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What is Liposuction?

Liposuction is sometimes called lipoplasty or even liposculpture. This body contouring procedure is intended for both men and women and improves various shapes and proportions by removing undesirable fat deposits. For optimal results, treated areas should blend with adjacent tissues. While liposuction can dramatically enhance contours in areas that do not respond to diet and exercise, it is not a treatment for obesity. In fact, liposuction is most successful in patients with good skin tone who are at or near their ideal body weight.

Common treatment areas include the hips, thighs, abdomen, waist, arms, neck, back, chest, calves, and even knees. Because of this wide application, liposuction is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures performed. Various liposuction technologies exist today, and board-certified plastic surgeons like Dr. Brian Braithwaite and Dr. Lorri Cobbins are most qualified to examine these options and deliver the safest treatment.

How Does Liposuction Work?

The essential process of liposuction is to remove excess fat through a tube, called a cannula, in a targeted area. Using small incisions, the cannula is inserted into the desired region. Depending on the type of liposuction utilized, vibration, laser, or tumescent solution is used to help break up the fatty tissue for easier removal. The cannula is moved back and forth to contour the area for a natural-looking result. Dr. Braithwaite and Dr. Cobbins employ state-of-the-art techniques to sculpt the body and achieve the desired outcome as safely and effectively as possible. Once the fatty tissue is removed, it should not grow back. Fat cells can increase in size but not in number. As long as you maintain your weight and a healthy lifestyle, your results should be sustainable.

Liposuction vs. Tummy Tuck for Abdominal Sculpting

Abdominoplasty, also known as tummy tuck surgery, and liposuction are intended to achieve different goals, but in some cases a patient has a choice between the two options. In a tummy tuck, excess skin is trimmed and the abdominal muscles are tightened. On its own, tummy tuck surgery does not remove excess fatty tissue. Liposuction, on the other hand, does not tighten skin or muscles. Many individuals would like both benefits, in which case they can combine the two procedures for more comprehensive improvement. Our doctors will go into detail about your cosmetic options and guide you toward the technique or techniques that can optimize your outcome.

Patient Results

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What Are the Different Types of Liposuction?

The latest advances in liposuction make it possible to choose the ideal approach for your needs and goals. During your consultation, Dr. Braithwaite or Dr. Cobbins will review with you several different liposuction techniques that are in use today. Traditional liposuction, often referred to as suction-assisted liposuction or SAL, involves removing fat with a cannula attached to a suction apparatus.

Power-assisted liposuction, or PAL, is similar except that the cannula vibrates to increase efficiency. This allows the cannula to move smoothly through the tissue for improved contouring and fat harvesting.

Ultrasound-assisted liposuction, or UAL, incorporates sound wave technology to disrupt fat and can be helpful in dense, fibrous tissue. It works similarly to power-assisted liposuction but uses a different type of energy to break down the tissue.

Laser-assisted liposuction (LAL) is a more recent technique and utilizes laser energy to liquefy fat. Some individuals believe there may be reduced recovery with laser-assisted liposuction, and others think it may require more. Every person is different, and we will go over the pros and cons with you at the consultation.

Despite these unique properties, all liposuction techniques require several very small incisions to insert the associated cannula. Our plastic surgeons will outline the advantages and disadvantages of these different techniques as they relate to your treatment goals.

Is Liposuction Safe?

In general, liposuction is considered to be a safe and effective procedure. This particular type of cosmetic surgery is actually one of the most widely researched options available, and the technology and techniques used to perform liposuction continue to advance. As with any surgery, complications may occur, and liposuction is no exception. Possible risks include asymmetrical body contours, hematoma, infection, and excessive bleeding; however, the risk of complications can be lowered when the surgery is skillfully and carefully performed by an experienced, highly qualified, and preferably board-certified plastic surgeon. This can help ensure the appropriate measures are taken before, during, and after the surgery. For example, the patient should receive a full evaluation to assess they are in good health for the procedure, as well as a good candidate for liposuction. Dr. Braithwaite and Dr. Cobbins adhere to every precaution to provide excellent care and the highest standards of safety for each and every patient.

How is Liposuction Performed?

