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Procedure Description: You may be a good candidate for liposuction if you have localized excess fat or if you desire contouring in any of the following areas: cheeks, jowls and neck; upper arms; breast or chest areas; back; abdomen and waist; hips and buttocks; inner and outer thighs; inner knee; and calves and ankles.

Liposuction types:

  • Traditional — In traditional liposuction, fat is removed using a blunt tube with one or more holes near the end. As the tube moves through your tissue, the fat "breaks" off, and is drawn out through the tube. If your body does not release the fat, bruised fat can be left behind. This procedure is done in an operating room and under general anesthesia.
  • Tumescent — With tumescent liposuction, one or more small incisions may be made. Because of this, less invasive micro-cannulas can be used. Furthermore, the newer tumescent liposuction technique and the micro-cannulas allow for a more gradual, targeted and metered treatment, and a more gradual and controlled removal of fat. This enables the surgeon to contour the area more effectively. The surgeon uses dilute anesthetic to numb the areas and lessen the need for significant anesthesia.

    During the tumescent technique, the areas that are to undergo liposuction are treated with local anesthesia in the form of large amounts of lidocaine and epinephrine. The anesthetic causes the fat in the treated areas to become swollen and firm. The doctor will then wait 30 to 60 minutes, allowing the swelling to subside slightly, and then begin removing fat with the cannula. Because the fat tissue in target areas become swollen and large, they are easier to distinguish since any missed areas of fat are more prominent due to swelling. This usually results in a smoother and more even end result. Total surgery with this technique can last as long as 4 to 5 hours.
  • Newer laser based —This is typically used with the tumescent approach. These lasers (such as the Smart Lipo) are ancillary to the procedure and simply make the liposuction a more successful. SmartLipo is very similar to traditional liposuction, but the cannula used is narrower, allowing smaller incisions. It has a laser inside it which emits energy into the targeted fat cells to break them down. Without their cell walls to separate them, the fat takes on a liquid consistency, which can be more easily suctioned from the body.

Length of Procedure: 45 minutes - 4 hours

Recovery: The day after surgery, you will need to move around a bit to promote blood circulation. Your physician will advise you to limit yourself to these brief periods of gentle activities for the first few days. Remember, you must not take aspirin or certain anti-inflammatory medications, and you should not smoke for a while following surgery. Your dressings will be temporarily removed within several days so that your doctor can examine the treated areas. You will notice swelling and bruising, which is to be expected. Swelling usually begins to subside a week or so following surgery, while bruising can last three weeks or longer. There may also be numbness in some areas, and it may take several weeks before feeling returns. If stitches need to be removed, this is typically done within ten days after surgery.

You may be able to return to work in just a few days. In many instances, you can resume most of your normal activities within one or two weeks and begin some form of exercise soon after. The timing of your recovery depends largely on the extent of your surgery.

Risks: Some of the potential complications that may be discussed with you include bleeding, infection and reasons to anesthesia. Blood accumulations under the skin are possible, but these normally resolve themselves and rarely require removal. While numbness of the skin following liposuction is almost always temporary, it is possible for some lack of sensation to persist or for skin discoloration to appear in treated areas. Contour irregularities, including depressions or wrinkling of the skin, can result in some patients, but treatments are usually available to help minimize these problems if they occur.

Results: Liposuction surgery will reduce those areas of fatty deposits that previously created unflattering bulges and perhaps made it difficult to feel comfortable in your clothing or caused self-consciousness. Factors such as fluid retention following surgery and prolonged swelling may delay the appearance of your new, slimmer contour. The healing process is gradual, so you should expect to wait a while before fully enjoying the results of your liposuction.

The results of liposuction will be permanent, as long as you maintain your postoperative weight. Even if you gain a few extra pounds, you may find that the weight is distributed more evenly instead of accumulating in the areas that were problematic for you in the past. Occasionally, a touchup may be desired to further improve an area that has been suctioned. The additional treatment can sometimes be performed, as an outpatient procedure, under local anesthesia. More extensive revisions may require a return to the operating room.

Estimated Cost: The average cost to have liposuction performed in one area of the body is up to $4,000, in three areas is $6,000 to $8,000 and in five areas is $8,000 to $11,000.

The cost is higher for larger body areas. For example, the average cost for the abdomen is $4,000 to $8,000, but for the outer thigh is about half as much.

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