Liposuction: What You Should Know

Liposuction can be a huge help when you’ve been working on improving your body but can’t seem to make progress in certain areas. It suctions fat from specific areas, but should not be used for weight loss. Rather, it is for reshaping contours in problem spots.

But liposuction is a major surgery and there are things you should know before deciding to go under the knife. We’ll break down the process and help you manage expectations about what liposuction can and cannot do.

Read on to discover if liposuction is a good extension to your diet and exercise regimen.

What Makes a Good Candidate

To have a successful liposuction procedure, patients should be near their ideal weight already, but with disproportionate localized fat deposits that aren’t responding to diet and exercise.

People with good skin elasticity and muscle tone will have better results. In fact, if you have lost a lot of weight and were left with loose hanging skin, a liposuction will only exacerbate that problem.

Liposuction patients should also be non-smokers and have realistic expectations about results. Since you’re here, you are already taking important steps to understand how the procedure might work for you.

Limits of Liposuction

As we’ve said, liposuction is not a weight loss surgery. It cannot remove 40 pounds of fat accumulated over a decade. You will lose a bit of weight during liposuction, but it generally falls in the range of 1-10 pounds – those last stubborn pounds that refuse to budge by other means.

Removing more than 10 pounds of fat leaves you open to increased safety risks such as nerve and muscle damage. You may also be left with skin rippling and odd contours.

You should also not expect traditional liposuction to improve the look of cellulite. For that, look to other treatments such as acoustic wave therapy or the Rejuveskin procedure. Both of these can be done in conjunction with a traditional liposuction.

Risks and Potential Complications

No surgery is without risks. When it comes to liposuction, the major risks are excessive bleeding, tissue death (necrosis), persistent painful swelling, and fat clots. There is also always a risk when you go under anesthesia.

Another potential complication of liposuction is deep vein thrombosis, so seek medical attention immediately if you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, unusual heartbeats, or excessive bleeding after the surgery.

As you heal, you may be unhappy with the results due to asymmetry, scarring, sagging, skin discoloration, or contour irregularities. The final result of liposuction is somewhat unpredictable, and you may ultimately need a second surgery to fine tune.

Associated Costs of Liposuction

It’s hard to ballpark the cost of liposuction because it depends a lot of the how extensive the surgery will be, how many areas are treated, and the specific techniques used. However, the average cost of liposuction according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons is around $3,500.

And because liposuction is a cosmetic surgery, don’t expect insurance to cover it.

Additional costs can balloon the total expense. Make sure you understand the surgeon’s fee, facility and lab fees, and anesthesia.  Aftercare costs include medications and compression garments to ease the healing process. There may also be fees for follow-up appointments with your surgeon.

If you intend to undergo multiple procedures, there is a chance that your surgeon will offer a discount for taking care of them all at one time.

Complementary Procedures

Many people choose to have multiple cosmetic procedures at one time. This can include a breast augmentation or lift, tummy tuck, or removal of excess skin (panniculectomy).

Depending on your particular case, the additional procedures may be necessary to achieve an aesthetically pleasing result. Loose skin, as we’ve mentioned, remains behind after traditional liposuction, and can leave patients unhappy with results.

About the Procedure

When you arrive at the clinic or hospital, your surgeon will take some photos and mark your body to target areas for work. Next, you are prepped for surgery with an IV fluid line and monitors to track your blood oxygen, heart rate, and blood pressure during surgery.

Right before surgery, anesthesia is administered. Depending on the extent of the surgery, you may have a general anesthetic that puts you all the way out during your liposuction. For simpler procedures, your doc may rely on a combination of local anesthetic and intravenous sedation.

During the surgery, small incisions are made to admit the suction tubes, called cannulas. Larger areas will likely receive multiple incisions, but good surgeons are careful to make these in natural body creases wherever possible to minimize visible scarring.

Cannulas are pushed through the incisions and moved in a controlled back and forth pattern to suction out the troublesome fat. When that’s done, the incisions are closed with sutures. In some cases, a drain may be put in to allow excess fluid to leave the body.

Recovery Process

After the procedure, you will rest in a recovery area for a few hours. At this time, someone will help you into a compression garment that helps to control swelling and ultimately encourages your skin to conform to your new body contours.

Make sure you have arranged for a ride home! It’s also important to have someone stay with you for at least 24 hours after surgery to watch for complications. In rare cases, your surgeon will ask you to stay at the facility overnight.

In most cases, you can return to work within 2-3 days as long as you avoid strenuous activity. Skip the tough workouts for at least 2-3 weeks post-surgery, longer if your surgery involved additional procedures or was particularly extensive.

Your doctor will be able to advise you specifically on activity limits and important aftercare. Report severe pain or other troubling side effects immediately as some can be dangerous.

Assessing the Results

One of the more challenging aspects of liposuction is that it will be some time before you can accurately assess the results. There will be a significant amount of post op swelling and bruising for starters. This should fade within two to four weeks, but it can take as long as six months for all residual trauma to resolve.

By one to three months post-surgery, you should be able to determine whether the final result is going to be satisfactory. It’ll take longer for the incision scars to fade, but they should eventually become virtually undetectable.


Liposuction is not for everybody and does come with risks, some of which can be dangerous. However, if you’re a good candidate for the surgery, it can be a minimally invasive way to achieve the contours and balanced body proportions that you’ve worked so hard for.