Essentially all liposuction procedures involve the injection of salt water (saline) and local anesthetic to the treatment areas. Known as tumescent fluid, this injected solution minimizes bruising and blood loss and also helps control postoperative pain. Liposuction performed with this solution is often called tumescent liposuction. In addition to this, any of the variety of liposuction techniques, SAL, PAL, UAL, LAL, or another can be performed to contour the body in the desired area.


What is Liposuction Recovery Like?

In most cases, liposuction can be performed as an outpatient procedure using general anesthesia, with minimal downtime following surgery. It is important to follow all of your surgeon’s post-operative instructions in order to optimize your recovery, including wearing the recommended compression garments, which are designed to reduce swelling. Following your procedure, you may experience temporary bruising and numbness. These symptoms are common, and any further pain or discomfort can typically be managed with oral pain medication.

You should carefully consult with your surgeon when it comes to determining your post-operative activity levels. You will likely be encouraged to perform light exercise shortly after surgery, but more strenuous tasks should be avoided until your surgeon has authorized them. Most patients are able to return to their full range of activity within a few weeks, and tasks such as driving can be resumed as soon as you cease taking your prescribed narcotic pain medications.

What Are the Most Common Side Effects of Liposuction?

Although all surgical procedures entail some risk, serious complications stemming from liposuction are rare. What you should expect is bruising and swelling that normally occurs, and should fade, during the recovery process. Some other potential risks include changes in sensation that take time to subside, contour irregularities, scarring, or unsatisfactory results. Our physicians take every measure to minimize these concerns, and there are post-operative instructions to follow that will allow you to help limit these complications from occurring.

Will I Have Noticeable Liposuction Scarring?

With liposuction, a series of small incisions are made. Our doctors will place these incisions in such a way as to minimize the appearance of the scars once healed, but some marks may be visible. Most people find the liposuction scars inconspicuous and well worth the results. If you would like additional information on how to reduce the appearance of scars after surgery, we can provide a number of tips and tricks to aid in your healing process.

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How Long Do Liposuction Results Last?

Although liposuction is capable of providing an outcome that will last for many years – even decades – the patient’s role is crucial to its success. During the liposuction procedure the troublesome fat cells are eliminated; however, gaining excess weight in the future may cause fat to accumulate in other nearby areas. Post-surgery, patients are advised to implement a healthy diet and active lifestyle to follow through with a stable weight and maximize their long-term results.

How Much Does Liposuction Cost?

The average cost of liposuction is approximately $3,500, which represents the surgeon’s fee. The price of liposuction will vary depending on the unique details of your treatment plan. Some factors that can affect the cost include the number and the size of the areas being treated, whether other treatments are being included, and the complexity of your case. During your initial consultation, our surgeons will discuss the expected cost for your operation, including expenses for anesthesiology, the surgical facility, and the surgeon. Not all practices provide this information.

To be as well-informed as possible, we recommend always asking what an estimate will include. As a service to our patients, we work with CareCredit®, a reputable medical lending agency that offers qualified applicants low- and no-interest payment plans with appealing rates. Talk to us or apply online today for more information.

Are There Any Effective Alternatives to Liposuction?

If liposuction is not part of your treatment plan, other techniques may be able to help you reach your goals. For fat reduction on the face, particularly for a “double chin,” KYBELLA™ is a non-surgical injectable treatment designed for this purpose. If your concern is about excess skin more than fatty tissue, we offer a range of procedures that can trim and tone the figure with great results. Every person’s needs and goals are unique, and we will work with you to find the ideal approach for your preferred outcome.

How Do I Choose the Right Doctor for Liposuction?

One of the most important decisions you can make when considering plastic surgery is choosing the doctor you want performing your procedure. In addition to selecting a highly qualified plastic surgeon (one certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, like Dr. Braithwaite and Dr. Cobbins), you should also find someone who listens attentively to your goals, makes you feel comfortable about your treatment, and addresses any questions and concerns you have. Board certification tells you that the physician has completed extensive training in the field of cosmetic enhancement and has displayed a track record of skill and safety. Another way patients can determine if a plastic surgeon is right for them is to ask to see their liposuction before-and-after photos.

Other Common Questions About Liposuction

Am I a Good Candidate for Liposuction?

To determine if you are a good candidate for liposuction, we will review your health history and perform an examination during your consultation. Our doctors will assess skin laxity, fat deposits, and existing contours. We will also take preoperative photos during your visit. During the consultation, Dr. Braithwaite and Dr. Cobbins will understand your goals and desires and they will review available options and techniques.

