Liposuction Surgery – Types, Costs and Risks

Liposuction, also known as lipoplasty, is a commonly performed cosmetic plastic surgery procedure that can reduce the appearance of unsightly bulges and help you attain a slim, svelte physique. It is frequently performed on the abdomen, back and buttocks, but the technique can also be used on the thighs, knees, calves, upper arms, face, neck and other body areas.

If you have been dieting and working out but cannot get rid of that persistent muffin top, those unattractive love handles or that embarrassing arm or neck flab, liposuction may be the solution.

Liposuction procedures can be performed on their own or in combination with other procedures, such as facelift, breast reduction and tummy tuck. In fact, liposuction is often part of a combination procedure known as mommy makeover, which typically also includes breast lift and tummy tuck, and is designed to help mothers regain their pre-pregnancy body shapes.

Liposuction Candidacy

Contrary to popular belief, liposuction is not a weight loss procedure. The ideal candidate for liposuction is a healthy adult who is close to his or her ideal weight but is troubled by stubborn pockets of fat that fail to respond to diet and exercise.

If you are considering liposuction, the first step is to become as educated as possible about the procedure. Next, schedule a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon with extensive experience performing liposuction. Be sure to choose a surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, as this level of certification ensures that the surgeon has undergone extensive training and is highly esteemed by his or her colleagues.

At your initial consultation, your surgeon will examine your problem areas and discuss your goals. Be honest about your health conditions and about what you hope to achieve from surgery. The surgeon will then explain the different types, costs and potential risks of liposuction. He or she may also discuss liposuction clinical trials for which you might qualify.

If your surgeon deems you a candidate for liposuction, the next step will be to schedule your surgery.

The Liposuction Procedure

Prior to surgery, your surgeon will draw on your body using a marker to map out the areas to be treated. Next, you will be asked to lie on an operating table, and anesthesia will be administered. Liposuction is typically performed using general anesthesia, conscious sedation or local anesthesia.

Your surgeon will then inject a wetting solution consisting of saline, epinephrine and a local anesthetic into the treatment areas. Saline is a mixture of salt and water that helps to soften up the fat for easier removal. Epinephrine constricts blood vessels to prevent bleeding, while local anesthetic helps to numb the area and increase your comfort.

Next, your surgeon will make small incisions in your skin and insert a narrow tube known as a cannula. By moving the tube back and forth, your surgeon will dislodge, break up and suction fat from beneath your skin.

Types of Liposuction

Although the general steps are typically the same, different variations of the liposuction procedure are available, including:

  • Tumescent Liposuction — This procedure involves the use of a large amount of wetting solution. In fact, your surgeon may inject up to six times the amount of the volume of fat to be removed.

  • Ultrasound-Assisted Liposuction — When performing ultrasound-assisted liposuction, your surgeon will use a small probe that emits ultrasonic energy to emulsify the fat cells prior to removal.

  • Water-Assisted Liposuction — Water-assisted liposuction employs pulsating jets of water to dislodge and remove the fat cells. One advantage of this procedure is that the harvested fat cells are removed intact, allowing for reinjection into other areas of the body where more fat is needed.

  • Laser Liposuction — With laser liposuction, your surgeon will use laser energy to heat and soften fat cells for easier removal. The laser energy is also believed to stimulate collagen production, tightening and improving the overall appearance of the skin. Laser liposuction systems include SmartLipo, Slim Lipo, Cool Lipo and ProLipo Plus.

  • Abdominal Etching — Unlike other types of liposuction, which remove an even layer of fat to produce smooth results, abdominal etching involves the removal of strips of fat from the stomach to create the appearance of "six pack" abs.

Cost of Liposuction

The cost of liposuction depends on several factors, including the number of body areas to be treated, the type of procedure chosen and the experience of the surgeon. As with any plastic surgery procedure, the main costs of liposuction are the surgeon's fee, the anesthesia fee and the facility (operating room) fee. The surgeon's fee can range from $2,000 to $4,000, while the anesthesia and facility fees together can run $1,200 to $1,500.

Be sure to get an estimate of the total liposuction cost, including the cost of medications and bandages, prior to scheduling surgery.

Liposuction Risks

All surgeries carry risks, including liposuction. Liposuction risks include anesthesia complications, infection and bleeding.

Many risks associated with liposuction can be minimized by taking precautions before and after surgery. For example, if you are a smoker, your surgeon will ask you to quit smoking before and after surgery to ensure that your incisions heal properly. In addition, avoiding aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help minimize the risk of bleeding during and after surgery.

Your surgeon will explain all the liposuction risks and how to minimize them during your presurgery consultations.

Liposuction Recovery

The length and comfort level of your recovery from liposuction will depend on several variables, including the number of treatment areas and their size, your general health, and whether your lipo was performed on its own or in combination with other procedures. Be sure to follow all of your surgeon's postoperative directions to ensure a smooth liposuction recovery with the best possible aesthetic results.

For more information about liposuction, visit our gallery of liposuction before and after photos and find a surgeon in our network of board-certified plastic surgeons.