Getting liposuction from a practitioner who is board-certified in these types of procedures is safest. andriano.cz/Shutterstock
Liposuction is a surgical procedure to remove extra fat from your body. It started in the 1980s and has become one of the most popular plastic surgeries in the US. An estimated 258,000 Americans got it in 2018.
Today, you can expect to pay around $3,500 for liposuction and most health insurance plans won't cover the cost. But if you're willing to pay the price, liposuction is a relatively safe and quick procedure that can help you shed fat that diet and exercise can't.
Here's what you need to know about how liposuction works and why it's not a weight-loss tool.
Liposuction is a 1-to2-hour-long procedure where fat cells are permanently removed from your body, usually for cosmetic reasons. People who get liposuction don't do it to lose large amounts of weight but rather to help sculpt the shape of their body.
Some of the most common places to have fat removed are the belly, thighs, buttocks, arms, back, the upper neck just under the chin, and jawline/jowls.
Depending on where you're getting the procedure, doctors will either provide a local anesthetic to numb the area of operation or they will give you a general anesthetic so you're unconscious during the procedure.
Then, surgeons will often inject into the area of operation a solution containing a mix of saline solution, a numbing medicine, and medicine the decreases bleeding. This is to help the skin and fat separate from important structures like muscles and blood vessels so they aren't damaged during the suctioning process.
After that, the surgeon inserts a long metal instrument called a cannula under your skin. The cannula then vacuums out your fat. During this process, surgeons may also use a smaller microcannula to remove fat in nearby areas to achieve a more natural, smoother contour.
Once the fat is removed through liposuction it can be discarded or it can be injected back into your body to enhance features like breasts, buttocks, or face. Or, more recently, in the last decade or so, liposuction has also been used to retrieve stem cells a type of cell that can form other specialized cells in the body for laboratory research.
After liposuction, your surgeon will likely recommend you wear a temporary band or brace over the area of operation to help the skin heal. The band or brace also helps prevent fluid from building up in the area of operation where the fat was removed, between the skin and deeper structures like muscles and blood vessels.
Whether you are awake or asleep during liposuction, you shouldn't feel any pain during the procedure, says Marco A. Pelosi II, MD, a cosmetic surgeon with experience performing liposuction procedures. The recovery, also, should be a relatively mild process.
After getting liposuction, you will feel soreness similar to a muscle ache. "The level of this soreness is typically a 2 or 3 out of 10 for a few weeks," says Pelosi, adding that you should be able to go back to work in 2 to 3 days.
Ongoing pain near the area where the cannula was inserted is a risk of liposuction, and if the pain grows or pain killers don't help, you should tell your surgeon.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, you should not use liposuction as a weight loss alternative. It recommends that if you want to lose weight, you should first try diet and exercise, then use liposuction to take care of more stubborn areas like the chin or belly fat.
Moreover, research shows that people who keep up other weight loss practices like a healthy diet and exercise will see better results after liposuction and keep fat from returning to a particular area.
This is because while liposuction permanently removes fat cells from your body, there is nothing to stop the remaining fat cells from getting bigger if you gain more weight.
There are some important safety tips to look for when choosing a liposuction provider.
First, look for a facility that meets national safety requirements. You can verify if a facility is accredited on the American Society of Plastic Surgeons' website here.
Pelosi says that doctors should also do blood work testing and medical clearances before a liposuction procedure to ensure your safety. These tests are to make sure you can safely undergo general anesthesia without complication. If, for example, you have an infection or are pregnant, you may not qualify for the surgery.
Last, but not least, is to look for a surgeon who is board-certified in performing these types of procedures and also has extensive experience with liposuction procedures so you know that they are well versed in the technique. To find out more about a practitioner's experience with liposuction, you can check the American Society of Plastic Surgeons' website.
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