Can Liposuction Be Performed with Local Anesthetic?

Liposuction in small areas with stubborn pockets of fatty tissue often can be performed with local anesthesia. This allows patients to avoid the downtime associated with general anesthesia. Some of the locations where this can be achieved include the chin, upper arms, abdomen, flanks (“love handles”), inner thighs, outer thighs, knees, and calves. Not everyone is an ideal candidate for this approach, but our experienced plastic surgeons will discuss this option with you during your initial meeting if it can benefit your treatment.

What Happens If I Gain Weight After Liposuction?

We encourage patients to wait until they have reached a stable weight close to their ideal weight before considering liposuction. That said, we understand life can be unpredictable. Most minor fluctuations in weight should not have an effect on your results. If you gain significant weight, the outcome could alter your body contour. The fat may develop in an area that was treated by liposuction, or the fat may develop in areas that were untreated. Every person’s body and experience is different. If you’re dissatisfied with the way weight gain alters your results, you can speak with our plastic surgeons about your options for addressing these concerns.

How Much Weight Can You Lose with Liposuction?

While the fat removed using liposuction can be measured in pounds, liposuction itself is not a weight loss procedure. Furthermore, the amount of fat removed will vary on an individual basis, and the risk of potential complications increases when greater volumes of fat are targeted for removal. In general, liposuction candidates should actually be at or near their desired weight, and the procedure should only be performed with the intention of improving body contours, not losing excess pounds.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Get Liposuction?

In general, patients must be at least 18 years old and in overall good health in order to qualify for liposuction. From there, your candidacy for the procedure will be determined during a consultation with your surgeon.

How Does Liposuction Differ for Men vs. Women?

Although gender does not present a difference for how the fat-suctioning technique is performed, the preferences for how to target the unwanted fat may vary. Both men and women seeking slimmer, sculpted body contours often choose targeted areas that hold stubborn fat pockets based on anatomy. For male liposuction, this typically includes the chest, abdomen, love handles, and neck. Women may seek treatment in those areas as well as the thighs, hips, knees, and back. Another difference can be found in the aesthetic preference in which men often request masculine, lean lines whereas women may pursue softer contours.

Is Liposuction Painful?

Liposuction can be performed under general anesthesia or local anesthesia. If performed under general anesthesia, patients will not feel any discomfort during the procedure itself. When done under local anesthesia, there can be a moderate amount of discomfort at the beginning of the procedure while we are injecting the local anesthetic. This generally only lasts for 10 to 15 minutes. Once the local anesthetic takes effect, you should only feel touch and light pressure.

Similar to most surgical procedures, patients will likely experience some post-operative pain and swelling following treatment. This pain should be temporary, and is typically quite manageable with oral pain medication. You should generally expect to take 2-3 days of downtime following your procedure, after which you should be able to resume light activity.

Will I Have Loose Skin After Liposuction?

The amount of excess or sagging skin after a liposuction procedure varies for each patient. Some individuals have more of a chance that their skin will tighten naturally after surgery, while others may have less of a chance that the skin will firm up following the procedure. Wearing compression garments properly and for the recommended amount of time after the procedure can lend proper support for the skin to heal; however, it ultimately all depends on individual skin elasticity. Many factors contribute to this, including genetics, age, sun damage, stress, and significant or rapid weight loss or gain that has occurred over time.

The goal of liposuction is to target and remove unwanted fat cells. With that in mind, it is not a procedure designed to address excess, sagging tissue. For tightening loose skin, there are other cosmetic surgery options that may be appropriate. Our plastic surgeons at the Aesthetic Institute of Chicago also offer treatments such as the lower body lift, tummy tuck, arm lift, thigh lift, and others to improve areas of the body affected by loose skin.

How Can I Reduce Swelling after Liposuction?

The best way to optimize both your results and your recovery is by carefully following your surgeon’s post-operative instructions. We advise all of our patients to wear specialized compression garments following surgery, which help reduce swelling in the treated area(s). These garments only need to be worn for the prescribed period of time, which your surgeon will determine based on your unique circumstances.


Contact The Aesthetic Institute of Chicago

For more information about liposuction/liposculpture or to schedule a consultation with one of our plastic surgeons, please contact our practice online or call (312) 361-8108 today.