Episode 27: : Am I A Good Candidate for Liposuction?
Am I a good candidate for liposuction? Liposuction is a very powerful procedure capable of providing dramatic results, but to see these amazing results, you really need to be someone who is an appropriate candidate for the procedure. Today, we're going to go through a few common questions that will help us determine if liposuction is the right procedure for you.
Can liposuction make me lose weight?
First, will liposuction help me lose weight or is liposuction good for obesity? The answer to this one is no. Liposuction is a shape change procedure, not a weight change procedure. And by this I mean, liposuction will improve the contour and the curves of your body, but it will not take someone who is generally large and make them smaller. If you have defined fatty deposits that aren't responding to diet and exercise or very hard work in the gym, then liposuction is a potentially good solution.
On the other hand, if you're looking at liposuction as a way to go from being someone who is far from their goal weight to someone who's very skinny, or if you're looking at liposuction as a potential cure for obesity, liposuction is not the right procedure. And the reason for this really comes back to the way that fat metabolism or fat biology works.
Once we reach adult maturity, we have a relatively set number of fat cells or adipocytes in our body. When we gain weight, our fat cells become larger because we store more lipids in them. And when we lose weight, our fat cells become smaller because our body uses those lipids as fuel. We do not however, generally create fat cells when we gain weight and we don't destroy fat cells when we lose weight.
So when you have a liposuction procedure and we permanently remove a certain number of fat cells, your body still needs to store fat and lipids elsewhere. That means that the remaining fat cells in your body will have proportionately more fat and lipids stored in them to compensate for the loss of fat cells or adipocytes elsewhere in the body. So if we remove a certain amount of fat by liposuction, your overall weight probably won't change that much.
For example, if we perform liposuction of your abdomen, it's not like all of a sudden your left arm is going to get larger. In general, the body does a fairly good job of evenly redistributing fat volume throughout the body. So if you're looking to improve the shape of your body and to address fatty deposits, liposuction can be a great option.
If on the other hand, you're looking to lose weight or to cure obesity, liposuction is not the right solution for you. And in those cases, we tend to refer our patients to medical and surgical weight loss specialists that we trust. And medical weight loss specialists use a combination of medication and lifestyle changes to achieve weight loss, and our surgical weight loss colleagues are performing bariatric surgery procedures like gastric bypass or lap band procedures to help you lose weight. So liposuction will help you see changes in the mirror, but not on the scale.
Can liposuction get rid of my beer belly?
Another question that we hear a lot from folks trying to find out if liposuction is a good option for them, is can liposuction get rid of my beer belly? And this is particularly frequent in men who can accumulate a lot of fatty deposits in the abdomen, which can be extremely stubborn or recalcitrant to diet and exercise. And this is actually a fairly easy question for you to answer at home.
So if you can look at your abdomen and you have a bit of extra fat there that you'd like to get rid of, if you can pinch that fat, that's fat that we can effectively address with liposuction. Any fat that you're not able to grab and pinch, that we really can't access with liposuction. And this comes down to the anatomical distinction between what's called superficial fat and deep fat. And superficial fat is the fat that we find right under the skin, it's also sometimes called subcutaneous fat. And this is the fat that we can very effectively treat with liposuction.
However, the other kind of fat, which we can't grab or pinch as effectively, is called a deep fat or visceral fat. And visceral fat or deep fat is the fat that we find under the abdominal wall. And the abdominal wall is composed of muscles, and perhaps most well known of those muscles are the rectus abdominis muscles or the six pack muscles. And underneath the rectus muscles, underneath the six pack muscles are your vital organs. Like your intestines, your liver, your spleen, your pancreas. And all of those organs have fat around them, and that fat around your organs and intestines is called deep fat or visceral fat. And that's fat that we really can't safely access with liposuction or any surgical procedure.
So that deep fat, that visceral fat can really only effectively be eliminated or reduced with diet and exercise. So if you're able to grab or pinch your belly, that fat that you're able to hold onto, we can get to with liposuction because it's probably over your abdominal wall. But if you're grabbing your belly and not getting that much, but you still have a fair amount of bulk that's hidden under your abdominal wall, we really can't address that effectively with liposuction.
Can I have liposuction if I have loose skin?
There are also a lot of patients that come in asking about liposuction, that want to know if they're a good candidate for liposuction even if they have a lot of loose skin. And to answer this question, we have to understand that liposuction is a fat reduction procedure, not a skin reduction procedure. So when we suction extra fat out of the body with liposuction, we are relying on the skin to contract, to wrap itself around the new shape that we achieve. And the amount of skin contraction that we can expect really depends on a number of factors like patient age and patient health, and also environmental factors like smoking.
So for example, a young, healthy 20 year old non-smoker is going to have much better skin elasticity than a much older person who's been smoking all their life. So in that young or healthy patient, if we suction a reasonable amount of fat from a given area, the skin is going to contract and shrink wrap itself to the new body shape very nicely in most cases. However, in the older individual who doesn't have that same degree of skin elasticity, who has very lax skin, that skin probably won't shrink wrap itself to the nice form that we've created with liposuction.
And this is where the importance of a consultation with a body contouring expert, a board certified plastic surgeon really becomes key, because they're going to help you find out where you fall on that spectrum between the young, healthy person whose skin is going to contract and the older, less healthy person who might not have as good skin elasticity. And help you decide if you need other procedures in addition to liposuction, to help you get the result that you're going to want to really achieve.
And the kinds of procedures we're talking about here to help with skin contraction or to help deal with extra skin are in people with mild to moderate skin excess, things like radiofrequency skin tightening with the BodyTite System that we've discussed in other episodes. And in people with more severe skin laxity, we're looking at actual skin excision procedures, things like abdominoplasty or tummy tuck in the belly, or brachioplasty or arm lift for the arms. Thigh lift in the legs, or a neck lift or face lift for the face and neck.
Can liposuction help with cellulite?
And we'll pick up on our last episode as we close out, because another common question that we get is, will liposuction help me treat my cellulite? And this is a question that doesn't really have a clear answer because as we touched on last time, increasing or decreasing fatty volume does not have a predictable effect on the appearance of cellulite. However, if we do perform liposuction, often combining it with BodyTite or radiofrequency skin tightening, and especially if we also perform some fat grafting to fill in skin depressions, we can achieve a net improvement in the appearance of skin in the treatment area.
So hopefully this review has helped you to determine if liposuction might be a good procedure for you, but we encourage you to have a consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon specializing in body contouring to help you decide on the best procedures to help you achieve your aesthetic goals.