How it works
Liposuction removes fat via a hollow tube (cannula) and a suction device (aspirator). Incisions need to be made before the cannula can be inserted and to indicate where these will be, your surgeon will mark them on your body with a non-permanent sterile pen. The areas chosen for the insertions will typically be in the most inconspicuous places possible and are normally only between a quarter and a third of an inch long, so you won’t be left trying to explain unsightly scars to all and sundry. Additionally, the majority of the scarring will fade and disappear after the first few months.
Depending on the specific procedure you and your surgeon have decided on, you will be given an anaesthetic to numb the treatment area. When this has taken effect, the incisions will be made and the tubes inserted into the body. At the other end of the tube will be a specialist vacuum machine. The tube is then pushed and pulled through the fat layer to break up and loosen fat cells which are then suctioned out by the vacuum pump. Because you’ll be nicely numbed the only thing you might feel is a slight scraping sensation from the cannula movement, but rather than a pain it is described to be more of a sensation. When all the required fat has been sucked out, any excess fluid and blood will be drained out using small tubes.
The operation usually takes between one and two hours, but it varies on the extent of the procedure and whether you’re having the surgery done under general or local anaesthetic. Many patients will be in and out of hospital on the same day although others are asked to remain there for one or two days.
Side effects will usually be limited to the odd bit of bruising and swelling but this should settle after the first month and any discomfort or pain is treated by painkillers. You’ll also be required to wear a supportive elastic bandage 24/7 for 3 weeks and then just during the daytime for 3 weeks after that, so you probably won’t be feeling at your sexiest but it won’t prevent you going back to work. After the initial two months, your scars should become smaller and gradually fade but you will need to go for follow-up visits at the hospital so your surgeon can check on your healing progress.
Types of Liposuction
There are various methods of liposuction and your surgeon will discuss the most viable option with you prior to your operation. Sharing the same basic premise, deciding factors include how much fat will be sucked out and the areas it will be removed from.
- Wet liposuction – a small amount of fluid containing a salt solution, local anaesthetic and adrenaline is injected into the fatty area being treated. This helps loosen fat cells and reduce bruising. The fat cells are then sucked out in the normal way.
- Super-wet liposuction - often the preferred technique for high volume lipo, the same amount of fluid is injected into the body as the volume of fat expected to be removed.
- Tumescent liposuction –similar to super-wet liposuction, this involves injecting up to three times more fluid compared to the amount of fat looking to be expelled. The high volume of fluid creates a space between the muscle and fatty tissue which gives the cannula more room for manoeuvre. Although this takes a longer period of time to perform, it can provide smoother results.
- Dry liposuction – metal tubes and suction are used without any fluid injection but this causes more bruising and bleeding than other methods so is no longer commonly used.
- Ultrasound liposuction – ideal for areas where the fat is very firm (e.g. back) or where there’s a lot of fat, a specialised cannula is used to transmit ultrasound vibrations. These vibrations burst the walls of the fat cells, breaking them up so they’re easier to remove. This technique is often used in conjunction with tumescent lipo to achieve better results.
Is it for me?
If you’re looking to banish saggy skin, a ‘lift’ will be more effective than lipo, and if you’re morbidly obese, a tummy tuck will be of more value to you, as surgeons will suck out no more than 10lbs of fat during liposuction. It shouldn’t be used as an easy alternative to dieting and fitness either and is only advisable when you’ve not been able to shift stubborn areas of fat through healthy eating or exercise. However, if that is the case, your body won’t replace the fat cells you’ve had removed in lipo so if you stick to your healthy lifestyle, you should see long lasting changes.
Occasionally, liposuction can be used to treat severe forms of lymphoedema (sometimes caused after treatment for breast cancer) and gynaecomastia (fatty swellings that develop under the nipples).
Cosmetic surgery shouldn’t be taken lightly. We hate to state the obvious but once it’s done, it can’t be undone, so make sure you’ve thought everything through before you book in for this blubber buster and that you’ve met with your surgeon to dispel any qualms or queries that you might have. That way, when it comes to the big day, you’ll arrive cool, calm and collected.
Good to know
If you’re a smoker that’s desperate for lipo, this should be an incentive to quit as smoking must be avoided for two months prior to surgery because the nicotine interferes with circulation and can result in loss of tissue.