The most popular cosmetic surgery procedure in the U.S. today, liposuction sculpts the body by removing undesirable fat from areas of the body such as the abdomen, waist, hips, buttocks, thighs, knees, chin, cheeks, neck and upper arms that have not responded to diet and exercise. Local anesthesia or general anesthesia may be used and can last anywhere from one to five hours, depending on the amount of fat being removed.
There are several different methods surgeons use when performing liposuction, including tumescent liposuction, the super-wet technique, and ultrasound-assisted liposuction (UAL). In all types, a tiny incision is made in as inconspicuous a place as possible. A cannula (small tube) is inserted and moved back-and-forth beneath the skin, breaking up the fat layer and suctioning it out. Tumescent liposuction and super-wet liposuction use fluid injection, which facilitates fat removal, reduces blood loss, provides anesthesia during and after surgery, and helps to reduce the amount of bruising after surgery. UAL liquefies fat with ultrasonic energy and is highly precise.
Risks are uncommon when the procedure is performed by a qualified surgeon but may include infection, delays in healing, fat clots or blood clots, shock, fluid accumulation that must be drained, burns, perforation injury, lidocaine toxicity, and unfavorable drug or anesthesia reactions.
After surgery, drainage tubes, compression garments and antibiotics may be needed to facilitate the healing process. Patients are encouraged to walk as soon as they are able and many return to work within a few days, although strenuous activity should be avoided for about a month. Results are visible immediately, though improvement may continue as swelling subsides during the first three months. Scars are small and inconspicuous. Other irregularities in appearance are possible, such as asymmetric or "baggy" skin, numbness and pigmentation changes.