Liposuction, a surgical technique for removal of fat, became widely available in the United States in the 1980s. Since that time, as techniques and safety improved and recovery time diminished, this form of body contouring continues to gain acceptance. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports that liposuction was the most popular cosmetic surgical procedure in 2016, with 414,335 performed. Dr. Ariel Ostad, a Board-certified dermatologic surgeon practicing in New York City, discusses the procedure and potential health benefits.
Liposuction is removal of fat (primarily from the subcutaneous layer just beneath skin) to change the shape of the body. It involves suctioning targeted pockets of unwanted fat to sculpt body contours. For female patients, this technique is usually used to treat:
Men frequently take advantage of liposuction to sculpt the face, abdomen, and flanks, and for male breast reduction.
In the past, the procedure had to be performed under general anesthesia, as a more aggressive approach resulted in significant bleeding and bruising. Today, tumescent liposuction minimizes those concerns, and usually only local anesthesia is needed.
The word “tumescent” means swollen. In this context, it refers to a “wet technique” where fatty tissue is injected with a large volume of liquid. This fluid contains lidocaine for patient comfort, saline, and vasoconstrictors to control bleeding. The solution helps to break up and dissolve adipose tissue so that it can be removed with negative pressure, through small tubes called microcannulas. Dr. Ostad has also published a seminal article in 1997 in the Journal of Dermatologic Surgery about safety and tumescent liposuction, and the maximum safe dose of lidocaine used in liposuction.
Tumescent liposuction is now the standard of care. It results in improved comfort during and post-procedure, very little blood loss (about two tablespoons, on average), short recovery time, minimal bruising, and excellent aesthetic results. General anesthesia is not required, and the procedure is performed on an outpatient basis at Dr. Ostad’s office. Incisions are quite small, so sutures are not necessary.
Reasonably healthy patients can expect to return home within an hour or less after the procedure is completed. Dr. Ostad’s medical team carefully monitors blood pressure and other vital signs, and makes sure any period of nausea has passed before releasing you.
Most people can return to a light duty job within two days. There is no bed confinement, and essentially no restriction on physical activities. Dr. Ostad recommends returning to mild exercise like walking or golfing within a few days, as it helps to relieve soreness. You should avoid extended periods of sitting (such as a long airplane flight) for at least a few weeks. Compression garments may be recommended to promote smooth, even healing and reduce swelling.
Swelling is gone in about a month, so results become apparent at that time. Because the adult body does not generate new fat cells, the fat is gone permanently. However, remaining fat cells will expand if weight is not maintained with a healthy lifestyle.
The short answer is, possibly. It is important to be clear that this is a cosmetic procedure intended to improve appearance. The best candidate is someone at or near target body weight, with good skin elasticity, but stubborn zones of fat.
Liposuction is not a medical weight loss plan or a solution for obesity. However, some patients report indirect health-related benefits such as:
Schedule a consultation with Dr. Ostad to learn more about tumescent liposuction. His number in New York City is 212-517-7900.
“My Botox looks great. I look refreshed and happy and it shows! Dr. Ariel Ostad and the staff were very helpful throughout the procedure. I look forward to my next treatment.”
~ Mark. J Thompson