Liposuction: What is it? Procedure, Results, Candidates, Safety and Risks

It is a cosmetic surgery that consists of sucking the subcutaneous fat.

Despite good health and a reasonable fitness level, some people may still have disproportionately contoured bodies due to localized fat deposits.

These areas may be due to family traits rather than a lack of weight or fitness control.

Liposuction slims and reshapes specific areas of the body by removing excess fat deposits, improving the contours and proportion of your body, and ultimately enhancing your self-image.

Liposuction is also known as lipectomy or lipoplasty. Common target areas include the thighs, abdomen, arms, hips, buttocks, back, neck, and under the chin.

However, liposuction can also be done with other plastic surgeries, including facelifts, breast reductions, and tummy tucks.

Liposuction can remove up to 5 liters of fat relatively safely during one session.


Repeated treatments may be necessary depending on the number of areas that require treatment.



When liposuction is performed for a small area and the amount of fat is low, liposuction can be achieved with local anesthesia, which numbs only the tiny spaces affected.

However, if the patient prefers it, local anesthesia is generally used in conjunction with intravenous sedation to stay more relaxed during the liposuction procedure.

Epidural anesthesia (the same one used during labor) may be a good option for more extensive procedures.

Modern anesthesia is safe and effective, but it does have some risks.

The surgeon and anesthetist should be informed about all medications you have taken and any allergies you may have.


The incisions in the liposuction procedure are small and inconspicuous.

Liposuction techniques

There are only a few different liposuction techniques. But what they all have in common is the use of a thin tube, called a cannula, connected to a vacuum to suck fat out of the body.

At a minimum, the surgeon must have basic accredited surgical training with special training in body contouring.

Also, although many body contouring procedures are performed outside of the hospital setting, the person must ensure that the surgeon is knowledgeable and experienced enough to operate.

The doctor must have advanced surgical skills to perform procedures that involve removing a large amount of fat (more than 5 liters or 5,000 ccs).

More extensive liposuction procedures require inpatient aftercare. It should be obvious how the surgeon plans to monitor the patient’s condition after the procedure.

However, it is essential to note that although a well-trained surgeon and a state-of-the-art facility can improve your chances of obtaining a good result, there are no guarantees.

The basic liposuction technique is used in all patients who undergo this procedure. However, as the system has been developed and refined, several variations have been introduced.

Fluid Injection, a technique in which a medicated solution is injected into fatty areas before removing the fat, is commonly used by plastic surgeons today.

The liquid, a mixture of intravenous saline, lidocaine (a local anesthetic), and epinephrine (a drug that constricts blood vessels), helps remove fat more efficiently, reduces blood loss, and provides anesthesia during and after surgery.

Injecting fluids also helps reduce the amount of bruising after surgery. The amount of injected fluid varies depending on the surgeon’s preference.

In the tumescent technique, large volumes of fluid are injected, sometimes up to three times the amount of fat removed.

Tumescent liposuction, usually performed on patients who only need local anesthesia, usually takes much longer than traditional liposuction (sometimes up to 4 to 5 hours).

But, additional anesthesia may not be needed because the injected liquid contains an adequate amount of anesthetic,

This technique refers to the swollen and firm or tumescent state of the fatty tissues when they are filled with solution.

The super-wet technique is also used, similar to the tumescent method, but it uses smaller amounts of liquid.

In general, in this technique, the amount of fluid injected is proportional to the amount of fat that will be removed in the procedure.

This technique often requires IV sedation or general anesthesia and typically takes one to two hours of surgery.

Ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty requires the use of a special cannula that produces ultrasonic energy.

As it passes through the fat areas, the energy bursts through the fat cell walls, liquefying the fat.

The fat is then removed with the traditional liposuction technique.

Ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty has been shown to improve the effectiveness of liposuction in fibrous areas of the body, such as the upper back or an enlarged male chest, making the procedure more accessible and more effective.

It is also commonly used in secondary procedures when greater precision is needed.

In general, ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty takes longer to perform than traditional liposuction.


The patient goes home with a compression garment that covers the treated areas. Compression is recommended for about a month to reduce swelling and help achieve an even result.

The initial discomfort is easily controlled with oral medications, and most patients find that they quickly resume normal activities.

