What is tumescent liposuction?

Liposuction is a surgical technique to remove 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.

Tumescent liposuction is a type of liposuction that is used by most Cosmetic Surgeons worldwide. This liposuction technique 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.

Who is tumescent liposuction for?

The best candidates for tumescent liposuction have a relatively normal weight but have excess fat in particular body areas. People who have skin that has diminished tone due to stretch marks, weight loss, or natural ageing may require additional surgical techniques to remove and tighten excess skin.

Examples of people who have benefited from tumescent 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 tumescent liposuction performed?

Due to the shorter recovery time and less side effects than traditional liposuction, tumescent liposuction has become more a more popular cosmetic procedure. To avoid complications, blood tests will be taken before your procedure. It is important to avoid taking any aspirin or anti-inflammatory medication for at least 2 weeks prior to the cosmetic procedure.

To help minimise the risk of infection you may need to start taking antibiotics the day before your procedure. The tissue being targeted will be numbed with a local anaesthetic solution. Then small tubes or cannula will be inserted into the target area. These will be gently moved through the tissues with suction removing the chosen amount of excess fatty deposits.

After your tumescent liposuction procedure, to control swelling and promote healing, you will need to wear compression garments and dressings.

What are the benefits of tumescent liposuction?

Tumescent liposuction benefits over other techniques include:

  • There is significantly less blood loss, pain, swelling and bruising because of the anaesthetic solution used
  • Local anaesthesia means patients can avoid the possible side effects of general anaesthesia including vomiting and/or nausea
  • Patients can stand up and move around straight after the procedure, resulting in an easier and more effective recovery
  • This procedure is performed as day surgery, with generally only half a day being required at the hospital; patients do not have to take much time off work.

What is recovery like after tumescent liposuction?

It’s important to note that recovery from tumescent liposuction will vary from person to person. While you will see immediate results after surgery, bruising and swelling can take some weeks to resolve.

Most Cosmetic Surgeons recommend taking at least a week off from work and your regular routine. If you have only had a small amount of tumescent liposuction done, 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. Any heavy exercise or strenuous activities need to be avoided for 2 to 3 weeks.

After the tumescent liposuction procedure, you will have a compression garment on 24/7. Most liposculpture patients need to wear the compression garment for at least 7 days. 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.

To minimise the appearance of scars, some Cosmetic Surgeons may recommend using scar lightening creams, laser treatments or injections. Because UV rays can darken the appearance of scars, you must take care to avoid any prolonged sun exposure and use sunscreen for at least 2 months after the procedure.

What are the risks and complications of tumescent liposuction?

While this is usually an effective and safe procedure that leads to aesthetically pleasing results, there are risks and complications you must consider.

  • Cosmetic complications. If a patient is not pleased with the outcome, a ‘touch up’ procedure can be performed. This may involve having a small amount of liposuction to an area that is protruding or irregular after the initial liposuction. If an area has been over liposculptured, fat can also be transferred from another part of the body it in. The final shape from liposculpture will not be usually achieved for 6 months. Tissue remodelling occurs for about 12 months. If you need touch ups, it is best to leave them for at least 6 months after the initial liposculpture procedure.
  • Excessive blood loss. With today’s modern liposculpture techniques, this is extremely uncommon.
  • Patient selection. If a patient has poor skin elasticity, they may not achieve the results they desire due to poor skin retraction post procedure. It is very important for the cosmetic surgeon to manage expectations of the patient as to what can and cannot be achieved with liposculpture
  • Skin irregularities. This may be caused by over-liposculpture or not enough liposculpture.
  • Skin laxity. If an area has been over-liposculptured, it can results in a reduction of fat where the skin cannot retract over. If your skin is loose to being with, the likelihood of this happening will increase.
  • Deep vein thrombosis. Liposculpture performed under local anaesthetic has a decreased chance of causing deep vein thrombosis than if performed under general anaesthetic. Under local anaesthetic you can still use your muscles during liposuction. This helps to promote circulation and will prevent the stasis of blood.
  • Infection after tumescent 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 liposculpture procedures. It is safe up to a level that is based on the patient’s weight.
  • 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.

As with any form of liposuction, complications can occur during tumescent liposuction. Two risks that are unique to tumescent liposuction are lidocaine toxicity and fluid accumulation. Lidocaine toxicity occurs when the amount of lidocaine in the tumescent solution is too high, making it difficult for the body to adequately metabolize the drug. When too much solution is injected into the treatment area, it is possible for fluid to accumulate in the lungs.

Key facts about tumescent liposuction

  • All the different types of liposuction remove fat underneath the skin via a thin metal tube introduced under the skin through small incisions. The incisions are usually about 5mm in length.
  • Tumescent 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 this type of liposuction, as part of these procedures allows the surgeon to shape or sculpt the areas specifically to improve the results of these procedures.
  • Body contour irregularities due to bodily structures other than fat cannot be improved by this technique. 
  • Tumescent liposuction by itself will regrettably never improve the appearance of cellulite. 
  • This procedure is not a substitute for weight reduction. It is a method for removing localised deposits of fatty tissue that do not respond to diet or exercise.
  • When you have this type of liposuction procedure, very dilute local anaesthetic solution will be infiltrated into the treatment area first. This will numb the area so the cannula can easily pass through the area to remove your fat.
  • The timing of the tumescent liposuction procedure needs to take into account your current weight, planned weight loss, and pregnancies.
  • It is important to note that after this procedure you will need to wear a compression garment.

When should you have tumescent liposuction?

It is important to note that tumescent liposuction is not a surgical procedure to lose weight. For patients that are extremely overweight, the Cosmetic Surgeon may advise them to lose some weight before having the surgery. If patients are slightly overweight, this procedure may be beneficial because the fat layer is easier to remove.

Due to inherited body shape, some people choose to have tumescent liposuction performed when they are younger. While younger skin has more elasticity and the recovery can be better, people of all ages can have this surgery.

Who is not suitable for tumescent liposuction?

You will not be suitable for the liposculpture procedure if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Breastfeeding
  • 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 Tumescent Liposuction Cosmetic Surgeons

With any elective cosmetic surgery procedure there are possible risks and complications. To get ultimate tumescent 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 Tumescent Liposuction Cosmetic Surgeons in Australia here.

At your consultation, the Cosmetic Surgeon will examine you to assess your fat distribution and body shape. They will then advise you on what areas could be treated. To indicate these areas, some Cosmetic Surgeons may make preliminary markings on your body. They will also let you know how much fat can be safely removed so the final result is aesthetically pleasing.

Important to know

So you can make an informed decision, your elected surgeon will discuss the possible risks associated with tumescent 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. Tumescent liposuction is generally safe, but there are rare risks that can cause serious injury.

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