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If you’re considering liposuction…
Liposuction is a procedure that can help sculpt the body by removing unwanted fat from specific areas, including the abdomen, hips, buttocks, thighs, knees, upper arms, chin, cheeks and neck. There are many different techniques available today which all aim to reduce fat and bulges in unwanted areas. Although no type of liposuction is a substitute for dieting and exercise, liposuction can remove stubborn areas of fat that don’t respond to traditional weight-loss methods.
To be a good candidate for liposuction, you must have realistic expectations about what the procedure can do for you. It’s important to understand that liposuction can enhance your appearance and self confidence, but it won’t necessarily change your looks to match your ideal or cause other people to treat you differently. Before you decide to have surgery, think carefully about your expectations and discuss them with your surgeon.
The best candidates for liposuction are normal-weight people with firm, elastic skin who have pockets of excess fat in certain areas. You should be physically healthy, psychologically stable and realistic in your expectations. Your age is not a major consideration; however, older patients may have diminished skin elasticity and may not achieve the same results as a younger patient with tighter skin.
Liposuction carries greater risk for individuals with medical problems such as diabetes, significant heart or lung disease, poor blood circulation, or those who have recently had surgery near the area to be contoured.
In your initial consultation, your surgeon will evaluate your health, determine where your fat deposits lie and assess the condition of your skin. Your surgeon will explain the body-contouring methods that may be most appropriate for you. For example, if you believe you want liposuction in the abdominal area, you may learn that an abdominoplasty or “tummy tuck” may more effectively meet your goals.
Be frank in discussing your expectations with your surgeon. He or she should be equally frank with you, describing the procedure in detail and explaining its risks and limitations.
Individuals considering liposuction often feel a bit overwhelmed by the number of options and techniques being promoted today. However, your plastic surgeon can help. In deciding which is the right treatment approach for you, your doctor will consider effectiveness, safety, cost and appropriateness for your needs. This is called surgical judgment, a skill that is developed through surgical training and experience. Your doctor also uses this judgment to prevent complications; to handle unexpected occurrences during surgery; and to treat complications when they occur.
Your surgeon will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for surgery, including guidelines on eating and drinking, smoking, and taking or avoiding vitamins, iron tablets and certain medications. If you develop a cold or an infection of any kind, especially a skin infection, your surgery may have to be postponed. Though it is rarely necessary, your doctor may recommend that you have blood drawn ahead of time in case it is needed during surgery.
Also, while you are making preparations, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure and, if needed, to help you at home for a day or two.
Liposuction is usually performed in one of the AAAASF Certified operating rooms at Piedmont Plastic Surgery and Dermatology. These procedures are almost always done on an outpatient basis.
Various types of anesthesia can be used for liposuction procedures, although general anesthesia is used most commonly at in our facilities to provide you with the utmost in comfort and safety. Together, you and your surgeon will select the type of anesthesia that provides the most safe and effective level of comfort for your surgery.
The time required to perform liposuction may vary considerably, depending on the size of the area, the amount of fat being removed, the type of anesthesia and the technique used.
There are several liposuction techniques that can be used to improve the ease of the procedure and to enhance outcome.
Liposuction is a procedure in which localized deposits of fat are removed to recontour one or more areas of the body. Through a tiny incision, a narrow tube or cannula is inserted and used to vacuum the fat layer that lies deep beneath the skin. The cannula is pushed then pulled through the fat layer, breaking up the fat cells and suctioning them out. The suction action is provided by a vacuum pump or a large syringe, depending on the surgeon’s preference. If many sites are being treated, your surgeon will then move on to the next area, working to keep the incisions as inconspicuous as possible.
The basic technique of liposuction, as described above, is used in all patients undergoing this procedure. However, as the procedure has been developed and refined, several variations have been introduced.
Fluid Injection, a technique in which a medicated solution is injected into fatty areas before the fat is removed, is commonly used by plastic surgeons today. The fluid — a mixture of intravenous salt solution, lidocaine (a local anesthetic) and epinephrine (a drug that contracts blood vessels) — helps the fat be removed more easily, reduces blood loss and provides anesthesia during and after surgery. Fluid injection also helps to reduce the amount of bruising after surgery.
The amount of fluid that is injected varies depending on the preference of the surgeon.
Large volumes of fluid — sometimes as much as three times the amount of fat to be removed — are injected in the tumescent technique. Tumescent liposuction, typically performed on patients who need only a local anesthetic, usually takes significantly longer than traditional liposuction (sometimes as long as 4 to 5 hours). However, because the injected fluid contains an adequate amount of anesthetic, additional anesthesia may not be necessary. The name of this technique refers to the swollen and firm or “tumesced” state of the fatty tissues when they are filled with solution.
The super-wet technique is similar to the tumescent technique, except that lesser amounts of fluid are used. Usually the amount of fluid injected is equal to the amount of fat to be removed. This technique often requires IV sedation or general anesthesia and typically takes one to two hours of surgery time.
Liposuction is normally safe, as long as patients are carefully selected, the operating facility is properly equipped and the physician is adequately trained.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that even though a well-trained surgeon and a state-of-the art facility can improve your chance of having a good result, there are no guarantees. Though they are rare, complications can and do occur. Risks increase if a greater number of areas are treated at the same time, or if the operative sites are larger in size. Removal of a large amount of fat and fluid may require longer operating times than may be required for smaller operations.
