Liposuction is one of the most well-known cosmetic surgery procedures available, and for good reason. It is an effective surgery for the removal of unwanted fat, and has been used for many years on patients of all different backgrounds. Contrary to popular belief, liposuction is not a weight loss substitute and is best used for patients who are not overweight. Instead, liposuction contours the body by removing fat from “problem areas”—pockets of fat in areas like the stomach, hips, and thighs— that do not respond to traditional methods of weight loss, including diet and exercise. The results can be dramatic, creating sleek and slim contours in the treated areas. Patients can have multiple areas treated at in a single surgery, as long as it is safe to do so, as determined by the surgeon performing the procedure.
Liposuction has evolved over the years, and is a much safer and gentler procedure than it once was. There are now several different techniques that fall under the category of liposuction, ranging from the traditional liposuction to ultrasonic, power-assisted and laser liposuction. Here at Emory, we offer two safe and effective options for liposuction: traditional suction assisted lipectomy and ultrasonic lipectomy.
Regardless of the type of liposuction performed, fluid is injected into the treatment area at the beginning of the procedure. This fluid serves to reduce blood loss during the procedure and to facilitate effective fat removal. Ultrasonic liposuction is an advanced technique that uses sound waves to break up the unwanted fat, which can then be removed with suction. This method is often used for patients who have already had liposuction, in areas where the fat deposits are tougher and more fibrous, or when larger areas of fat need to be treated.
If you are interested in liposuction with us at Emory in Atlanta, Georgia, your first step will be a consultation with one of our expert plastic surgeons at our office. Our doctors will discuss your goals for liposuction with you and determine your candidacy for the procedure. If you are a good candidate, you will learn more about the different options for liposuction and get a recommendation for which technique is most appropriate for your needs. Your consultation is your opportunity to express what your goals are, ask any questions you may have, and learn more about the procedure. Our knowledgeable plastic surgeons will guide you through every step of the process, including liposuction cost, potential side effects and risks, and the recovery period.
Candidacy requirements for liposuction are a bit more rigorous than for many other plastic surgery procedures, due to the fact that patients who are not at a stable weight are not likely to get optimal results from the procedure, and should wait to undergo the procedure until their weight is no longer fluctuating. Prospective liposuction patients should be in general good health, at a stable, healthy weight, and have isolated areas of unwanted fat that have not responded to lifestyle changes. Good skin elasticity is also necessary for successful results, as the skin must be able to retract once fat has been removed. Patients should be realistic about both the initial results of the surgery, and the steps necessary to preserve those results following the recovery period.
The liposuction procedure is fairly straightforward, but the two techniques we offer do differ in the technology and approach used. Except for more minor cases, liposuction is typically performed under a general anesthesia.
First, incisions are made in the area(s) to be treated. Fluid is injected through these small incisions. In many cases, ultrasonic liposuction uses a special device is used initially to break up the fat, then traditional liposuction is used to remove the fat and contour the area to create a beautiful, natural-looking result. The incisions are then closed to complete the procedure.
Modern liposuction techniques are designed to minimize trauma to the tissues surrounding the fat, and to reduce the amount of swelling and bruising that will occur during liposuction recovery. However, swelling and bruising are an inevitable part of surgery, and patients will need to take it easy for a week or two following liposuction. During the first few weeks, a compression garment will be used to help prevent fluid accumulation and help with skin contraction. Depending on the areas treated, many patients can resume light activity after a few days and can increase their activity level over the next 2-3 weeks. Swelling will resolve gradually over a period of months, until the final results become apparent, typically six months or so following the surgery. Following liposuction, patients will need to maintain results by exercising regularly and practicing healthy eating habits to maintain a stable weight.
I heard liposuction was dangerous. Is this true?
Liposuction is surgery, so it is approached with the greatest respect and care. Modern techniques, however, have minimized many of these risks and made the procedure quite safe for good candidates. Surgeons minimize risk by insisting on the highest safety standards and controlling the amount of fat removed in a single surgery. However, there are always risks involved with any surgery and liposuction is no exception. Aside from the normal liposuction side effects like swelling, bruising, and discomfort, possible complications can include:
- Anesthesia complications
- Loose skin/uneven
- Skin discoloration
- Nerve/skin damage
How much weight can I lose from liposuction?
