Liposuction - Cosmetic Surgery Guide


Liposuction, also known as lipoplasty and suction lipectomy, is a surgery which improves the contour of your body by extracting pockets of excess fat from certain areas of the body. As the name suggests liposuction uses suction to remove these fat pockets and this is provided by a large syringe or in some cases a vaccuum device. Although lipsuction isn't an alternative to weight loss it can help those who have deposits of fat that don't go away through diet or exercise. Lipsuction is often performed in conjunction with other procedures like a breast reduction or a tummy tuck.

Who is Liposuction for?

Liposuction is for men and women of around normal weight who experience pockets of fat that don't go away through exercise or diet. Your surgeon will take you through a detailed medical history and examine whether your weight has recently fluctuated. It's usual to talk about your expectations from the procedure to make certain of your understanding. It helps to have skin elasticity and as such, many older patients don't get the best results from Liposuction.

The Liposuction Procedure

Before undergoing the surgery your surgeon will give you some strict instructions on the do's and don'ts before Liposuction. This usually includes guidelines on what to eat and drink during the period before the treatment. It's normally suggested that you quit smoking at least a month before your treatment, this will promote healing and minimise the risk of infection. Similarly certain medications such as asprin, blood thinners and some anti-inflammatory drugs can cause bleeding after surgery and will need to be stopped before treatment occurs.

Although there's several variations on Liposuction for most procedures the fat will be removed via a hollow tube called a cannula by making use of a suction device. The cannulas used will either be one-time disposables or reusable. Before undergoing the procedure its usual for the surgeon to mark the areas of your body that will be treated with a special pen. Liposuction is usually performed under general anesthetic but can also be performed using only local anaesthesia. This will depend on how long the surgery will take, how much fat will be removed and where abouts on your body will be treated.

Wetting solutions will be applied to the area before the fat removal begins. The fluid will contain salt water, a local anesthetic and epinephrine, which is used to constrict blood vessels thereby minimising blood loss. This is used to increase the safety of the procedure and there are several different types of solutions and different amounts;

Dry Liposuction - This method uses no fluid whatsoever and is seldom used currently. Use of this was prevalent before wetting solutions were discovered. This often resulted in bruising and blood loss and suction would often remove more blood than fat.

Wet liposuction - In this method the surgeon infuses a small amount of fluid into the area. This is usually less than the amount of fat that will need to be removed. This minimises the amount of blood that will be suctioned out.

Super-Wet Liposuction - As the name suggests this technique uses a larger amount of fluid than the regular wet method. The amount of fluid will be around equal to the amount of fat needing to be removed and as such blood loss is minimal.

Tumescent Liposuction - This technique requires even more fluid than the super-wet method. This helps with fat removal by swelling certain tissues.

As with solutions there's also several different ways in which the fat can be vacuumed out during liposuction;

Suction-assisted liposuction - In this method the cannula is inserted through a tiny incision. The surgeon then moves the cannula from side to side to break the fat layer up and then suction out any excess fat in the area.

Ultrasound-assisted liposuction - In this method the cannula is inserted, as normal, through tiny incisions. The cannula then emits sound waves which help to break up the fat and making it easy to vacuum. Cutting-edge techniques like Vaser-assisted liposuction can emit gentler sound waves which don't disturb nerves or blood vessels but are still effective at breaking up fat; this results in less swelling, bruising and pain than suction-assisted liposuction.

Power-Assisted liposuction - A special mechanized cannula is inserted, as usual, through tiny incisions. This means the surgeon doesn't make as many manual movements during the treatment, increasing the safety of the procedure.

Laser-assisted liposuction - A small incision is made and into this is inserted a laser fibre probe. This will use a burst of energy to liquefy the fat before vacuuming.

The recovery period

After undergoing treatment you can expect the suctioned area to be tender and swollen for a few days. Sometimes the incisions will be left open temporarily so that any residual fatty deposits or other fluids can empty through a drainage tube. It's usual to be prescribed antibiotics in order to minimse the risk of infection. You may need to wear a support garment for a few weeks following treatment and the treated area will usually be covered with an elasticated bandage. During this time it's recommended that you don't do any strenuous activity. It's usually advised that you move very soon after surgery as this will minimise the risk of blood clots forming. And you can typically return to work within a few days of the treatment.

The risks

As will all surgical procedures, liposuction is not without risk. The main risk following treatment is infection. However this risk can be minimised by ceasing smoking before undergoing surgery and taking antibiotics afterwards. Depending on the technique used there's also a danger of fluid imbalance occurring, especially during the tumescent procedure. This may lead to heart problems and excess fluid collecting in the kidneys or lungs. Hematomas, which are a build of blood in the suctioned area, can occur and in rare cases there can be an adverse reaction to anesthesia. There may be a loss of sensation in the treated area and wrinkling and dimpling may also occur. Individuals with underlying medical conditions and those who have had recent surgery in the same area will be at a greater risk however these issues should be addressed during your initial consultation with your surgeon.

Where Can You Have Liposuction?

Due to the fact that there are so many liposuction techniques it is a fairly diverse treatment. This means that there are a number of areas that can be treated including:

  • Your abdomen and sides
  • Your hips and thighs
  • Your buttocks
  • Your knees and ankles
  • Your upper arms
  • Your breasts and torso
  • Your neck and chin

It is important to remember that each of these areas requires a certain amount of fat and as a result, liposuction will not be able to completely remove all fat from the area.

Cost of Liposuction

Liposuction is quite an expensive treatment and can cost up to £5000 per treatment. As a result of this, it is vital that you are aware of all of the advantages and disadvantages of treatment, and that you know its limitations. When finding a surgeon to perform your liposuction surgery you should bear in mind that experience is vital and the cheaper option is not normally a good option.

Benefits of Liposuction

The benefits of liposuction are mainly cosmetic. Liposuction can dramatically change your physique making you appear more trim. Liposuction can also have psychological benefits as it can give you much more confidence in yourself greatly improving your mental wellbeing.

Compared to other options liposuction is low risk and only slightly invasive. This means that there is less trauma to your body, the scarring is minimal, and the recovery time is quicker.

Disadvantages and Risks of Liposuction

As with any surgery, liposuction carries many risks. This includes swelling, bleeding, and bruising but also more severe complications. These include lidocaine toxicity from tumescent fluid, which can be fatal. There are also risks of discolouration, deep vein thrombosis, shock, and scarring.

Getting Liposuction Surgery

In order to get liposuction surgery you will need to visit a surgeon for a consultation. You should ensure that your surgeon is well experienced and reputable as liposuction is a life- changing surgery and can be fatal. You should also ensure that you have funding in place to pay for your surgery.

It is possible in very rare circumstances to get liposuction on the NHS. This is only usually the case if you have a condition that is causing fat to collect in certain areas causing abnormal growths. It may also be possible if your body shape is having a serious effect on your mental health although the process of proving this is lengthy and liposuction is very rarely granted on the NHS for this reason.

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