Liposuction surgery is the most commonly performed cosmetic surgery in the United States. More than a quarter of a million liposuctions were performed last year. It can be an effective means of removing excess body fat in healthy people, but cosmetic surgeons caution that liposuction should not be used as an alternative to diet and exercise.
The surgery consists of removing pockets of fat beneath the skin’s surface by inserting a hollow steel tube, called a cannula, into the affected area. Fat is then removed from the body by attaching a powerful vacuum to the cannula, which allows the cosmetic surgeon to work with localized areas. Heavy IV sedation, local anesthetics, or general anesthetics may be used on the patient during the surgery. Both patient and physician should carefully consider risks and benefits that come with any of these methods.
Choices, options and results can vary widely in this field. Doctors should make sure those who are overweight understand that liposuction is not “magic”. Liposuction is usually very effective in shaping the body in fat-prone areas such as the buttocks, hips, abdomen, chin, cheeks, neck and arms. According the American Association of Plastic Surgeons (AAPS), liposuction is most effective on, “Normal-weight people with firm, elastic skin who have pockets of excess fat in certain areas.” Those who are more overweight may not achieve the results they wished for. A reputable cosmetic surgeon will discuss all options and outline potential risks.
Effectiveness, cost, and risk are crucial factors that the patient should consider; these are referred to collectively as “surgical judgment” by the AAPS. Surgical judgment is developed through years of training and experience; patients should consider the training and experience of a particular doctor when choosing a surgeon. Membership in the American Board of Plastic Surgeons, a degree from an accredited medical school, and at least five additional years of residency are examples of indicators of good surgical judgment,.
Liposuction surgeries can be performed in a variety of settings. Some are performed in hospitals, in the surgeon’s office, and others in an outpatient surgery center. For reasons of cost and convenience, many smaller liposuction surgeries are performed on an outpatient basis. In the case of a larger liposuction surgery and surgeries that include other procedures, the surgery will be performed in a hospital, and may require a day or so of hospital stay for observation and recovery.
As with any type of surgical procedure, there are risks involved. Although liposuction is considered one of the safest cosmetic surgeries, patients should be aware of the dangers. Some risk factors include scarring, adverse drug reactions or overdose from the lidocaine used in the procedure, shock, infections, nerve damage, bleeding and blood clots, and asymmetry (uneven removal of fat deposits). Those with a history of heart disease, diabetes, high blood-pressure, allergies and smoking should discuss their medical history thoroughly with the cosmetic surgeon to determine their risk of complications with this surgery.