Liposuction, also called lipectomy, is a surgical procedure used to remove fat deposits and reshape specific areas of the body.

What is Liposuction?

Liposuction, also called lipectomy, is a surgical procedure used to remove fat deposits and reshape specific areas of the body. Liposuction may be performed alone or in conjunction with other cosmetic procedures.

How Liposuction Is Performed

During the procedure, the surgeon makes a small incision near the area of fat to be removed, then inserts a cannula (a small, hollow tube), which is attached to a suction machine. By using gentle suction and lightly moving the cannula back and forth, the surgeon can remove the areas of excess fat. If necessary, excess skin is then removed. Finally, the surgeon stitches the incision closed.

At Penn, we utilize a standard tumescent liposuction technique in order to decrease bleeding and bruising postoperatively. During tumescent liposuction, the surgeon injects a large amount of anesthetic into the area of fat to be removed. The anesthetic liquid causes the fat to swell (tumesce), which allows the liposuction cannula to move more smoothly while the fat is being removed.

Who is a good candidate for liposuction?

Healthy and fit individuals with realistic aesthetic goals are good candidates for liposuction. Liposuction can remove pockets of unwanted fat that remain despite dieting and exercise from several areas including:

  • Abdomen
  • Buttocks
  • Hips
  • Thighs
  • Knees
  • Calves
  • Ankles
  • Upper arms
  • Above the breasts
  • Neck and under the chin
  • Cheeks

Liposuction is not a substitute for weight loss. If you're overweight, your plastic surgeon may recommend that you lose weight before finalizing your surgery plan. This procedure is also not the most effective cosmetic surgery technique for skin that has lost elasticity. Loose or sagging skin is best removed by other surgical procedures specific to the problem area.

What to Expect with Liposuction

You can minimize your risk of complications by carefully following all of your surgeon's pre-surgical instructions. You will be provided specific instruction on how to prepare, including guidelines on eating and drinking, smoking, and avoiding anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, that may interfere with the blood's ability to clot.

Most liposuction is performed under local anesthesia so you'll need to arrange for someone to drive you home as part of your preparation process. 

Recovery After Liposuction

You will be provided with specific instructions on how to care for yourself after surgery in order to get the best results.

For two to three weeks following the procedure, you will wear a tightly fitting elastic surgical garment over the area treated. This body stocking helps control bleeding and swelling and also helps obtain the best results. You may also have a tube at the surgical site to drain fluid buildup. You will be given special instructions about your body stocking and any drainage tubes. Depending on the extent of your surgery, you will be able to return to work anywhere from three days to two weeks after surgery.

Once the bruising and swelling have subsided, you will begin to recognize the results of your surgery. To maintain your new look, be sure to continue eating right and exercising regularly.

Risks and Outcomes of Liposuction

Every type of surgery has risks. You can help prevent complications by carefully following all pre- and post-surgery instructions. Our plastic surgeons will review all the potential risks and side effects with you.

Liposuction's risks depend a great deal on the extent of the surgery. In general, you are at greater risk of complications if your procedure includes:

  • Treating multiple areas of your body at the same time
  • Extensive suctioning
  • Treating both sides of your body during the same procedure

Other potential risks specific to liposuction are:

  • Rippling of the skin over the treated area
  • Pigment changes such as brown spots after sun exposure
  • Scarring

Although the liposuction incisions leave scars, they generally fade over time until they become barely noticeable. Your plastic surgeon will take great care to place them where they'll be least visible.

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