For slimming or contouring specific areas on the body, liposuction is one option that is available through plastic surgery. Often referred to as “lipo,” this procedure can permanently remove fat cells from targeted areas to create a different shape for the patient. This procedure is performed by cosmetic surgeons and can be used to contour most areas of the body, including abdomen, thighs, lips, arms, buttocks, neck/chin/cheeks and legs.

If you have areas on your body that are not responding to diet or exercise that you want reduced, and you are within 30% of your ideal weight, you may be a suitable candidate for liposuction surgery. Liposuction has the best results on those with good skin elasticity and who are in otherwise good health. Lipo is ideal for those with a specific area they want shaped or contoured, like reducing the upper arms, removing “saddle bags” or slimming the tummy or knees and inner thighs.
The cost of liposuction can vary per procedure, per area, and per surgeon, but on average, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported the cost at $3,200 in 2016. This means there are procedures that may cost less and others that may cost more. The cost is affected by the surgeon’s fees, pre-surgery tests, anesthesia costs, post-surgery garments, medications and medical facility expenses.
When you make your appointment to consult with a cosmetic surgeon about liposuction, be ready to ask and answer some questions. The surgeon will want to know about your medical history and discuss with you the reasons you are considering this procedure. It is important the surgeon understands what your expectations are so that you can discuss whether those results are possible from liposuction surgery. Some questions you should ask your cosmetic surgeon during your consultation include:
  • What is your education, training, experience and certification level in the field of cosmetic surgery?
  • What kind of results can I expect?
  • What type of complications can occur from this surgery?
  • Do you have examples of liposuction surgeries you performed that I can see?
  • How long will it take me to recover after surgery?
It is important to get as much information as possible about your surgeon and the procedure during your consultation. You should feel confident in the experience and skill level of your surgeon; you can always choose another surgeon if you do not feel comfortable with the first one you meet. Credentials are important, but most important is the work they have performed – ask to see before and after pictures of their patients.
Although complications are rare, any type of surgery has minor to fatal risks, including liposuction. It is important to understand that there is a small percentage of patients that can have adverse reactions to anesthesia or have trouble healing correctly. Some of the possible risk or complications from liposuction surgery include:
  • Bruising and swelling in the surgical area
  • Changes in the nerves and sensation of the skin
  • Blood clots (DVT) and cardiovascular risks
  • Fluid retention in the surgical site
  • Infection
  • Irregular pigmentation, worsening cellulite or changed contours to the area
  • Sagging or loose skin
  • Damage to nerves, muscles or internal organs
It is important to discuss all the possible risks and complications with your surgeon, and what can be done to prevent this issues from occurring.
Your cosmetic surgeon will go over the expectations for preparing for your surgery, but you can expect to be asked to limit anything that can impact your blood clotting and healing abilities. It is usually recommended that you do not use anything that interferes with your blood clotting, such as aspirin and certain other supplements and medications. You should also not smoke in the days prior to your surgery.
As part of the preparation, your surgeon will schedule certain lab tests and a medical checkup to ensure your health before your surgery. You should also plan to have a friend or family member available to come with you and bring you home on the day of your surgery, and plan for your recovery time.
On the day of your liposuction surgery, you can expect to be at the clinic or medical facility for at least three hours. The procedure will begin with anesthesia; local, IV sedation or general anesthesia can all be used, depending on what your surgeon determines is best for your procedure.
Once the anesthesia is effective, the cosmetic surgeon will make a small incision in the targeted area. Through the incision a small cannula is inserted that is used to loosen the fat in the area, which is then vacuumed through a tiny tube that is attached to the cannula. Once it is completed, the incision may be stitched or sutured, and bandages and compression garments applied.
After your liposuction surgery, you should plan on resting and healing for at least a few days. There will be some discomfort, swelling and bruising that will last about two weeks, but some people are able to return to their jobs or normal activities within a few days. Medications will be prescribed to help limit chance of infection and to help with any pain or soreness.
Some liposuction surgeries will include a surgical drain at the site to allow fluid to escape the wound. Your surgeon will give your home care instructions for your wound site and drain. You should also have a scheduled follow-up appointment with your surgeon to check the healing progress.
In the first few weeks after liposuction surgery, there is swelling and fluid retention that can distort the results. After the first month or two, the swelling will subside, and you can begin to see the new contours of your body.
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