Liposuction is a procedure in which excess fat deposits are loosened and then removed from the body via gentle suction. It’s one of the top five cosmetic surgical procedures overall, and the second most common procedure for the body (breast augmentation is the only body-enhancement procedure performed more often). The procedure can be used to remove a moderate amount of excess fat in a particular area, and to recontour the body to achieve the desired shape. People who are extremely overweight should consider bariatric surgery instead of liposuction, as the amount of fat that can successfully be removed with liposuction is limited. Liposuction is also not intended to be used on the whole body, but rather on targeted areas. In addition to its use in slimming particular areas, the fat removed by liposuction can be used in other procedures to augment other bodily areas, such as the breasts or buttocks.
If you’re considering liposuction, make sure you’re choosing it because you really want it, not to please someone else or to fit an imagined ideal. No one else can make the choice for you; it’s your body, and you’re in charge of it. After you do your research and understand the procedure, if you believe that liposuction is right for you, then proceed. To help you in your decision-making process, we have some information about the risks and benefits of having liposuction at Liposuction: Risks and Benefits.
Please note that this page is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for qualified, individualized medical advice. You should discuss your potential elective surgery with your own doctor(s), including your primary care physician and the surgeon who will perform your surgery if you decide to proceed.
How it’s done
Liposuction is done under general anesthesia. After the anesthetic takes effect, a few small incisions are made in the target area. A small hollow tube, called a cannula, is inserted into each incision in turn. The cannula is gently moved around to loosen fat tissue, and then gentle suction is applied to remove the fat from the body. The incisions may be closed with fine suture, skin adhesive, or medical tape.
Preparing for the procedure
Choosing your surgeon
When choosing a surgeon, you want a highly-trained professional with experience in this type of surgery. A member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has received at least six years of surgical training after medical school, with three of those specifically in plastic surgery. Look for the designation “ASPS” after the surgeon’s name. Also, choose a surgeon with whom you feel comfortable and safe, and who listens to you and tries to understand your goals. If you have friends who’ve had cosmetic surgery, and you like their results, ask for a referral. While cost may be a consideration, don’t allow this to override more important factors in your decision. Your safety and the quality of your results are worth a little extra spending.
For more help in your search for a plastic surgeon, visit our How to Find the Best Plastic Surgeon page. At Doctor Review, you can also search providers for patient reviews to help you find the very best.
Getting ready for surgery
You will have at least one appointment with your surgeon before your surgery, during which you’ll discuss your options, ask any questions you have, and make the decision about proceeding with the surgery.
The day before your surgery, you should eat and drink enough healthy food and water, and get enough sleep the night before. You will need to stop eating 8 to 12 hours before your surgery. If you smoke, you should stop for at least 24 hours before the surgery. If you take daily medications to prevent blood clots, such as aspirin, you will likely be asked to stop those for 24 to 48 hours before the surgery (proceed as directed by your doctor, and don’t stop any medication without talking to your doctor first).
You will stay at the surgical center in the recovery room for several hours following surgery, for the anesthesia to wear off. You should then plan to spend 24 to 48 hours recovering at home with minimal activity, and your activity will be reduced (no strenuous exercise or lifting heavy objects) for about a week or two following surgery. You can resume your normal activity at the direction of your surgeon, who will see you for at least one postoperative visit several days after surgery. If sutures were used to close the skin, they’ll likely be removed at this appointment. If drains were placed, they will likely be removed by your surgeon at this visit, unless there’s a need for them to stay in longer.
Make sure you take it easy during your recovery! Too much activity could delay your healing and may lead to your scars not looking ideal. Even though your incisions are very small, it’s still very important to take care of them, keeping them clean and watching for signs of infection, and to wear your support garment to reduce swelling and allow healing. Even after you’re cleared to resume normal activity, you should expect to have some soreness and swelling for around 4-6 weeks after surgery. It may take a year or even longer for the tiny incision marks to fully fade, though they will eventually become nearly invisible in most people.