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What is it Like to Have Liposuction?
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What is it Like to Have Liposuction?

Episode 4: What is it Like to Have Liposuction?

Today, we're going to talk a little bit about what it's like to have liposuction, and I'll preface this by saying that this will vary by where you're having your procedure and who's performing your procedure, but what I'll describe here is how things generally happen in our practice.

What kind of anesthesia do I need to have liposuction?

In our practice, liposuction can be safely performed under local anesthesia, Twilight anesthesia, or general anesthesia. Local anesthesia means that you've been given numbing medicine to make sure you're not feeling any significant discomfort, but you are awake, alert and breathing on your own. This is a very reasonable approach for limited areas of liposuction such as just performing liposuction of the flanks or the inner thighs or the arms, but if we start performing more areas of liposuction than this in a single setting, local anesthesia really isn't the best choice.

For cases in which we're performing multiple areas of liposuction, it is very reasonable to have either twilight anesthesia or full general anesthesia. In twilight anesthesia in addition to local numbing medicine, our board certified anesthesiologist is going to administer medication through an IV to help you feel relaxed. You will often be in and out of sleep during your procedure. However, you will be breathing on your own.

In general anesthesia, our board certified anesthesiologist will make sure that you are completely asleep and your breathing will be assisted by a machine and a breathing tube. These are all very safe ways to proceed. The best choice really depends on individual patient preference and health. This is something that we'll discuss together with our anesthesiologist to come up with an appropriately tailored plan for you.

How does liposuction work?

The liposuction procedure itself begins by making several well-hidden three to four millimeter incisions that tend to heal in such a way that they are very difficult to see. These incisions are then used to instill numbing fluid or what is sometimes called tumescent fluid into the planned treatment areas. This is allowed to act for usually 10 to 15 minutes to make sure the area is nicely numb. Then the excess fat is suctioned out of the treatment areas with a specialized instrument called the cannula. After the excess fat has been suctioned from the treatment area, the small incisions are generally sutured shut with one stitch in each incision. A compression dressing is applied and the patient is brought to the recovery room.

What is liposuction recovery like?

For cases that are done with local anesthesia, the patient can simply get up and go home after just a short while of recovery. For patients that have had either Twilight anesthesia or general anesthesia, we generally keep them in our recovery area for one and a half to two and a half hours or until they're judged by our medical team to be safe to leave. They also leave the same day. So, liposuction is in our practice, not a procedure that requires any kind of overnight stay.

After the procedure, like we mentioned, you'll be in a compression garment and we like our patients to keep this on and in place for 48 straight hours. At the conclusion of the 48 straight hours, it can be removed. It is normal to have some oozing of the numbing medicine, this tumescent fluid, from the small incisions that generally stops after approximately 48 hours. So, when you remove that compression garment, most of that fluid leakage will be over. At that point, you can shower and get cleaned up and really get back to work. So, a very popular option for a lot of our busy patients is to have a procedure like this on a Friday so that they can reasonably expect to get back to work on Monday.

It's also pretty reasonable in most cases to get back to the gym for a light workout on a Wednesday in this example if you've had your procedure on the preceding Friday. You can expect to have some bruising that will generally not last more than 10 to 14 days. You will have significant swelling such that you probably won't see much in the way of a result from your procedure for one to two weeks. After about two or three weeks, that swelling starts to subside to the point that you can appreciate a nice difference in your contour in the regions that were treated, but it does take a full three to six months to see the final result of the liposuction treatment as that swelling goes down and your skin shrinks to fit the nice new contour that we've created.

In terms of the level of discomfort that you can expect after liposuction, it's usually compared to what you can expect from a hard workout. It is not severe pain so much as it is kind of a cramping discomfort. That is a general impression. For some people, it is a lot less than this and for some people, it can be a bit more, but in general, the recovery from liposuction is not particularly difficult. So, this makes it a very reasonable procedure for busy professionals to undergo and achieve a really nice change.

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  • Darren M. Smith MD
  • Darren M. Smith MD
  • Darren M. Smith MD

All photos are of models except before and after images.

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