The swelling and bruising usually go away in 2 to 4 weeks. The final result takes shape 2 to 3 months after performing the liposuction procedure.

The patient will likely be given some antibiotics to prevent the onset of an infection.

Results of a liposuction

The specialist plastic surgeon will strive to minimize scars and keep your scars as discreet as possible by placing the incisions in easily hidden places.

That way, the scars will be along natural skin lines and wrinkles. Scars can fade little by little and are hardly noticeable over time.

With steady, healthy diet and fitness practices, the loss of excess fat tissue must be permanently maintained.

However, substantial weight gain can alter a permanent result.

The permanence of the results

Fat cells are permanently removed during liposuction. But you can gain weight again with new fat cells, which usually go to different body areas.

After surgery, eat a diet that includes lots of lean protein, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products to maintain your new shape. And exercise regularly.

Candidates for liposuction

Liposuction is an individualized procedure and may not be suitable for everyone. It would help if you always spoke with the specialist plastic surgeon before deciding.

The specialist plastic surgeon will evaluate your condition and general health and plan the treatment that best suits the applicant.

Liposuction may be suitable for a person if:

  • He is physically healthy and has a stable weight.
  • Has realistic expectations.
  • The person does not smoke or has stopped smoking.
  • You have accumulated fat that persists despite a healthy diet and exercise.

Liposuction is more likely to succeed in those of a healthy weight with firm, elastic skin, which accumulates fat in certain areas.

Although age is not a significant concern, older people may have less skin elasticity and may not achieve the same results as younger people with tighter skin.

Before opting for liposuction, it should be noted that:

  • Liposuction is not a substitute for weight loss therapies (healthy food and exercise).
  • If your skin is dimpled (cellulite) before liposuction, you will likely still dimple after the procedure has been done.
  • If the “extra” skin does not contract (tighten) after liposuction, you may need an additional surgical procedure to remove the excess skin.
  • A person may not be able to undergo the procedure if they cannot receive anesthesia, are prone to bleeding tendencies or have poor healing ability, or are at too high a risk for surgical complications.

Important aspects about the safety and risks of liposuction

Modern surgery is generally safe, but it has the potential for risks and complications.

Although rare, complications can always occur. The risks increase if more areas are treated simultaneously, or if the operational sites are more significant.

Removing a large amount of grease and liquid may require longer operating times than those required for smaller operations.

There are also points to consider with the new techniques. For example, the heat from the ultrasound device used to liquefy fat cells can cause injury to the skin or deeper tissues.

Also, you should be aware that although liposuction has been successfully performed on several thousand people worldwide, the long-term effects that ultrasound energy might have on the body are not yet known.

Intumescent and super-wet techniques, the anesthetic fluid that is injected can cause lidocaine toxicity (if the lidocaine content of the solution is too high) or fluid build-up in the lungs (if too much fluid is given).

Liposuction scars are small and strategically placed to hide from view. However, imperfections in the final appearance are not uncommon after lipoplasty.

Some of the possible complications and risks associated with liposuction include thermal burns or another heat injury to the skin or deeper tissues from the ultrasound device used to liquefy fat cells.

This can occur in ultrasound-assisted liposuction.

Complications caused by the injection of anesthetic fluid can include lidocaine toxicity (if the lignocaine content of the solution is too high).

An accumulation of fluid in the lungs is possible (if too much fluid is administered). This can occur with intumescent and super-wet liposuction or, on the contrary, an excessive loss of fluid, which can cause shock.

The combination of many factors can create more significant risks such as:

  • Risks of infection.
  • Healing problems.
  • Unfavorable drug reactions.
  • Uneven skin surface, irregular contours, or ripples.
  • Asymmetric or “loose” skin surface.
  • Change in skin sensation or numbness.
  • Changes in skin pigmentation, skin discoloration, or swelling.
  • Damage to deeper structures such as nerves, blood vessels, muscles, lungs, and abdominal organs.
  • Pain, which can be continuous.
  • Formation of blood clots or fat clots, which can migrate to the lungs.
  • Persistent swelling in the legs.
  • Deep vein thrombosis and cardiac and pulmonary complications.

Additional surgery may even be necessary to address some complications.