In 2016, liposuction came in as the second most popular plastic surgery procedure in the United States, according to The American Society of Plastic Surgeons. They report that over 222,000 liposuction procedures were performed in all areas of the body ranging from the upper arms to the abdomen. The ability of liposuction to provide fast and long lasting results coupled with new advances that allow it to be performed on an outpatient basis make it a popular choice for many patients.
Liposuction is a safe and effective procedure, but patients should do their homework to make sure it is the right procedure to meet their needs and desired outcomes, says Dr. Jack Peterson, M.D. Peterson is a licensed plastic surgeon in Topeka, Kansas, who performs many liposuction procedures per year. Peterson stresses the importance of the personal consultation to ensure that patients understand the fine points of the procedure, and to get a feel for what patients want. “It is important to dispel some of the myths about the procedure to make sure that patients are educated and informed,” says Peterson.
One of the myths around the procedure is that liposuction is a quick way to lose weight. But as Peterson and other plastic surgeons stress, liposuction is not a weight-loss tool. “It is a procedure to reshape and resculpt tough to tone areas of the body after a patient has undergone significant weight loss, either as a result of bariatric surgery or through diet and exercise,” he explains.
Another myth is that the results are temporary. When fat cells are removed, they are removed permanently from the area of the procedure, but that does not mean remaining fat cells will not get bigger. The results of liposuction are permanent but will be impacted if the patient gains a significant amount of weight. “Patients who gain a small amount of weight retain their shape, however, if a patient puts on 10 percent of their body weight or more, they will lose the curves and shape they had experienced as a result of the procedure,” Peterson explains.
Another myth is that liposuction is a painful surgery with a long recovery period. Medical technology advancements in plastic surgery procedures have transformed liposuction from major surgery to a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure often performed in the surgeon’s clinical setting. Patients should make sure wherever their procedure is performed it is in an accredited facility, and that their plastic surgeon is licensed and board certified advises Peterson. “For patient safety and peace of mind, patients should ask questions regarding credentialing and accreditation.” He also recommends that patients should look for physicians that have endorsements by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Patients are sedated during the procedure, but liposuction only requires a small incision to accommodate the wand used in the procedure. Peterson also uses a numbing fluid, known as tumescent fluid, to anesthetize the area of treatment. Tumescent fluid is made up of lidocaine, saline and other fluids that carry suctioned fat away after it is removed.
Tumescent fluid also contains vasoconstrictors to make the blood vessels constrict, which minimizes blood loss, and the numbing benefit of the fluid lasts up to 24 hours which helps to control post-op pain. The use of tumescent fluid helps patients to recover faster, which is a major plus. “Many patients looking at plastic surgery procedures look for options that have minimal downtime,” says Peterson. Peterson’s liposuction patients are typically cleared to resume their pre-procedure activities in just six weeks.
Using tumescent fluid also helps remove unwanted fat more effectively, and reduces the risk of the patient developing skin irregularities after the procedure. “Tumescent fluid is an excellent tool for plastic surgeons to ensure high quality, great-looking results,” says Peterson.
Patients will experience some bruising and swelling after the procedure, which lessens quickly, especially if patients follow post-procedure directives and wear compression garments, increase fluid intake and follow activity protocols.
Patients seeking liposuction should list their questions out for their provider and schedule a consultation to discuss options and outcomes.