What Is Liposuction?

Liposuction (aka liposculpture and suction lipectomy) is a form of plastic surgery that breaks up and removes fat from various possible parts of the body.  Liposuction is performed most commonly in the abdomen, thighs,  flanks and back, and can also be performed  in the buttocks, neck, chin, and calves. The fat is removed using a hollow cannula (connected to a suction device)  that is inserted under the skin through small incisions. Liposuction can be performed as a stand alone procedure, or in conjunction with breast surgery as part of a Mommy Makeover.

Every year in the United states, over 400,000 liposuction procedures are carried out. Patients who undergo liposuction generally have a stable body weight, and would like to remove undesirable deposits of fat in specific parts of the body.  Liposuction  is not a weight-loss method and therefore not an appropriate treatment for obesity. Liposuction will not remove cellulite, dimples or stretch marks from the skin.

Liposuction permanently removes fat cells from the body. It can alter the shape of a body. However, if the patient goes on to gain weight after the operation there is a risk that the remaining fat cells grow bigger.

The amount of fat than can be safely removed in one setting  is limited. Liposuction has a number of possible risks, including infection, prolonged swelling, seroma formation, fat embolus, venous thrombosis, exacerbation of overlying (pre-existing) skin laxity, numbness and scarring. If too much fat is removed there may be lumpiness or irregularities in the skin. Many experts agree that the surgical risks are related to the amount of fat removed.

Some medical conditions may benefit from liposuction, including:

  • Lipomas - benign fatty tumors.
  • Gynecomastia - where fatty breast tissue has developed in men.
  • Lipodystrophy syndrome – a lipid  metabolism disturbance in which there is too much fat in some parts of the body and partial or total absence of fat in other parts. The most well known type is associated with and a side effect of some HIV medications (anti-retroviral therapy).

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