Q. What is the body contouring technique called liposuction?
A. Liposuction is a technique whereby fat is removed from various parts of the body with a small suction tube. The tube is placed through a very small incision (¼ inch) which is placed in an inconspicuous, hidden spot such as the belly button or buttock fold. Liposuction is not meant to be used as a substitute for a wholesome diet or a fitness/weight reduction program. Rather it compliments these activities by contouring and smoothing certain exercise-resistant and diet-resistant fat deposits. However, some patients find success in “jumpstarting” a lifestyle change by utilizing liposuction as a “kick-off” point.
Q. Which areas are best treated with liposuction?
A. Almost any area of the body can be treated with liposuction, but the most common areas are the tummy, saddle bags (outer thighs), buttocks, inner thighs, inner knees, calves, ankles, love handles, upper arms and double chin (neck).
Q. Who is the ideal candidate for liposuction?
A. The ideal candidate is a male or female between the ages of 16 and 65 who is basically healthy, has good skin tone, and localized fat deposits which cannot be removed by exercise or diet. Those who are obese or who have aprons of fat are helped by other plastic surgical procedures in combination with liposuction. Those patients who are over 65 years of age are not automatically eliminated but are rather chosen very carefully. An individual consultation is required to determine whether liposuction will benefit your particular situation.
Q. What is the maximum amount of fat that can be removed at one stage?
A. It is generally recommended that no more than 5000cc of fat (9-10 lbs) be removed at one time. Occasionally, more can be removed, but this depends upon your height, weight, and overall state of health. No more than the safe maximum volume for each individual patient will be removed. If a secondary procedure is needed to remove additional fat, you will be responsible for 80% of the usual and customary fees for this procedure.
Q. How long does the procedure take?
A. The length of the procedure depends upon the number of areas treated. For example, if the tummy, saddle bags, and inner thighs are treated, the procedure usually last about 2 to 3 hours. If saddle bags and buttocks alone are treated, the procedure usually lasts 1-2 hours.
Q. Is having liposuction painful?
A. The sensation of pain is, of course, subjective and depends upon a patient’s particular tolerance. After liposuction, however, the majority of patients describe discomfort rather than actual pain. You may feel fatigued or “wiped out” for the first 24 to 48 hours after surgery but require little pain medication. Usually by the second or third day after surgery, minimal or no pain medication is required.
Q. Where is the surgery performed?
A. I perform liposuction at the Renaissance Center in my own state-of-the-art surgery suite. It is done on an outpatient basis.
Q. Am I asleep during the procedure?
A. Yes. Liposuction is usually performed using twilight sedation and local anesthesia but in certain patients, general anesthesia is more desirable.
Q. What can I expect both before and after surgery? Are there risks involved?
A. Each of my liposuction patients undergoes routine pre-admission testing to establish a baseline of blood chemistry and general health. Some may require a surgical clearance from their primary care physician. I give all my patients antibiotics during surgery to help prevent infection. Afterward, I place foam sponges called “Reston” under the compression garment for 1 week after surgery to provide comfort, reduce bruising, and provide uniform pressure to the treated areas. These sponges are gently removed by one of my nurses one week after surgery. I also have most patients take Vitamin C for 3 weeks after surgery to help with healing.
After liposuction, one should expect the treated areas to become black and blue and slightly swollen for a period of 2 to 3 weeks. The Reston sponges, and the compression garment keep this to a minimum. Dimpling or waviness may occur in the treated areas. This is related to age, skin tone, and the amount of fat removed, but is usually minimal and not noticeable. In the extremely rare patient, it must be corrected with additional procedures. Some patients also report a change in the sensation of the skin over the affected areas. This is temporary and can take from 3 to 6 months to return to normal. I have rarely seen skin sag after liposuction; the skin usually retracts inward and quickly adjusts to the new, reduced volume.
Despite all these precautions, however, this surgery still has risks. But modern advances in anesthesia and surgical techniques have made liposuction one of the safest and most effective procedures in plastic surgery today.
Q. Are the scars noticeable?
A. The incisions through which the cannula is placed are small ( ¼ inch). In addition, they are placed in inconspicuous places (the pubic hair, navel, or buttock fold) so that the scars are well-hidden and almost imperceptible after healing.
Q. Are there any special dressings used afterwards? When can I shower?
A. You must wear a specially designed compression garment or girdle for 3 to 4 weeks after surgery to help reduce swelling and produce a smooth skin contour as healing takes place. The garment has an open crotch so that bowel and bladder functions are never interrupted. You can remove this garment temporarily to shower 7 days after the procedure: the garment is worn day and night for one week. For the next 2 to 3 weeks it is worn only during the day.
Q. When can I drive my car or go back to work?
A. By 2 to 3 days after the procedure, most patients can comfortably drive their car.
The decision when to return to work is, of course, an individual one and depends on the type of work you do. If your job does not entail much physical activity, I recommend taking one week off completely, then returning to work part-time for another week, and finally resuming work on a full-time basis two weeks after surgery. On the other hand, if your job involves much walking or lifting, such as a waitress, cook, steward, landscaper, etc., it is best to take 10 to 14 days off completely, and then return to full-time work during the third week after surgery.
Q. Are there any special exercises or massages suggested after surgery?
A. During the second week after liposuction, it is recommended that you lubricate and gently massage the skin of the treated areas three times a day with a moisturizing lotion. The treated areas should not be exposed to direct sunlight for at least 6 months after the procedure. If one is out in the sun, it is recommended that a sun block with an SPF of #30 or above be applied over the treated areas and re-applied as indicated on the label.