FAQ: Liposuction Surgery

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Liposuction Surgery – Benefits, Candidates, Complications and Recovery

No recent innovation in cosmetic surgery has revolutionized body sculpting like liposuction. Practiced by a skilled surgeon, liposuction can rejuvenate a patient’s face, neck and body contour, permanently removing and reshaping localized fat deposits. Though not an appropriate treatment for obesity, liposuction can produce dramatic results. New advancements in liposuction like tumescent anesthesia and ultrasound assisted liposuction (UAL) have greatly improved this time-tested procedure.

What is the specific liposuction procedure?

Liposuction describes the removal of fat using a powerful suction device. Surgeons snake a very narrow tube through tiny skin incisions in the area that needs sculpting. Carefully migrating the suction tube, the fat is removed.

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How much pain should I expect during/after liposuction?

As with most surgeries, anesthesia is used. Sometimes local anesthetic is adequate; other times, general anesthesia is recommended. Afterwards, patients are uncomfortable and stiff, as if following vigorous exercise; severe pain is very rare. Mild pain pills are usually enough to treat discomfort.

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Can everyone benefit from liposuction?

Liposuction is best suited for patients within 20 pounds of their ideal body weight, but who possess fat deposits that do not respond to diet and exercise. Virtually any area of the body that appears disproportionate weight-wise may be improved with liposuction. Age is irrelevant; I have successfully performed liposuction on patients as young as 16 and as old as 80. In the Bay Area, liposuction is an extremely popular treatment for stubborn excess fat.

After the fat is extracted, the overlying skin will shrink to fit your new shape. It is important to note, however, that just as a one-size-fits-all sweater loses some of its tone with age, so too may skin lose some elasticity. In that case, slight irregularities in the skin can be expected.

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How will I know if the condition of my skin is appropriate for liposuction?

During your consultation, I will examine the area of interest for suitability. Even if your skin is not ideal, liposuction may still be a good option for you. Disproportionate weight distribution, for example (e.g., heavier hips and thighs) may be rectified for a much-improved in-clothes appearance, even if slight skin irregularities visible only when the patient is unclothed remain.

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Is it possible to eliminate abdominal fat deposits through exercise and diet alone?

Exercise and diet are necessary for health, and I strongly encourage them. Unfortunately, they will not treat disproportion. Along with eye and hair color, body shape and fat patterns are strongly dictated by genes. Features such as love handles, heavy thighs, double chins and chubby bellies may linger in spite of exercise and diet. Targeted weight reduction is simply not realistic. When you lose weight, your general size is reduced, but your body shape is fundamentally unchanged.

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After liposuction will the fat suctioned off simply return?

Absolutely not. Many studies verify that once we reach adolescence, the total number and distribution of fat cells is fixed. When we gain weight, we don’t increase the number of cells, we just make each individual cell bigger (except in cases of morbid obesity). Likewise, when we lose weight, the cells shrink. Liposuction results are permanent in that actual cells are removed, and they won’t be replaced. Therefore, if you have a disproportionate number of cells around your hips, that disproportion will be fixed. When you subsequently gain or lose weight, those areas will also gain or lose, but the disproportion will not return.

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What are the risks and possible complications of liposuction surgery?

In healthy patients, the risks are quite small. As with any surgical procedure, there are risks of bleeding, infection and scar formation. Irregularities in the skin, such as rippling and depressions, can occur, as can asymmetry between sides. Depending on your healing capacity, swelling and bruising may linger, and in rare cases, a slight increase in skin pigment can happen. There have been reported cases of lung embolism following liposuction, and even death. I will be happy to discuss and put to rest any questions or concerns you may have regarding the procedure. Rest assured that, in my practice in downtown San Francisco, liposuction is treated with extreme care and our results reflect that.

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What is the standard recovery time after liposuction?

Recovery time varies. Patients generally go home the same day as the surgery with elastic bandages or tight-fitting support garments. These remain in place for about three weeks. Many patients return to work in as little as 3 days, but I generally recommend one week off. Bruising lasts 1-3 weeks, and most swelling is gone in 6 weeks. The final result is usually apparent in 3-4 months.

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What type of anesthesia is used in liposuction surgery?

Developed in the late 1980s, the revolutionary technique tumescent anesthesia involves placing large quantities of dilute anesthesia solution in the proposed surgical areas. Blood loss is greatly reduced and pain massively decreased. General anesthesia, once required for liposuction, has become optional. I use tumescent anesthesia in almost every liposuction case.

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I keep hearing about Ultrasound Assisted Liposuction (UAL). What does this mean?

Developed in Europe, where more than 50,000 cases have been performed, Ultrasound Assisted Liposuction (UAL) is a new and very exciting development in body sculpting. Available in the US since 1997, UAL uses ultra-high-frequency sound waves to “melt” fat prior to removal. Through a skin incision slightly larger than the standard liposuction incision, a cannula is placed into the fatty deposit. When the ultrasound is applied, the fat surrounding the end of the cannula liquifies and is removed with much less suction than conventional liposuction.

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Has conventional liposuction been replaced by Ultrasound Assisted Liposuction?

Absolutely not. Conventional liposuction is more precise and is applied in conjunction with UAL. UAL is most effective in areas of fibrous fat, such as the upper abdomen, love handles, back and breast area (particularly in men). UAL is generally not used in the thighs, legs and face. In your consultation, I will discuss UAL and its possible application to your particular case. There are some additional risks and costs involved with UAL, and these will be thoroughly explored.

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What is the most advanced type of liposuction?

Vaser Liposuction (also called Liposelection by Vaser) is a form of UAL that wields advanced technology to avoid many of the complications inherent in traditional UAL. With the Vaser device, patients enjoy a much faster recovery, less bruising and swelling and a better end result. I use the Vaser device in the majority of the liposuction procedures I perform.

Dr. Mosser is a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon specializing in liposuction surgery in San Francisco. If you have any further questions about body contouring or wish to schedule a consultation, please contact us.