Liposuction (also known as lipoplasty or body contouring) is a surgical procedure that uses suction technique via a cannula to remove fat from specific areas of the body. This procedure should not be considered as a weight-loss method as diet and exercise would help with weight loss much more than liposuction. It is also important to note that liposuction is not a permanent solution to fix a certain body area as the remaining fat cells in your body can increase in size if a healthy diet and exercise is not maintained.
A good candidate for liposuction is a person who has a stable body weight but too much body fat in specific areas that do not respond to diet and exercise. These areas include:
- Abdomen and flank
- Upper arms
- Thighs and hips
- Jawline, chin and neck
Liposuction can also be used for treatment of gynaecomastia and breast reduction.
After liposuction, the skin in that area will mold itself to the new contour depending on the skin tone and elasticity. With good skin tone and elasticity, the skin should be smooth with minimal irregularity. The skin of the treated areas may appear loose and crinkly if the skin tone and elasticity is poor. It should be noted that liposuction does not improve cellulite dimpling, stretch marks or other skin irregularities.
There are several methods of liposuction:
- Tumescent liposuction
- Ultrasound-assisted liposuction (UAL)
- Laser-assisted liposuction (LAL)
- Power-assisted liposuction (PAL)
Before you decide on which method of liposuction, do consult a qualified and experienced plastic surgeon to discuss about:
- Your expectation
- Any pre-existing medical condition or known allergy
- Any previous surgery or procedure done to the specific body areas
- Which method is a better option on which body areas
- Details of the procedure and choice of anaesthesia
- Risks and complications of procedure and recovery period
Possible complications of liposuction include:
- Contour irregularities
- Fluid accumulation
- Internal puncture
- Fat embolism
- Kidney and heart problems
- Lidocaine toxicity
The risk of complications increases with the number of areas treated or if other procedures are performed (e.g abdominoplasty, brachioplasty or thighplasty) in the same setting. Therefore, surgeons usually limit the amount of fat aspirate to less than 5kgs (11 pounds) during a liposuction procedure.
After liposuction, tight compression garment over the treated areas is required for about 3-6 months. This helps to reduce swelling in the first 2-4 weeks, remold and reshape the skin and contour of the treated areas. Pain and swelling usually resolves within 2 weeks. Bruising may take up to 4 weeks to completely resolve. Exercise can be resumed after 4 weeks. Contour irregularities may take up to 6 months to settle.
By Dr Kathleen Chang
Consultant Plastic Surgeon & Reconstructive surgeon
Ko Skin Specialist Centre.