Liposuction is an invasive cosmetic surgery that removes fat deposits from multiple regions of the human body, such as thighs, buttocks and the abdomen. The procedure uses a lipodissolution technique, utilising either an infiltrate solution or ultrasound, to dissolve fat clusters before sucking them out of the body using a cannula (hollow tube) and an aspirator (a vacuum suction device).
Variously known as fat modelling, lipoplasty, liposculpture and lipectomy, the procedure has four basic objectives for every surgery:
• Removing the ideal amount of fat
• Causing a minimal level of disturbance of surrounding tissues, blood vessels and nerve endings
• To maintain the body’s fluid level at a healthy level
• To ensure patients experience a minimal level of discomfort during and post-surgery
There are currently seven types of accepted liposuction techniques. However, surgeons frequently use a combination power assisted liposuction and one of the wet or tumescent techniques to perform the procedure.
Fat removal using cannula during tumescent liposuction. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Not everyone is a suitable candidate for liposuction. Doctors usually perform a discreet evaluation of a patient’s psychological condition to determine whether they are in the right frame of mind for the surgery. Doctors also usually weed out patients who view liposuction as a quick weight loss method.
Aside from that, patients who suffer from diabetes and any form of cardiovascular disease are also automatically eliminated from consideration.
Needless to say, you must be at least 18 years of age before you can even speak to your doctor about liposuction (exceptions may apply).
Smoking greatly lengthens the recovery period, so patients are advised to quit smoking at least two months before the procedure as it interferes with oxygen circulation. Smoking also increases the risks of other post-surgery complications. And no, you can’t use a nicotine patch or nasal spray either.
Unlike complications (below), side effects are just minor issues that patients can expect post-surgery.
• Swelling and Bruising: Will subside between week two and week eight after the procedure. Can be painful and create discomfort.
• Scarring: Healing will take anywhere between a few months and a year, depending on your nutrient intake, health and heredity. Please note that some scars will be permanent.
• Numbness: Patients will sometimes feel localised or widespread numbness in the first two weeks after surgery.
• Limited mobility and agility: Liposuction is a traumatic procedure, so don’t expect to be dancing for at least a month after surgery.
Depending on the severity of the procedure, first stage recovery may take from two days to two weeks. Patients will be able to resume non-strenuous work or activity after that, but please stay clear of heavy lifting, jumping or running for at least four weeks after surgery (preferably eight weeks). Although the effects of liposuction can be seen immediately after the surgery, the body will only completely recover after six months, so keep an eye out for asymmetrical contouring and bumps then.
• Infection: Keep your wounds and dressing sterile and dry and you will never need to worry about contracting infections. If you notice redness, pus or a stench, quickly see your doctor. You will be prescribed with oral antibiotics to combat the infection.
• Necrosis: Death of subdermal tissues and skin
• Internal injury to organs
• Contour and sculpturing Irregularities
• Bumps and depressions under the skin
• Chemical allergy and toxicity (typically from the infiltrate solution)
• Embolisation and thromboembolism