Reviewed by Julius Few, MD
Risks, recovery and results are the three R's of plastic surgery, and each should play a role in your decision to undergo a plastic surgery procedure such as liposuction.
The speed and comfort level of your liposuction recovery will depend on many factors, including the liposuction method, the volume of fat removed, your surgeon's skill set and your physical health and resilience. The type of anesthesia used also affects your recovery. If your liposuction involves general anesthesia, you may feel foggy and nauseated after your surgery. In addition, if your liposuction is paired with another plastic surgery procedure, your recovery may be more extensive than if you undergo liposuction alone.
Liposuction Recovery Basics
While the recovery process varies from patient to patient, the following are some general liposuction recovery principles.
For starters, large-volume liposuction usually involves an overnight stay in the hospital or surgicenter. Spot reduction with laser liposuction, however, is usually an in-office procedure.
The surgeon may insert drains to help usher blood and fluid out of the incision sites. You will be given clear instructions on how to care for your drains and incisions during your liposuction recovery.
Expect some initial mild-to-moderate pain and discomfort after any liposuction procedure. This can be alleviated with prescription or over-the-counter medications.
You will be asked to wear a compression garment over the treated area to minimize swelling and allow your body some time to get used to its new contours. You should receive specific instructions on how long you must wear the garment. This time will vary based on the method of liposuction and the amount of fat removed. Many people who undergo laser liposuction can switch to Spanx or other commercial shapewear products within a few days.
Swelling and bruising is common after liposuction and tends to resolve within a week. There may be some transient numbness in the treated area as well. During laser liposuction and ultrasound-assisted liposuction, fat cells are broken up before being vacuumed out. This causes less trauma to the surrounding tissues than occurs with traditional liposuction, which may allow for a smoother recovery period.
While you will be encouraged to get up and walk around soon after your liposuction procedure to lower your risk of developing a blood clot, your activity may be restricted for a few days. Make sure you ask your doctor for specific guidance about when you can go back to work or resume your exercise regimen.
Your Liposuction Recovery
At your initial consultation, ask your surgeon for a specific, individualized description of what to expect during liposuction recovery. If your friend or neighbor had a particularly easy or grueling recovery after liposuction, this does not mean yours will be the same. Tell your surgeon if you have any limits or time constraints on how much downtime you can afford after surgery. He or she may be able to recommend another, less invasive body contouring method such as Zeltiq CoolSculpting, Zerona or lipodissolve.
Start your search for a board-certified plastic surgeon now.
About the Reviewer of This Article
Julius Few, MD, is the founder of the Few Institute For Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in Chicago. Board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Surgery, he is also a clinical associate professor in the division of plastic surgery at the University of Chicago and the current president of the Illinois Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Dr. Few received his medical degree from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, and completed his residency in general surgery at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, followed by plastic surgery training at Northwestern University in Chicago. He has also received special facial and eye cosmetic training in Honolulu, New York and Atlanta.
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