The combination of these factors can create greater hazards for infection; delays in healing; the formation of fat clots or blood clots, which may migrate to the lungs and cause death; excessive fluid loss, which can lead to shock or fluid accumulation that must be drained; friction burns or other damage to the skin or nerves or perforation injury to the vital organs; and unfavorable drug reactions.
In the tumescent and super-wet techniques, the anesthetic fluid that is injected may cause lidocaine toxicity (if the solution’s lidocaine content is too high), or the collection of fluid in the lungs (if too much fluid is administered).
The scars from liposuction are small and strategically placed to be hidden from view. However, imperfections in the final appearance are not uncommon after lipoplasty. The skin surface may be irregular, asymmetric or even “baggy,” especially in the older patient. Numbness and pigmentation changes may occur. Sometimes, additional surgery may be recommended.
After surgery, you will likely experience some fluid drainage from the incisions. Occasionally, a small drainage tube may be inserted beneath the skin for a couple of days to prevent fluid buildup. To control swelling and to help your skin better fit its new contours, you may be fitted with a snug elastic garment to wear over the treated area for a few weeks. Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection.
Don’t expect to look or feel great right after surgery. Even though the newer techniques are believed to reduce some postoperative discomforts, you may still experience some pain, burning, swelling, bleeding and temporary numbness. Pain can be controlled with medications prescribed by your surgeon, though you may still feel stiff and sore for a few days.
It is normal to feel a bit anxious or depressed in the days or weeks following surgery. However, this feeling will subside as you begin to look and feel better.
Healing is a gradual process. Your surgeon will probably tell you to start walking around as soon as possible to reduce swelling and to help prevent blood clots from forming in your legs. You will begin to feel better after about a week or two and you should be back at work within a few days following your surgery. The stitches are removed or dissolve on their own within the first week to 10 days.
Activity that is more strenuous should be avoided for about a month as your body continues to heal. Although most of the bruising and swelling usually disappears within three weeks, some swelling may remain for six months or more.
Your surgeon will schedule follow-up visits to monitor your progress and to see if any additional procedures are needed.
If you have any unusual symptoms between visits — for example, heavy bleeding or a sudden increase in pain — or any questions about what you can and can’t do, call your doctor.
You will see a noticeable difference in the shape of your body quite soon after surgery. However, improvement will become even more apparent after about four to six weeks, when most of the swelling has subsided. After about three months, any persistent mild swelling usually disappears and the final contour will be visible.
If your expectations are realistic, you will probably be very pleased with the results of your surgery. You may find that you are more comfortable in a wide variety of clothes and more at ease with your body. And, by eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, you can help to maintain your new shape.
If your surgeon recommends the tumescent technique…
The tumescent technique is a relatively new liposuction method that can reduce post operative bruising, swelling and pain. Because blood loss is minimized during tumescent liposuction, use of the technique reduces the chance that a blood transfusion will be needed.
In the tumescent technique, areas of excess fat are injected with a large amount of anesthetic liquid before liposuction is performed. The liquid causes the compartments of fat to become swollen and firm or “tumesced.” The expanded fat compartments allow the liposuction cannula to travel smoothly beneath the skin as the fat is removed.
Any person who is a candidate for traditional liposuction is also a good candidate for the tumescent technique. Although the technique can be used on any area of the body, it is commonly used on areas that require enhanced precision, such as the face, neck, arms, calves and ankles.
Individuals who have large areas of excess fat may also be good candidates for tumescent liposuction.
Although the anesthesia requirements are lessened and blood loss is minimized with tumescent liposuction, patients undergoing the procedure still face the same risks and cosmetic complications associated with traditional liposuction surgery.
There are also risks specifically associated with the tumescent technique. These rare complications include pulmonary edema (the collection of fluid in the lungs), which may occur if too much fluid is administered; and lidocaine toxicity, which occurs if the solution’s lidocaine content is too high.
You can reduce your risks by choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon who has adequate experience with the technique.
For many patients, general anesthesia is the best option. For others, the anesthetic contained in the solution combined with sedation may provide sufficient comfort during the procedure. Or, if your doctor feels it’s appropriate, the tumescent solution itself may serve as the sole means of anesthesia.
In tumescent liposuction, the warmed tumescent liquid — a dilute solution containing lidocaine, epinephrine and intravenous fluid — is injected into the area to be treated. As the liquid enters the fat, it becomes swollen, firm and blanched. Liposuction is then performed on the tumesced areas.
The long-acting effects of the anesthetic solution help to provide pain relief after the procedure and decrease the need for additional pain medication.
For the first day or two after surgery, most patients experience swelling in the treated areas, as well as some fluid drainage from the incision sites.
Light activity is usually resumed within the first few days after tumescent liposuction; normal activity can be resumed within a few weeks.
Patients are usually able to see a noticeable difference almost immediately after surgery. However, more improvement can be seen after three weeks, when most of the swelling has subsided. After about three months, any persistent mild swelling will disappear and the final contour will be visible.
Patients are usually very pleased with the results of the procedure. By eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, you can help to maintain your slimmer figure or leaner physique.