Before You Go
Questions to ask your doctor:
- Will liposuction make my body slimmer?
- Do I have areas of fat that can be treated with liposuction?
- Is my skin elasticity good enough for liposuction?
- Can I do anything before liposuction to reduce excess skin after surgery?
- What procedures can be done after liposuction to remove excess skin?
Pre-procedure prep for liposuction: Patients are typically evaluated one or two weeks prior to liposuction, during which time blood tests, physical measurements, and photographs of the pre-lipo body are taken. Some physicians may insist on taking an EKG exam and getting pre-op clearance from the patient's regular doctor.
Anti-inflammatory pain relievers like ibuprofen and aspirin should be avoided at least two weeks before your procedure. Patients should also stop all herbal and homeopathic medications.
On the day of treatment: Antibiotics may be prescribed by your plastic surgeon in advance to decrease the chances of infection during and after liposuction. Plan on wearing loose clothing to maximize comfort after the procedure.
What To Expect
The surgery can be completed in a doctor's office or a surgical center, but since it is a serious procedure, it's best to be in a setting equipped to handle emergencies, i.e., a hospital. On the big day, your doctor will mark off the targeted areas with a pen.
In preparation for the surgery, you may be hooked up to IV lines to regulate body fluid levels throughout surgery. Monitors are used to track heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels too. During the surgery, often a tumescent fluid solution containing the painkiller lidocaine, epinephrine (which constricts blood vessels) and saline (salt water) is injected under the skin to help prepare fat for removal.
A hollow pen-like instrument called a cannula is then inserted through small incisions, often made in skin crevices so that scars can be hidden down the road. Fat is suctioned out through the cannula as the surgeon moves the thin tube back and forth under the skin.
While it's possible to return home just a few hours after surgery, larger volumes of liposuction usually require an overnight stay. In most cases, the patient will be fitted with a compression garment right after the procedure is completed in order to help with post-operative swelling and minimize fluid retention. Afterward, it is common to experience some leakage from the incisions as the tumescent solution is absorbed into the body.
Who should do it: It is important to check the surgeon's training and credentials. Liposuction is an invasive fat removal technique, and the procedure should only be performed by board certified plastic surgeons. In some communities dermatologists are also certified to perform the procedure.
Duration: Depending on the type of liposuction you get and the number of treatment areas, the procedure can last between 45 minutes to five hours or more.
How Painful Is It?
Liposuction is performed under anesthesia, so pain should not be an issue during the procedure. In most cases, tumescent solution is used, which contains a numbing medication absorbed locally by the tissues. Liposuction tends not to be as uncomfortable as comparable surgical procedures.
Options for anesthesia: Liposuction can be completed under general, local or regional anesthesia, so pain should not be an issue during the procedure.
Liposuction can be completed with local anesthesia for smaller treatment areas. More extensive lipo requires general anesthesia. Some of the newer techniques, like laser and ultrasound-assisted liposuction, can be performed under local anesthesia, and thus boast a quicker recovery period than the traditional tumescent approach.