Are You a Good Candidate for Liposuction?

Reviewed by Julius Few, MD


Liposuction consistently ranks as one of the top cosmetic surgery procedures performed in the United States.

The liposuction surgery procedure involves the removal of fat deposits under the skin using a long, hollow needle called a cannula. The cannula is placed through incisions and then run along the inside of the skin to dislodge the fat deposits. The fat is then suctioned out using a vacuum.

The Best Liposuction Candidates

The best candidates for liposuction have localized deposits of fat in their abdomen, arms, thighs and/or neck. These pockets of fat are often resistant to the effects of even the best diet and exercise regimens, and may be the result of genetics. Liposuction is also used for abdominal etching, which can uncover your inner six-pack. In addition, face liposuction is often used to address chubby cheeks or jowls.

Ideally, liposuction candidates should be physically fit and not more than 20 pounds overweight. It is important that your weight be stable. If you are planning to lose a significant amount of weight, or even gain weight (due to pregnancy, for example), now is not the time to undergo liposuction. Liposuction results are permanent as long as your weight remains stable.

Ideal liposuction candidates also have firm, elastic skin. For the best results, the skin must shrink following the procedure. Many people lose skin elasticity with age, which can compromise the results of liposuction. If skin quality remains elastic, age is no deterrent for liposuction.

Liposuction is not a substitute for diet and exercise, nor is it a magic bullet. Liposuction can help redefine or sculpt your body, but it can't completely change your shape. It also can't make you feel more satisfied about other aspects of your life. However, liposuction may make you feel better about yourself if you are bothered by a muffin top, spare tire or other pocket of unwanted fat.

Several types of liposuction are available, including laser-assisted liposuction, ultrasound-assisted liposuction, water-assisted liposuction and tumescent liposuction. Each type of liposuction has its own set of benefits and risks. These issues will be discussed during your consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon.

When Liposuction May Not Be Appropriate

As with other surgical procedures, good health is essential for liposuction candidates. If you have any medical problems such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes or circulatory problems, your vulnerability to liposuction risks increases.

Liposuction is not a weight loss tool. If you are extremely overweight or obese, you should lose weight before considering liposuction. Bariatric surgery procedures such as gastric bypass or gastric banding with the Lap Band or Realize Band can help with massive weight loss.

If you have chubby or puffy cheeks, your surgeon may recommend cheek reduction surgery, also called buccal fat extraction, rather than liposuction.

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Liposuction Alternatives

Sometimes other body contouring procedures may be more appropriate than liposuction. If you have lost a considerable amount of weight and have excess skin and stretched stomach muscles, abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) may be recommended. Liposuction can be performed at the same time to remove any excess fatty deposits. If your weight loss has left you with a remaining apron of skin, panniculectomy may be the right option for you.

A consultation with an experienced plastic surgeon can help you make the most appropriate decisions based on your goals and your anatomy. Tell the surgeon what you wish to change and why, and then listen to his or her professional opinion on which body contouring option is best for you. During the consultation, your surgeon can also advise you about the cost of liposuction surgery and what to expect while recovering from liposuction. He or she may be able to advise you about other procedures that can be performed in conjunction with liposuction, such as tummy tuck surgery or breast enlargement surgery.

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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.