Liposuction is one of the most common procedures that patients ask for. It seems like the closest thing to waving a magic wand and getting your ideal body —suck a little fat out here, a little there and BAM!
Is that you, Beyoncé?
One of the biggest misconceptions, however, is that liposuction is a weight loss procedure.
In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Let’s break down what liposuction is and who is a candidate.
What is liposuction?
Liposuction is exactly what it sounds like: a technique for removing excess fat from under the skin via — you guessed it, suction— cue vacuum sound. For more information on how this works specifically and a comparison of different types of liposuction, click here. Liposuction removes those last stubborn bits of fat that you just haven’t been able to shake, no matter how healthily you eat and how much you exercise. It shouldn’t be the first place you turn when you’re feeling a little bloated or when you’ve gone a little overboard at Thanksgiving dinner. It is definitely NOT a quick fix for losing weight. In fact, in order to achieve the best results, doctors recommend that patients lose as much weight as possible before having liposuction.
Why is it important to be close to your target weight?
If you get liposuction before you are close to your target weight, you might be returning to the doctor’s office more times than you bargained for. It’s also important that if you’re losing weight, that you’re able to keep it off (that means no yo-yo dieting!). If you put on weight again after liposuction, you may find fat reappear in…unexpected places. For example, patients who have had liposuction to flatten their stomach may suddenly find themselves with thicker thighs.
Not all fat is the same: visceral vs. subcutaneous
Some fat grows around your organs (like a life jacket) and is associated with serious illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. This kind of fat is called “visceral fat” and cannot be removed through liposuction. For patients that are overweight and are looking for liposuction, liposuction is not your silver bullet. Unfortunately, the only real solution here is diet and exercise. The good news: visceral fat is relatively easy to get rid of and goes away twice as quickly as the other kind of fat, subcutaneous fat. So, in the immortal words of Rihanna: “Ooh yes…you’d better werk!”
**As a side note: for patients who are obese and for whom even diet and exercise isn’t cutting it, a surgical option may be appropriate, such as gastric bypass surgery.
Subcutaneous fat sits just underneath your skin and is a whole lot harder to get rid of. Once you’ve trimmed down your visceral fat and only have subcutaneous fat left, liposuction may be an option. At this point, that last little bit of fat can be suctioned out and you can finally say goodbye to your muffin top!
Ideal candidates for liposuction also have good skin elasticity. Why is it important to have stretchy skin? Think about what happened when your older sister stole your favorite shirt growing up. Even after she gave it back, it might not have returned to its original size. Similarly, when fat is removed, your skin may not shrink back properly if it is not sufficiently elastic to start with. As a result, you might be left with a “wrinkled” look — like your shirt got left in the dryer a little too long.
How do you determine how elastic your skin is? Just do a simple “pinch test.” Pinch the skin on the back of your hand and hold for 5 seconds. Release and count how long it takes for your skin to return to its original position. If it takes less than 2 seconds, you probably have pretty good skin elasticity. It’s best, however, to contact a surgeon for formal evaluation.
If your skin is less elastic, it is still possible to have liposuction, but you might have to have a separate procedure, called a “skin excision” afterwards to remove excess skin.
Risk factors for complications
If you are not in good health, you may be at greater risk for complications during surgery.
Increased risk of surgical complications is associated with a past medical history of:
- Immunodeficiency disorders
- Cardiac arrhythmias (heart palpitations)
- Excessive bleeding
- Blood clots
Best candidates are:
- No more than 20 pounds overweight
- Physically fit
- At a stable weight
- Have good skin elasticity and minimal excess skin
- Have stubborn, localized deposits of fat
After reading this, if you still feel like you’re a good candidate for liposuction, keep in mind that it is one of the most common (the second most popular procedure in the US!) and safest procedures out there. The incisions that doctors make are small and some patients are able to return to work in just a few days. If you are interested in seeing if you may be a good fit for liposuction, feel free to contact one of our world-class surgeons here.