaneous fat. This solution temporarily shrinks capillaries and hardens or "tumesces" excess fat. A thin cannula is then used to suction this fat out.
- Liposculpture is an invasive cosmetic surgical procedure that improves your body contours and proportions. It removes fat cells between the skin and underlying muscles. Liposuction is the same as liposculpture.
- Vaser liposuction (Vibration Amplification of Sound Energy at Resonance) is a 3rd-generation ultrasound-assisted liposuction tool that delivers the ultrasound energy in pulses. This grooved cannula disperses the energy to remove the fat. This method can help reduce the heat and overexposure to ultrasonic waves and the possible side effects and complications of ultrasonic liposuction (UAL).
Who is liposuction for?
The best candidates for liposuction have a relatively normal weight but have excess fat in particular body areas and/or unwanted bulges of fat. People with firm, elastic skin will have better final results than people who have sagging or older skin.
Examples of people who have benefited from liposuction include:
Men and women and men who want to improve their physical appearance and body shape.
Permanently removing even a small amount of fat can make a good figure dramatically better.
Women who have had children and are concerned by the unwanted accumulations of fat that childbearing has brought including saddlebags, full thighs, hips, and a ‘pot-belly’. These areas can be resistant to healthy eating, gym workouts and exercise regimes.
Men who have developed love handles above the hips or accumulations of abdominal fat. This can be due to a natural decline in the production of growth hormone, which occurs with age.
People who have lost a significant amount of weight but still have issues with fat areas that won’t budge, despite diet and exercise.
Men who have unwanted accumulations of fat and breast tissue over the breasts due to hereditary or other factors.
How is liposuction performed?
There are a variety of different liposuction techniques used by Cosmetic Surgeons Liposuction may be performed under local or general anaesthesia.
Suction-assisted lipectomy surgery (called SAL, or just plain liposuction) is performed by using a hollow metal surgical instrument known as a cannula that is inserted through small skin incisions and is passed back and forth through the area of fatty deposit. The cannula is attached to a vacuum source, which provides the suction needed to remove the fatty tissue.
In some situations, a special cannula may be used that emits ultrasonic energy to break down fatty deposits. This technique is known as ultrasound-assisted lipectomy. Depending on your needs, your surgeon may recommend suction-assisted lipectomy alone, or in combination with ultrasound-assisted lipectomy.
Tumescent liposuction technique involves the infiltration of fluid containing dilute local anaesthetic and epinephrine (adrenaline) into areas of fatty deposits. This technique can reduce discomfort at the time of surgery, blood loss, and post-operative bruising.
Small areas of liposuction can be performed under local anaesthesia and with oral sedation. Large areas of liposuction are typically performed under general anaesthesia.
Key facts about liposuction
All the types of liposuction remove fat underneath the skin through a thin metal tube introduced under the skin through small incisions that are usually about 5mm in length.
Liposuction is not a substitute for weight reduction, but a method for removing localised deposits of fatty tissue that do not respond to diet or exercise. By itself, liposuction will unfortunately never improve the appearance of cellulite.
Liposuction may be performed as a primary procedure for body contouring or combined with other surgical techniques such as facelift, abdominoplasty, many breast procedures, or thigh lift procedures. Using liposuction as part of these procedures allows the surgeon to shape or sculpt the areas specifically to improve the results of these procedures.
What is recovery like after liposuction?
It’s important to note that recovery from liposuction will vary from person to person. While you will see immediate results after the liposuction procedure, the bruising and swelling can take some weeks to resolve. Most Cosmetic Surgeons recommend that you take at least a week off from work and your regular routine.
If you’ve only had a small amount of liposuction performed, you may only need to take a few days off work. To prevent swelling and blood clots, it is recommended that you take regular gentle walks. You must avoid heavy exercise or strenuous activities for 2 to 3 weeks.
After the liposuction procedure, you will need to wear a compression garment 24 hours a day for at least 7 day. To absorb the fluid from the incisions, there will be pads inside the compression garment. Your Cosmetic Surgeon and their team will advise you on how to change these.
Pain is normal after liposuction and will often require prescription medication. If you have had a lot of fat removed, the pain you experience will be more than a patient who has had a small amount of fat removed. Most patients report that the first 2 days after the procedure are the most uncomfortable. Severe or excruciating pain after liposuction is unusual and may be a sign of a complication. If this happens you must contact your Cosmetic Surgeon immediately.
What are the risks and complications of liposuction?
While liposuction is usually an effective and safe procedure that leads to visually pleasing results, there are risks and complications you need to be aware of including:
Excessive blood loss. With today’s modern liposculpture techniques, this is extremely uncommon.
Cosmetic complications. If you’re not pleased with the outcome after 12 months, you may need to further liposuction.
Patient selection. If you have poor skin elasticity, the results you desire may not be possible. Your Cosmetic Surgeon will explain what can and cannot achieved with liposuction.
Skin irregularities. This may be caused by over-liposuction or not enough liposuction.
Skin laxity. If an area has been over-liposuctioned, you may get sagging or loose skin.
Deep vein thrombosis. Liposuction performed under local anaesthetic has a decreased chance of causing deep vein thrombosis than if performed under general anaesthetic.
Infection after liposuction. This is extremely uncommon, because a sterile field is always maintained during the procedure. Prophylactic antibiotics are given to the patient immediately before the procedure. Patients also take these for up to a week after the procedure. In addition, the anaesthetic solution given to numb the fat is antibacterial.
Lignocaine toxicity. Lignocaine is a local anaesthetic agent that is used in most liposuction procedures. It is safe up to a level that is based on the patient’s weight.
Haematoma. Wearing compression garments will usually prevent a collection of blood under the skin. In some instances they may need draining.
Seroma. This collection of fluid under the skin needs daily drainage. Compression garments can help to significantly reduce seroma from forming.
What final results should you expect from liposuction?
The final results from your liposuction procedure can take several months, and in cases up to 12 months to be seen. This is why most Cosmetic Surgeons advise to wait for at least 12 months after the surgery before you consider any revisions. Some patients (between 5-10%) may require a revision procedure if they have uneven areas or lumpiness after 12 months.
It is important to note that after having liposuction, you can need to eat healthy food and regularly exercise to maintain the results.
Liposuction is not a surgical procedure to lose weight. If you are extremely overweight, your Cosmetic Surgeon may advise you to lose some weight before having the surgery.
Are there non-surgical alternatives to liposuction?
The gold standard for body contouring is still considered to be liposuction. However, if you’re either not suitable for liposuction or want to avoid surgery there are non-surgical alternatives available, including Cool Sculpting.
Who is not suitable for tumescent liposuction?
You will not be suitable for the liposculpture procedure if you:
- Are pregnant
- Have blood clotting or bleeding disorders
- Have cardiac or respiratory problems
- Your Cosmetic Surgeon will advise of your suitability for this surgical procedure.
How to find the best Australian Liposuction Cosmetic Surgeons
With any elective cosmetic surgery procedure there are possible risks and complications. To get the best liposuction results, it is important to choose a highly trained, experienced and skilled Cosmetic Surgeon who performs this procedure regularly. We suggest you make a short list of surgeons, and have multiple consultations before you select one. Find the best Liposuction Cosmetic Surgeons in Australia here.
Important to know
So you can make an informed decision, your elected Cosmetic Surgeon will discuss the possible risks associated with liposuction. Although the majority of patients do not experience these complications, it's important to understand how they can be managed in the event that they occur. Liposuction is generally safe, but there are rare risks of liposuction that can cause serious injury.