Liposuction, liposculpture, lipoplasty and a variety of other terms are all used to describe one of the most common cosmetic procedures performed annually in the United States. Each year several hundred thousand women and men seek improvement in various areas of their body using liposuction techniques. Liposuction is a procedure that can help sculpt the body by removing unwanted fat from the:
- Upper arms
The procedure has undergone many refinements in the last several decades, including the tumescent technique, the super-wet technique, power assisted liposuction (PAL) and ultrasound assisted liposuction (UAL), all of which have helped plastic surgeons provide selected patients with more precise results and quicker recovery times. Although no type of liposuction is a substitute for proper diet and exercise, the procedure can remove stubborn areas of unwanted fat that don't respond to traditional weight loss methods creating a more sculpted and contoured appearance.
Is Liposuction Right for Me?
The best candidates for liposuction are normal-weight people with firm, elastic skin who have localized areas of excess fat. You should be physically healthy with realistic expectations and understand that Liposuction is not a weight loss procedure. Skin which has lost elasticity from weight gain, pregnancy or aging may not be appropriate for liposuction.
- Chest (gynecomastia or male breast tissue)
- Upper arms
- "Love handles" (flanks)
- Inner thighs
- "Saddle bags" (outer thighs)
Every patient is different and several factors may influence which areas are most amenable to liposuction including your skin tone, underlying medical conditions or previous surgeries performed near the area to be contoured. During your consultation with one of our doctors at Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery, you will become familiar with which type of procedure will best meet your cosmetic needs. For example, you may feel you want liposuction in the abdominal area, but after a consultation with one of our doctors you may learn that tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) combined with liposuction may more effectively meet your goals.
View photos of our patients who have had liposuction in our Before & After Gallery.
Click here to answer the question: "Am I a Candidate for Liposuction?"
At Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery, we are committed to helping you achieve your body contouring goals in and informed and safe manner. We believe that our patients are sophisticated and capable of understanding and choosing which operations are best for them after appropriate consultation and education with one of our doctors. We will help you navigate and understand the variety of options available.
Generally, liposuction procedures are limited in both the volumes removed and the amount of time spent under anesthesia. 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.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has recommended that no more than 5 liters of fat be removed in any one setting. All of our procedures are performed in our fully state licensed and The Joint Commission Accredited surgery center.
Liposuction entails the removal of fat from a particular area of the body using small incisions through which a narrow tube or cannula is inserted and used to vacuum the fat layer that lies deep beneath the skin. The primary difference between the techniques used (UAL, PAL, tumescent, super-wet) lies in the method employed to break-up and remove the fatty tissue. Along with removal of the fat there is removal of fluid which must be replaced intravenously. It is for this reason that your procedure should only be performed in an accredited surgical facility under the care of a board certified anesthesiologist so that your comfort and safety is made preeminent.
In tumescent liposuction, large volumes of fluid – sometimes as much as three times the amount of fat to be removed – are injected using this technique. Tumescent liposuction is typically performed on patients who need only a local anesthetic, and 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 depending on the size of the area being suctioned and the amount of fat to be removed.
Ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty (UAL), a technique requires the use of a special cannula that produces ultrasonic energy. As it passes through the areas of fat, the energy explodes the walls of the fat cells, liquefying the fat. The fat is then removed with the traditional liposuction technique.
UAL has been shown to improve the ease and effectiveness of Liposuction in fibrous areas of the body, such as the upper back or the enlarged male breast. It is also commonly used in secondary procedures, when enhanced precision is needed. In general, UAL takes longer to perform than traditional liposuction.
Power-assisted liposuction uses a cannula that contains a vibrating tip which helps to remove fat from the surrounding tissues so that it may be easily suctioned away. This typically decreases the operative time and may lead to more successful removal of fatty tissue from fibrous areas such as the back, male "love handles" and male breast tissue (gynecomastia).
Preparing for Surgery
At least 1 month prior to surgery
Stop smoking at least 1 month prior to your procedure. Smoking reduces circulation to the skin, impedes healing, and can lead to serious postoperative complications.
