Episode 44: How Does Stomach Liposuction Work?
How does liposuction for the stomach work? This is one of the most common procedures that we perform and something that we get asked about all the time. So I wanted to take an episode to focus on the ins and outs of liposuction for the stomach or abdominal region.
Do I have to be asleep for stomach liposuction?
So for starters, if someone is having liposuction of the stomach region or the abdomen alone, it's something that we can very reasonably perform under local anesthesia, which means you get numbing medicine, but you're otherwise awake and breathing on your own. On the other hand, if someone wants to be completely asleep with general anesthesia or wants to have twilight anesthesia, which is when you're given an IV medication by a board certified anesthesiologist, so that you feel just very relaxed, but you're still awake and breathing on your own, but you just don't really care what's going on, those are options as well. But again, the local anesthesia option is really very popular because the recovery is just so easy and there's really minimal discomfort with the way that we perform this procedure.
What happens during stomach liposuction?
So we're just going to really describe that experience, which is abdominal liposuction under local anesthesia. And with this, you essentially walk into the office on the day of your procedure. We will mark your abdomen. We'll draw all over your stomach, giving ourselves landmarks for while you're lying down, to make sure that we get the contour exactly the way that we want it to be. Then we'll guide you back into the operating room. You'll lay down on the operating room table, and we will paint the area that we're working on with Betadine or another solution to make sure everything is sterile. And then we will make a series of very small, three to four millimeter, that's really smaller than a pencil eraser in most cases, incisions that are in very well hidden regions like in your waist crease, or even in your belly button.
And then we'll use those incisions to instill numbing medication into the treatment areas. And this numbing medicine is also called tumescent solution and it consists of a base fluid called lactated Ringer's to which we add epinephrin for blood vessel constriction and lidocaine as a numbing medication. And we'll add this medication, the tumescent solution to the treatment area, in this case, the abdominal region. And then we'll sit and let it work for 10 to 15 minutes to make sure that you are very numb, to make sure that you're not really feeling any significant discomfort at all during the procedure.
Once the numbing medication has had a chance to act, we'll take a long thin instrument called a cannula, and we'll introduce it through each of the access incisions. And this cannula is connected to a suction device, and we'll use this cannula to carefully suction fat out of the treatment area to achieve the desired contour of your stomach. When we think we have a great result, we very carefully look at everything, both with our eyes, but we also feel your abdomen with our hands. And we pinch in various places to make sure that we have a nice, even result, and we've removed all the excess fat that we need to, to make sure that we've gotten you a great abdominal contour. Once we're sure we love the result, we put a couple of sutures in your incisions, and then we dress you in a compression garment and bring you to the recovery room.
What is recovery like from stomach liposuction?
Immediately following the procedure, you'll have almost no discomfort at all, because you'll be very numb from the numbing medication. Over the next several hours, the numbing medication from the operating room wears off and you'll start to feel, generally in the beginning, very mild discomfort that can get a little bit worse. Usually it peaks at about mid day, the day after surgery. And even at its peak, most people describe this discomfort as the feeling you get after a very hard abdominal workout. It's not so much severe pain as it is a cramping discomfort. And once you are about 48 hours out from your procedure, you can remove your compression garment. And this is a very freeing feeling. You take that garment off and then you can shower for the first time.
The other thing that's important to note is that it is completely normal to have some leakage from your liposuction incisions during this first 48 hours. And that's because some of the numbing medication that we put in is going to leak out and it can be tinged with a little bit of blood, so it can be a light pink color. And again, this is not dangerous. It's completely normal. And under your compression garment, you're going to have lots of absorbent padding to make sure things don't get too messy. But again, at 48 hours, you can take your binder off. And this is how I do things in my practice, it will vary from practice to practice, but at 48 hours after abdominal liposuction, your compression garment can come off. You can take your first shower. And at this point you can really get back to work, assuming you have a standard desk job, assuming that you're comfortable enough to do so, and almost all of my patients are.
You will still have some bruising at this point. Most bruising is completely gone at 10 to 14 days, you will have swelling, and the way to think about the swelling is that for the first week or two it'll look like you almost had nothing done because while we did remove a significant amount of fat, we did also place a significant amount of volume of numbing fluid, and between that and the swelling, it almost cancels itself out. So you won't see much of a result at all for the first two weeks. Then after two weeks pass, when that swelling goes down, you'll start to see a really nice change. It does take a good several months, usually we say three months or so before you see the final results.
How can I get the best result with stomach liposuction?
The other thing we've started doing with liposuction and seeing some really nice combined results is EMSculpt, which we've spoken about in some earlier episodes, but it's really great to combine with abdominal liposuction. And EMSculpt uses highly focused electromagnetic energy to trigger supramaximal muscle contractions in your core muscles to the tune of about 20,000 contractions in 30 minutes. So you do a series of four of these treatments over two weeks, and it can significantly build your muscle definition.
And we'll often start this about two weeks after liposuction. So in addition to achieving some really nice contouring from the liposuction, we can also give you some great muscle definition as well. And the added bonus with the EMSculpt that we're finding is that it seems to really speed along the resolution of swelling and even some of the discomfort of the liposuction recovery process.
Who can have stomach liposuction?
The other important question to ask about abdominal liposuction is who is a good candidate for liposuction of the stomach or abdominal region? And aside from being in generally good health, which is a criteria for having any elective aesthetic surgery procedure done, one of the most important things to look at is the amount of skin laxity that you have in your abdomen. And this is something that we've talked about in the past, but essentially if you have very loose skin and then have liposuction, you can be left with very ripply, hanging skin, and this may not be a look that you're going for.
On the other hand, there are some people that have loose skin for whom liposuction can still be a very good option. And these are people who may not care so much about the appearance of loose skin, but just want to overall decrease their waistline and look much better in clothes. So it's okay to have abdominal liposuction with loose abdominal skin, but it's just important to know exactly what kind of results you're going to have.
Alternatively, if you have very loose abdominal skin and you don't want to have loose, wavy skin after abdominal liposuction, it might be a good idea to think about other procedures like an abdominoplasty or tummy tuck, where we're actually cutting out that extra skin.
If you have mild to moderate loose abdominal skin, we can perform a procedure called BodyTite, which uses radiofrequency skin tightening to alleviate some of your skin laxity at the same time that we're performing liposuction. And we've gone into more depth about BodyTite on other episodes, but essentially, it uses the same tiny incisions that we've used for liposuction. So it's a great way to take care of some mild to moderate loose skin without having to go through a whole tummy tuck.
The other thing to consider in terms of whether or not you're a good candidate for abdominal liposuction is where your abdominal fat is. And by that I mean there are essentially two kinds of abdominal fat, there's superficial abdominal fat, and this fat is right under the surface of the skin and it is above the abdominal wall. And the abdominal wall is that structure that's composed of firm connective tissue and several muscles, most famously the rectus muscles, the rectus abdominis muscles, which give you your six pack. And if you have primarily superficial fat, then abdominal liposuction can make a nice difference for you.
If you have primarily deep abdominal fat, and this is fat that is underneath your abdominal wall, the fat that's around your organs, and it's also called visceral fat, then liposuction really won't help this at all because we're not going below the abdominal wall with liposuction, and there's really no surgical way to address visceral fat. So that really needs to be handled with diet and exercise.
So those are just some things to think about when you are considering abdominal liposuction and whether or not you may be a good candidate. But with liposuction of the abdomen, just as with all these other aesthetic procedures that we discuss, the best place to start is with a thorough consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon.