Liposuction is a surgical procedure in which a suction technique is used to remove fat from specific areas of the body, such as the abdomen, hips, thighs, buttocks, arms or neck. Liposuction also shapes (molds) these areas. Liposuction is also called “liposuction” and “body shaping.”

Liposuction is not typically considered a general method or an alternative to lose weight. If you are overweight, you are likely to lose more weight with diet and exercise or through bariatric procedures (such as gastric bypass surgery) than with liposuction.

You can be a candidate for liposuction if you have too much body fat in specific places, but with a stable body weight.

Why is it done?

Liposuction is used to remove fat from areas of the body that have not responded to diet or exercise, such as the following:

  • Abdomen
  • Arms
  • Buttocks
  • Calves and ankles
  • Chest and back
  • Hips and thighs
  • Neck
  • In addition, liposuction is sometimes used for breast reduction.

When you gain weight, fat cells increase in size and volume. Liposuction reduces the amount of fat cells in a specific area. The amount of fat that is removed depends on the appearance of the area and the volume of fat. The resulting changes to the silhouette are usually permanent, as long as your weight remains stable.

After liposuction, the skin is molded to the new contour of the treated areas. If you have good muscle tone and elasticity, your skin will probably maintain a smooth appearance. However, if your skin is thin with little elasticity, the skin in the treated areas may seem loose.

Liposuction does not improve subsidence due to cellulite or other irregularities on the surface of the skin. Likewise, liposuction does not remove stretch marks.

Liposuction is not recommended in people who have diseases that could complicate surgery, such as the following:

  • Restricted blood flow
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Diabetes
  • Weak immune system


As with any major surgery, liposuction carries risks such as bleeding and reaction to anesthesia. Possible complications specific to liposuction include:

Abnormalities in the silhouette. The skin may appear bulky, wavy, or weakened due to uneven fat removal, poor skin elasticity, and unusual healing. These changes could be permanent. Damage under the skin of the thin tube (cannula) used during liposuction may give the skin a permanent stained appearance.

Accumulation of liquids. Temporary accumulations of fluid (seromas) can form under the skin. It may be necessary to drain this fluid with a needle.

Numbness You may feel temporary or permanent numbness in the affected area. It is also possible that temporary irritation of the nerves appears.

Infection. Skin infections are rare but likely. A serious skin infection could be life-threatening.

Internal puncture It is unlikely that a cannula that penetrates too deep can pierce an internal organ. This may require emergency surgical repair.

Embolism fat. Pieces of loose fat may break off and become trapped in a blood vessel and build up in the lungs or go to the brain. A fat embolism is a medical emergency.

Kidney and heart problems. Changes in fluid levels such as fluids that are injected and suctioned can cause kidney and heart problems that are life-threatening.

The risk of complications increases if the surgeon is working on larger areas of the body or doing several procedures during the same operation. Talk to your surgeon about how these risks apply to you.

How do you prepare?

Food and medicines
Before the procedure, talk with the surgeon about what you should expect from the surgery. Review your medical history, list any medical conditions you have and tell the surgeon about any medication, supplement or herbal medicines you are taking.

The surgeon will recommend that you stop taking certain medications, such as anticoagulants or NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), at least two weeks before surgery.

Other precautions
If the procedure requires extracting only a small amount of fat, the surgery could be done in an office. If a large amount of fat needs to be removed (or if you plan to undergo other procedures at the same time), the surgery could take place in a hospital where you could spend the night. In any case, arrange for someone to take you home after the procedure.

Before the procedure
Before liposuction, the surgeon could mark circles and lines in the areas of the body to be treated. Photographs could also be taken to compare previous and subsequent images.

The manner in which the liposuction procedure is performed depends on the specific technique used:

Tumescent liposuction This is the most frequent type of liposuction. The surgeon injects a sterile solution (a mixture of salt water that helps remove fat, an anesthetic [lidocaine] to relieve pain, and a medication [epinephrine] that causes blood vessels to constrict) in the area to be treated. The liquid mixture causes the affected area to swell and harden.

Then, the surgeon makes small cuts in the skin and inserts a thin tube called a cannula under the skin. The cannula connects to a vacuum that sucks fat and body fluids. The body fluid could be replenished through an intravenous line.
Liposuction assisted by ultrasound. Sometimes, this type of liposuction is used together with tumescent liposuction. During this, the surgeon inserts a metal rod that emits ultrasonic energy under the skin. This breaks down the walls of the adipocytes and liquefies the fat so that extraction is easier.

Laser assisted liposuction. This technique uses high intensity laser light to liquefy the fat in order to extract it. In it, the surgeon inserts a laser fiber through a small incision and emulsifies the fat deposits. Then, the fat is extracted through a cannula.

Propulsed liposuction. In this type of liposuction a cannula is used that has a fast forward and backward movement. This vibration allows the surgeon to remove hard fat more easily. Sometimes, propelled liposuction may cause less pain and swelling, and may allow the surgeon to remove fat more accurately, especially in smaller areas such as the arms, knees, or ankles.

During the procedure
Some liposuction procedures may require only local or regional anesthesia (anesthesia that is limited to a specific area of ​​the body). Other procedures may require general anesthesia, which induces a temporary state of unconsciousness. You may be given a sedative (usually by intravenous injection) to help you stay calm and relaxed.

The surgical team will monitor heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen level throughout the procedure. If you feel pain, tell the surgeon. You may need to make adjustments in medications or movements.

The procedure could last up to several hours depending on the amount of fat that is extracted. After the procedure, the surgeon may leave the incisions open to drain the fluid.

If you have been given general anesthesia, you will wake up in a recovery room. Generally, you will spend at least a few hours in the hospital or clinic so that the medical staff can control your recovery. If you are in a hospital, you could spend the night there to ensure that you are not dehydrated or in shock due to the loss of fluids.

After the procedure
You may have pain, swelling and bruising after the procedure. You may have to wait a few days to return to work and a few weeks to resume normal activities, including physical activity.

The surgeon can prescribe medications to help control pain and antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection. It is also possible that, for a few weeks, you should wear tight compression garments, which help reduce inflammation. During this time, you can expect some abnormalities in your silhouette, since the remaining fat should be accommodated.


After a liposuction, the inflammation usually disappears in a few weeks. By then, the treated area should look less bulky. After a few months, the treated area should have a thinner appearance.

The results of liposuction are usually lasting if you maintain your weight. If you gain weight after a liposuction, the distribution of fat may change. For example, you could accumulate fat around the abdomen regardless of the areas that were originally treated.

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