2 weeks prior to surgery
Stop all medications that can thin the blood 1-2 weeks prior to surgery. These include drugs such as Aspirin, Coumadin, Lovenox, Ibuprofen, Vitamin E, and multiple herbal preparations. These medications may cause bleeding during and after surgery. Please see the warning about blood thinning medications on our website for a list of drugs that must be stopped
1 week prior to surgery
Report any sign of a cold or infection that appear the week prior to your surgery. You may need to postpone your procedure to avoid unnecessary complications. Make sure you fill all of your prescriptions provided to you by our doctors prior to your surgery day; this will make the transition from the surgery center to your home as smooth as possible
The day before surgery
Do not eat or drink anything after midnight before your surgery. This includes water, ice, or hard candy. The only exception is that you may take your blood pressure or heart medication with a sip of water the morning of surgery.
The day of surgery
Plan to wear loose fitting clothes to the procedure, preferrable with a zipper in the front. Do not wear jewelry or bring valuables with you, except for your ID and insurance card. You may wash your surgical site with regular soap the day before and morning of surgery. You must arrange to have a responsible adult drive you home after your procedure.
What to Expect on the Day of Surgery
When you arrive, you will be escorted to a preoperative evaluation area where you will be asked to change into a gown and will be given foot covers. Your surgeon and the anesthesiologist will meet with you before you enter the operating room suite. During this time, the surgical consent form will be reviewed with you in detail and special markings may be made on your skin at the surgical site. You will have the opportunity to ask any last minute questions.
Once in the operating room, you will be transferred to our padded operating room table. A nurse will start an intravenous drip in your arm and connect you to monitoring devices. The anesthesiologist will give you medication through your intravenous drip to make you feel drowsy.
When your surgery is completed and your dressings are in place, you will be moved to the recovery room. During this period a recovery room nurse will assure your comfort and continue to monitor you closely.
Your stay in the recovery room will last approximately 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Most patients are fully awake within 30 to 60 minutes after their surgery, but they may not remember much about their time in the recovery room due to some of the anesthesia medication. Once you are ready for discharge, a postoperative appointment will be scheduled and your discharge instructions will be reviewed.
You must have a responsible adult drive you home from the surgery center. This individual should have your prescription filled at the hospital pharmacy prior to taking you home. A responsible adult must stay with you the first night after your surgery because you have been sedated.
Diet: Start with clear liquids and toast or crackers. If those are well tolerated, progress to a regular diet.
Driving: No driving for approximately one week after your procedure or while taking pain medicine. Some patients may be able to return to driving and other activities within a few days, but don't be discouraged if your recovery seems to take a little longer.
Activity: You may walk and climb stairs the day of surgery. Walk at least 3 times daily to decrease the risk of developing blood clots. Moderate activity (non-strenuous) can usually begin around day 7 after surgery (sometimes sooner) and more aerobic activities can be slowly reintroduced around 3 weeks.
Work: Depending on your career and your rate of healing you should be able to return to work within 4-7 days of surgery. Your surgeon will be able to give you a better estimate depending on your physical and professional profile.
Wound Care: A compression garment will be placed during surgery and should remain in place 24 hours a day for the first 2 weeks. A second garment will be provided to you after the first week so that you may wash one garment while wearing the other. After 3 weeks many patients will only need to wear their garment during the daytime hours, though many patients prefer to continue wearing the garment around the clock. If your garment is causing significant discomfort be sure to contact your physician.
Swelling: Mild to moderate swelling and bruising should be expected during the first several weeks. Some swelling and fluid retention can persist for several months. Remember everyone heals at a different rate, and your surgeon will follow your progress closely.
Bathing: You may shower 48 hours after surgery, but someone must be present with you to ensure that you are stable and do not become “light-headed”. When you shower do not allow water to run or spray to hit directly over the incisional site. Do not submerge the incision in a bath or swimming pool for 4 to 6 weeks.
Medications: Ask your surgeon when you can resume your blood thinning medications. All other prescription medications may be resumed immediately, as usual. While you are taking pain medicine, you are encouraged to follow a high fiber diet and take a stool softener such as Colace (available over the counter), as pain medications tend to cause constipation. Your surgeon may give you antibiotics for several days to help prevent infection.
Smoking and Alcohol: Absolutely no smoking or second hand smoke during the first 4 weeks after surgery as it impedes wound healing and can lead to serious wound complications. Alcohol consumption is dangerous while taking pain medicine and it has a tendency to worsen bleeding.
Post-Operative Appointment: Your first follow-up visit will be 1 week after surgery. Your surgeon will then schedule visits at appropriate intervals to monitor your progress.
