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What is Liposuction Recovery Like?

What is Liposuction Recovery Like?


Episode 31: What is Liposuction Recovery Like?

So this will depend a little bit varying with who's doing your procedure, so I'll just speak from the perspective of patients that are having liposuction in my practice. And most liposuction procedures themselves take between an hour and two hours or an hour and a half on average, and the first step of recovery begins in the recovery room.


What is it like in the recovery room?

So in general, if someone has their liposuction procedure under local anesthesia, meaning they just get some numbing medicine, but they're otherwise awake and breathing on their own. They'll probably be in the recovery room for about an hour or so until they're comfortable enough to get up and head on out under their own power.

On the other hand, if someone is having twilight anesthesia or general anesthesia, they'll probably be in the recovery room for between one and a half and two and a half hours on average. And you should check out earlier episodes to see the difference between twilight anesthesia, general anesthesia and local anesthesia for liposuction. But once you've made it out of the recovery room, it's more or less the same regardless of what kind of anesthesia you've had for your liposuction procedure. And you'll get home, you'll feel a little sore, but most people don't describe this as severe pains. It's usually compared to the discomfort people have after a hard workout.

What happens when you get home after liposuction?

So you'll get home, you'll have this soreness and for 48 hours, I'm going to want you to wear a compression garment. Which can be a little bit restrictive, but at the same time, some people say it actually gives them a sense of security and relieves a bit of their discomfort. And for the 48 hours that you're wearing your compression garment, it's normal to have a little bit of leakage of the numbing medicine from your incisions, and that goes into the pads in your compression garment. And after the 48 hours, you'll sit down on your bed, you'll take off your compression garment, and you'll feel this sense of relief, kind of this pressure, this weight has been lifted. And by now most of any leakage and drainage of the numbing solution that needs to occur, it will have happened. So you're feel this kind of sense of freedom after about 48 hours.

So your compression garment comes off and the first thing you're probably going to want to do is take a shower because you won't have been able to do this while you're wearing your compression garment for those first 48 hours. So you'll go, you'll take your shower, you'll let warm, soapy water run over all your surgical sites, over your little three to four millimeter long incisions. Then you'll come out of the shower, you'll pat yourself dry, and you'll feel fairly refreshed and renewed. And you'll still have some soreness, but you're kind of over the hump at this point. So that's kind of how the beginning of liposuction recovery goes.

Does liposuction hurt?

How painful is liposuction recovery? Most people, like I said, don't think liposuction recovery is so much painful as it is sore. So people say this feels like a tough workout at the gym, there's some cramping, there's some soreness, but it does not tend to be any kind of severe pain. In general, pain in plastic surgery is really caused when we're doing muscle work. And there is no muscle work in liposuction, this is all very minimally invasive, superficial surgery, outside of any muscle layers of the body.

How long does it take to recover from liposuction?

How long is liposuction recovery? That's another really frequent question we get. Well, this is the kind of procedure that, in general, can be performed on a Friday and you'll be back to work on Monday. So a lot of the busy professionals in our practice really love liposuction because they can see a major change without a significant amount of downtime. And what's really nice about liposuction and the recovery curve is that you will have a fair bit of swelling for the first few weeks, such that you'll look pretty much like you did before surgery for the first two weeks. And after two or three weeks, that swelling starts to go down and you start to see a nice change, but it does take three to six months to see the absolute final results.

So while this might be a little discouraging and that you're not going to see the full result right away, it is really nice in the sense that it helps you keep your procedure kind of on the DL, in the sense that other people are going to see this gradual change. It's going to look like a very natural transformation that's occurring, you're not going to come into work one day looking like a totally different person. It's a very gradual, natural progression.

You'll have some bruising, this generally has gone within 10 to 14 days. And for the most part, with the exception of face and neck liposuction, this is going to be covered by whatever clothing you're wearing. And this is why some people, if they're having very extensive liposuction, will prefer to do it in the cooler months when they're wearing less revealing clothing, so that they can kind of go about their business and hide whatever bruising they have in the first couple of weeks of recovery.

How can you speed up liposuction recovery? Well liposuction recovery is more or less going to run it's course no matter what you do. But in terms of minimizing swelling and discomfort, if you can maintain a relatively low salt diet, and minimize alcohol intake, and stay fairly active, that's going to help the swelling go away as rapidly as possible, which will also decrease your discomfort and get you back to normal as quickly as you possibly can get there.

Another question that I'd love to address is, how is liposuction recovery versus CoolSculpting or recovery? CoolSculpting has become fairly popular because it's a noninvasive body contouring modality, so some people see that as an alternative to liposuction. And we've covered the comparison of CoolSculpting versus liposuction in an earlier episode, but here we're just going to zoom in on recovery. And what we found, and I've treated many, many patients with both CoolSculpting and with liposuction, is that the recovery between the two may compare a little bit differently than what you're expecting. So while liposuction is surgery, it is minimally invasive and the recovery does tend to be fairly rapid and not that uncomfortable, like I've described.

With CoolSculpting on the other hand, although it is noninvasive, the extreme cold temperatures can really irritate nerves and nerve endings causing discomfort in the form of paresthesia. So this can be burning sensations, it can be kind of an uncanny numbness, and it can really kind of make it uncomfortable to go about your activities of daily living. And this is particularly an issue for men that are getting CoolSculpting for their submental or chin regions, they can be numb and it can be unsafe to shave in this kind of scenario. Sometimes the parasthesia from CoolSculpting will also make it uncomfortable to wear clothing, just the sensation of clothing brushing against the skin with a parasthesia can be fairly uncomfortable. The comparison that I like to use is that recovery from CoolSculpting can often feel like recovering from having your foot fall asleep, but this sensation can cover a much larger body area and last a longer period of time.


So overall in comparison to CoolSculpting and just standing on its own, the recovery from liposuction is fairly easy to get through, which is why this is a procedure that remains extremely popular, in the sense that you can achieve really dramatic results with a fairly easy recovery.


  • Darren M. Smith MD
  • 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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