Liposuction is a surgical procedure that uses a suction technique to remove fat from specific areas of the body, such as the abdomen, hips, thighs, buttocks, arms or neck. Liposuction also shapes (contours) these areas. Other names for liposuction include lipoplasty and body contouring.
Liposuction isn’t typically considered an overall weight-loss method or a weight-loss alternative. If you’re overweight, you’re likely to lose more weight through diet and exercise or through bariatric procedures — such as gastric bypass surgery — than you would with liposuction.
You may be a candidate for liposuction if you have too much body fat in specific spots but otherwise have a stable body weight.
Expect some pain, swelling and bruising after the procedure. Your surgeon may prescribe medication to help control the pain and antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection.
After the procedure, the surgeon may leave your incisions open and place temporary drains to promote fluid drainage. You usually need to wear tight compression garments, which help reduce swelling, for a few weeks.
You may need to wait a few days before returning to work and a few weeks before resuming your normal activities — including exercise.
During this time, expect some contour irregularities as the remaining fat settles into position.
As with any major surgery, liposuction carries risks, such as bleeding and a reaction to anesthesia. Possible complications specific to liposuction include:
- Contour irregularities. Your skin may appear bumpy, wavy or withered due to uneven fat removal, poor skin elasticity and unusual healing. These changes may be permanent. Damage beneath the skin from the thin tube (cannula) that’s used during liposuction may give the skin a permanent spotted appearance.
- Fluid accumulation. Temporary pockets of fluid (seromas) can form under the skin. This fluid may need to be drained with a needle.
- Numbness. You may feel temporary or permanent numbness in the affected area. Temporary nerve irritation also is possible.
- Infection. Skin infections are rare but possible. A severe skin infection may be life-threatening.
- Internal puncture. Rarely, a cannula that penetrates too deeply may puncture an internal organ. This may require emergency surgical repair.
- Fat embolism. Pieces of loosened fat may break away and become trapped in a blood vessel and gather in the lungs or travel to the brain. A fat embolism is a medical emergency.
- Kidney and heart problems. Shifts in fluid levels as fluids are being injected and suctioned out can cause potentially life-threatening kidney, heart and lung problems.
- Lidocaine toxicity. Lidocaine is an anesthetic often administered with fluids injected during liposuction to help manage pain. Although generally safe, in rare circumstances, lidocaine toxicity can occur, causing serious heart and central nervous system problems.
More serious side effects or risks may include:
- Severe and prolonged swelling or bruising lasting one week to 10 days
- Lip asymmetry (parts of lips are different sizes)
- Lumps and irregularities in the lips
- Injection into a blood vessel, causing tissue loss
- Ulceration, scarring, or stiffening of the lip
- Allergic reaction causing redness, swelling, or itching around the lips