Special Considerations: Call your surgeon immediately if you experience any of the following: pain not relieved by pain medicine, bleeding, redness at the incision site, or fever over 101°F.
You will see a noticeable difference in the shape of your body soon after surgery. However, it will take several months for all swelling to resolve, and your new contours to be fully appreciated. These results are generally long lasting if you follow a healthy diet and participate in regular exercise.
All surgical procedures involve some risks, such as the effects of anesthesia, bleeding, infection, pain, and swelling. Liposuction is one the most common cosmetic procedures performed each year, and it can be done very safely. After reading the discussion below, please contact your surgeon if you have any remaining questions.
Contour Irregularity: This is a dimple, groove or wave visible on the skin surface. While most contour irregularities are quite minor it is important to recognize that some irregularities are normal and are the result of skin areas with poorer elasticity or areas that already possessed irregularities before surgery (i.e. cellulite).
Asymmetry: Any procedure that is performed on 2 sides of the body has a small risk of differences between each side after surgery. Usually these differences are small, but asymmetry is normal in nature and certainly can be expected in varying degrees after surgery on 2 different sides of the body.
Excess Skin: Skin that is of poorer quality may not shrink well after Liposuction leaving excess or loose skin. Treatment for excess skin may necessitate an excisional procedure (i.e. such as a Tummy Tuck for excess abdominal skin).
Bruising: Bruising is highly variable between patients both in its severity and duration. Bruising is a normal finding after Liposuction.
Prolonged Swelling: Most swelling is resolving by 2-3 weeks after surgery if activity is limited and compression garments are worn faithfully. Some patients may experience swelling longer than 3 weeks, which usually is treated with continued use of compression garments and limiting strenuous activity.
Bleeding: Bleeding is usually minimal and well controlled during a Tummy Tuck. Stop all blood thinning medications 2 weeks prior to surgery to decrease the risk of excessive bleeding.
Hematoma: A hematoma is a collection of blood under the skin. Hematomas may occur within the first few days after surgery or further out if the surgical site is traumatized. Small hematomas will resolve spontaneously and can be observed. Larger ones may require aspiration or drainage for optimal results.
Infection: Antibiotics will be given to you, prophylactically before surgery, and for several days after surgery to minimize the risk of infection. If an infection develops, it typically can be treated with different antibiotics. In some situations surgical debridement may be required. This can result initially in a larger scar, which may be revised at a later date.
Pain: Mild to moderate pain and discomfort is expected after surgery. You will be given a prescription for pain medication. If you have severe pain not relieved by pain medicine, contact your surgeon immediately.
Delayed Healing or Wound Separation: In some instances, the incision takes longer to heal than normal. Cigarette smoking, poor nutrition status and a compromised immune system can all increase the risk of delayed wound healing or separation.
Numbness: It is common to experience some numbness around your surgical site for the first few weeks. Numbness can be temporary or it may be permanent in some cases.
Dissatisfaction with Cosmetic Results: We strive to attain the aesthetic results you desire. Some people are not entirely satisfied with their results due to asymmetry, scar deformity, or hypertrophic (irregularly raised) scarring. Careful surgical planning and technique can minimize, but not always prevent, such results. If necessary revisions can be made after the healing process is complete.
Blood Clots: Blood clots may form and travel to your lungs, resulting in severe injury or death. To decrease the risk of blood clots, boots that massage the lower leg will be placed on you during surgery. After the procedure you can decrease your risk of blood clots by walking 3 to 4 times daily. It is important to recognize that medical complications after a cosmetic procedure are often not covered by health insurance and can pose significant financial burdens.
Fat Clots: Similar to blood clots, but related to the liposuction procedure itself.
Fluid accumulation: Small areas of excess swelling or fluid under the skin.
Skin discoloration: Occasionally, areas that undergo liposuction can have temporary or permanent overlying skin discoloration.
Scarring: Your scars will actually appear somewhat worse over the first 3 to 6 months as the healing process occurs. You can expect your scars to thin and fade by the end of 12 months. However, your scars will never fade completely.
To find out more about liposuction and the techniques available at our Lone Tree office, please contact Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery online or call (720) 457-4471 to book a free cosmetic consultation. Our board-certified plastic surgeons welcome patients throughout the Denver area and beyond.