You may have heard of liposuction and know that it’s something to do with removing fat – you’re halfway there. Liposuction is a cosmetic procedure that people use to remove fat, quite often when diet and exercise regimes aren’t working. If you are struggling with your body weight, your first port of call should be to consult a doctor who may be able to assist with weight loss.
You may think that liposuction is a miracle cure for obesity but this is a common misconception; people who have liposuction generally only lose between two and five pounds. Whatever someone’s motivations are for treatment, there is a process, and this article will examine each step in liposuction.
When you’ve sought out a surgeon and booked a consultation, there are questions that you will need to answer to make sure that they will work for you. Start by asking if they hold an American Board of Plastic Surgery certificate; this proves a high standard of demonstrated practice. Further, you may want to ask to see before and after pictures of similar procedures, as well as seek information about financing. Putting your body in the hands of another is a sure risk so you need to make sure you are as informed as possible. Further, your surgeon will more than likely ask you a series of questions about your medical history, and it is imperative that you answer them honestly – your surgeon needs to be able to prepare against anything that may pose a risk to surgery. Finally, you will be told to avoid certain medications, smoking, and losing or gaining weight beforehand.
Once you have your appointment set and the suspense is setting in, you might want to know what will happen on the day – so let’s take a look.
Fetch the anaesthetist
Don’t worry, the majority of liposuction can be carried out using local anesthetic using a technique called tumescent, so you can be awake for the entire time. In some cases, patients might be issued a mild sedative to ease the process. The only time you have to concern yourself with general anesthetic is when it comes to much larger fat removals – but you can speak to your surgeon about this.
Markings on the skin
You may have seen pictures of surgeries where there are incision marks drawn onto the skin; this is the first step your surgeon will make. You can ask your surgeon where they plan on making the incisions, and generally, they will be in discreet locations to minimise scarring.
Removing the fat
Now that you’ve been anaesthetised, drawn on, and made comfortable, your surgeon will insert a slim cannula vacuum into the deep fat layers under the skin. Using the cannula, your fat cells will be agitated to loosen them before they are sucked away through the tubing. In some instances, surgeons will apply heat to the fat to speed up the breakdown process.
The final step involves closing the incisions with sutures that will stay in place for around 10 days, after which the surgeon may just leave the wound open to heal.
Different forms of liposuction
Although liposuction is traditionally performed using the method above, there are options for non-invasive forms of surgery that you may wish to discuss with your surgeon.
- Cryolipolisis. This form of fat reduction works by freezing fat cells in order to destroy them. This is done using a cup, that reaches lows of –7, placed over the area, and left for up to an hour. Once completed, your surgeon will massage the area back to its original shape. This leaves over lipids (fatty acids) that are then broken down by your body, just as with regular food.
- Laser Liposuction – rather than frozen fat cells, this method uses heat from fiberoptic lasers to break the walls of your fat cells. Once your cell walls are penetrated, they leak their fatty oils, which are then either flushed out by your body’s lymphatic system (which helps your body fight off infection), or it is sucked out using an incision.
These forms of liposuction tend to only be used on really tough fat cells –25–30% fat reduction is the ideal target for these types of surgeries. Again, these are not supposed to be an alternative to weight loss plans and dieting.
That’s all there is to know about how liposuction works, and there are rarely complications during procedures. Once you have healed up, the rest is down to you to maintain your new figure; although your fat has been permanently removed, existing fat can still grow. Remember that when you are looking for a surgeon, you must ask all of the right questions, check that they have an accredited certification, and that get a payment agreement in writing prior to treatment.
Helen Bradfield did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.