Liposuction is not used to treat obesity. In reality, very little weight is lost during the procedure. The main goal is to remove stubborn pockets of fat that will not go away despite diet and exercise. Liposuction is a body contouring surgery, not a weight loss surgery.
What kind of liposuction is right for me?
Everyone is different, and it can be difficult to know which liposuction technique is appropriate for you. Fortunately, our highly trained plastic surgeons are adept at assessing patient needs and can help you design a treatment plan that works best for you and your needs. Studies show that all types of liposuction can work well, and that results are more dependent on your body characteristics and the surgeon's skill. At the Emory Aesthetic Center, we often combine ultrasonic and traditional liposuction for our patients.
Is it possible to gain the weight back after liposuction?
The fat cells that are removed during liposuction surgery will not grow back after the procedure. With that said, other fat cells in the body can certainly expand for weight gain, which tends to happen all over the body. There may be fewer fat cells in the treated areas that can expand following liposuction, but weight gain can occur anywhere there are fat cells to expand. This is why it is so important for patients to be dedicated to their results and motivated to keep their weight stable following surgery.
Is a tummy tuck just liposuction of the stomach?
A tummy tuck and liposuction are two very different procedures, although liposuction is often a component of the tummy tuck procedure. While liposuction of the stomach targets only the fat in this area, a tummy tuck is a comprehensive procedure used to remove fat and excess skin from the tummy area, tighten the abdominal muscles, and even recontour/reposition the belly button if need be. Tummy tuck procedures are most common in women who have had children and in people who have lost a significant amount of weight.
What areas can be treated with liposuction?
Liposuction is a very versatile procedure, and some common areas that are treated include the stomach, hips, thighs, “love handles”, arms, knees, ankles, face, and neck. Liposuction is also a component of many other cosmetic surgical procedures.
Can liposuction fix cellulite?
While liposuction can remove fat and improve contour in many areas of the body, cellulite is caused by fat cells pressing up against fibrous tissue and causing a dimpled appearance in the skin. Because of this, even slender people often have cellulite, and fat removal alone won’t solve the problem.
Will pregnancy ruin my liposuction results?
Weight gain during pregnancy varies tremendously from woman to woman. While pregnancy won’t “ruin” the results of liposuction necessarily, some women shed weight following childbirth faster than others. Some women reach their pre-pregnancy weight quite quickly and do not see any changes to their results. Other women have more of a struggle re-gaining their shape after pregnancy, and may see some changes to the liposuction results following pregnancy weight gain. Women may want to consider waiting until they are done having children to undergo body contouring surgery for the best, longest-lasting results.
Are there alternatives to liposuction?
While liposuction often offers the most dramatic body contouring results available, we do offer a liposuction alternative: CoolSculpting®. This procedure is a non-invasive treatment that cools unwanted fat so the body can dispose of it gradually following the procedure. Patients can undergo multiple treatments for enhanced results. The amount of fat that can be removed through this method is less than with liposuction, but many patients need only subtle body contouring, making Coolscuplting® an excellent choice for some.
What is “tumescent” liposuction?
Technically the "tumescent" technique involves placing large amounts of fluid - typically 3-4 times the volume of the fat to be removed - into the area being treated with liposuction. These days a ratio of ‘fluid in’ to ‘fat out’ is about 1:1, and has been shown to give great results. Placing fluid in the liposuction site helps to more effectively remove the fatty deposits and minimize side effects like bruising and swelling during recovery.
What is the difference between Ultrasonic-Assisted Lipectomy and Suction-Assisted Lipectomy?
Ultrasonic-Assisted Lipectomy is an advanced liposuction technique that uses sound waves to break up fat cells, which are then removed. UAL can be used to remove large volumes of fat and to enhance the results for difficult areas or following previous liposuction. For both techniques, several areas can be treated during a single operation, though your surgeon may limit the amount removed at one time for safety reasons.
Suction-Assisted Lipectomy is a more traditional method of liposuction. In a SAL procedure, large volumes of fluid are injected into the body in what is called the tumescent technique. The fluid replaces natural body fluids lost during the suctioning process, which serves to reduce bruising and swelling.
Postoperatively, patients undergoing UAL or SAL do experience bruising and swelling. This may last for up to several weeks, depending on the type of procedure performed. A compression garment is worn to minimize fluid accumulation and facilitate skin settling.
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