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What is liposuction?

Liposuction is a procedure that removes excess fat through a suctioning process. Although it is not a substitute for weight loss, it is a way of changing the body's shape and contour.

Liposuction can be used to remove excess fat that does not respond to exercise and dieting, including fat around the thighs, stomach, upper arms, buttocks, or the waistline. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of the procedure on the neck or face.

In 2008, liposuction was the second most common cosmetic surgery procedure for women and the third most common cosmetic surgery for men.

What are some different liposuction techniques?

Some of the different liposuction techniques include the following:

  • tumescent technique
    The tumescent technique involves the injection of a large quantity of a medical solution into a fatty area. The medical solution is a combination of drugs that numb the area, as well as shrink the capillaries and prevent blood loss. After the injection, a small incision is made into the skin and a tube connected to a vacuum is inserted into the fatty mass. The fat is then suctioned out.
  • super-wet technique
    Similar to the tumescent technique, the super-wet procedure uses a smaller amount of the injected medical solution. After the injection, a small incision is made into the skin and a tube connected to a vacuum is inserted into the fatty mass. The fat is then suctioned out.
  • ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty
    In the ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty, a special tube that produces ultrasound energy is used. This ultrasound energy breaks down the walls of the fat cells turning them to liquid. The fat is then suctioned out.

Possible complications associated with liposuction techniques:

Possible complications associated with liposuction techniques may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • injury to the skin or deeper tissues
    In the ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty, there is the potential of damaging the skin or deeper tissues from the heat transmitted from the ultrasound device.
  • irregular skin surface
    Changes in the skin surface can occur after liposuction, giving it an asymmetric or baggy look. There can also be changes in the skin pigmentation and areas that may become numb.
  • greater risks if large areas are treated
    The risk for infection, the formation of blood clots or fat clots, excessive fluid loss, and damage to the skin, nerves, or vital organs is greater when large areas are treated.
  • lidocaine toxicity or fluid in the lungs
    If the lidocaine content is too high, it may cause lidocaine toxicity. If too much fluid is injected, it may cause fluid build-up in the lungs.

Who are candidates for liposuction?

Generally, people of normal weight who have localized areas of protruding fat achieve the most desired results, however, persons who are slightly overweight can also benefit from liposuction. The best candidates for liposuction include the following:

  • normal-weight (or slightly-overweight) people
  • people with firm, elastic skin
  • people who have pockets of excess fat in certain areas
  • physically healthy and psychologically stable people
  • people with realistic expectations

Age is not a major factor, although older persons with diminished skin elasticity may not have the same results as persons with tighter skin.

About the procedure:

Although each procedure varies, generally, liposuction surgeries follow this process:

  • Location options may include:
    • surgeon's office-based surgical facility
    • outpatient surgery center
    • hospital outpatient
    • hospital inpatient
  • Anesthetic options may include:
    • general anesthesia
    • local anesthesia, combined with a sedative (allows the patient to remain awake but relaxed)
  • Some possible short-term side effects of surgery:
    • Heat from the ultrasound device used to liquefy the fat cells may cause injury to the skin or deeper tissues.
    • The long-term effects of ultrasound energy on the body are not yet known.

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