Also known as lipoplasty or just “lipo,” this popular procedure is used to shape areas of the body by removing extra fat. Common targets include the abdomen and waist, hips and thighs (“saddlebags”), buttocks, knees, upper arms, neck, and face. Liposuction doesn’t take the place of exercise and a healthy diet, but if you’ve been exercising regularly yet haven’t been able to shed fat in certain places, you may be a good candidate.
Liposuction can be done by itself or as part of another procedure, such as fat transfer. Those whose skin has good elasticity will experience the best results; liposuction doesn’t do away with loose skin or cellulite. Excess skin may be removed as a secondary procedure—a tummy tuck, for example.
Liposuction involves breaking up and drawing off fat by means of a very small tube—a “cannula”—that is attached to a vacuum device. The tube is inserted through tiny incisions in the skin. Tumescent liposuction is a technique using local anesthesia and micro-cannulas. Other techniques include ultrasound- and laser-assisted liposuction or “smart lipo,” in which the fat is liquefied before removal. Dr. Jensen will discuss the various options or combinations of techniques most appropriate for you and the targeted body area.
Liposuction is normally done on an outpatient basis, using general anesthesia. The procedure can take less than an hour or up to several hours, depending on how large an area is treated.
Double Chin, Neck, and Face Liposuction
Liposuction of the face and neck is one of the least invasive cosmetic surgery procedures, producing positive results with a minimum of discomfort and time lost. Chin liposuction may be able to do what exercise can’t—create a better-defined, more youthful neck and chin line. Patients whose skin has lost its elasticity may wish to combine liposuction with an additional procedure, such as a face or brow lift.
For neck liposuction, tiny incisions usually are made in the crease under the chin. For liposuction of the cheeks, fat tissue is gently suctioned off through incisions in the mouth. Surgery is performed under local anesthesia and typically takes only about an hour. If necessary, loose upper neck skin is removed and muscles are tightened to eliminate a “double-chin” effect—which is actually an excess of fat in the neck, just under the chin.
A compression dressing is worn for several days to hold the neck in its new position. Minimal pain is the norm; over-the-counter medications should be sufficient to deal with any discomfort. A soft, low-salt diet may be recommended for the first couple of weeks. Most patients can be back at work in about a week’s time; bruising may last for a week or so.
The abdomen is a common liposuction target, especially for women whose abdominal muscles have been stretched by pregnancy or who have fat lodged above incision lines for Caesarean surgery. Incisions are made in the navel or lower abdomen (below the bikini line) to suction off the unwanted fat and create a flatter stomach. Abdominal liposuction is sometimes done in combination with a tummy tuck, but often that isn’t necessary.
A compression garment or tight clothing should be worn for two or three weeks after the procedure to help the skin conform to the new shape. Most patients can return to work in a few days to a week, but vigorous exercise should be avoided for the first month or so.
The thighs can be difficult to reshape through exercise alone, and large thighs may be a genetic predisposition. Liposuction can produce a more balanced body silhouette and reduce uncomfortable rubbing together of the inner thighs.
Inner thigh fat isn’t very fibrous, so it’s easily suctioned off. Women whose skin has good elasticity are the best candidates; less optimal results are likely for those whose skin is markedly loose because of aging or substantial weight loss. While the shape will be improved in such cases, the wrinkling may actually become more noticeable after liposuction. A thigh lift can be performed to remove the excess skin, but the resulting scars may not be considered a good tradeoff.
Outer thigh liposuction is usually performed in combination with liposuction of the adjacent buttock area to create a continuously smooth line.
Arm Liposuction - Upper Arm Liposuction
If you feel self-conscious wearing sleeveless clothing because of excess fat on your upper arms, you might want to consider arm liposuction. For those who have good skin elasticity, upper arm liposuction can produce a slimmer, more proportionate arm shape. If skin has lost its elasticity, however, an arm lift might also be needed to remove loose skin, leaving a noticeable scar.
Typical incision sites are the armpit crease and the elbow area. To ensure a consistent profile, liposuction may be performed around the arm’s circumference. To reduce swelling and hold the new arm shape in place, a compression garment is worn for a period of time after the procedure.