Medical Devices

Liposuction Information


(illustration of a liposuction procedure)Liposuction is a surgical procedure intended to remove fat deposits and shape the body. Fat is removed from under the skin with the use of a vacuum-suction canula (a hollow pen-like instrument) or using an ultrasonic probe that emulfsies (breaks up into small pieces) the fat and then removes it with suction.

Persons with localized fat may decide to have liposuction to remove fat from that area. Liposuction is a procedure for shaping the body and is not recommended for weight loss.

Liposuction may be performed on the abdomen, hips, thighs, calves, arms, buttocks, back, neck, or face. A liposuction procedure may include more than one site, for instance, the abdomen, back, and thighs all on the same day.

Liposuction is also used to reduce breast size in men with large breasts (gynecomastia) or to remove fat tumors (lipomas) but it is most commonly used for cosmetic body shaping.

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Who Performs Liposuction & Where is Liposuction Performed?

Illustration of liposuction on buttocks areaMany liposuction surgeries are performed by plastic surgeons or by dermatologists. Any licensed physician may perform liposuction. While some physicians' professional societies may recommend training before performing liposuction surgery, no standardized training is required. As a result, there will be differences in experience and training in physicians performing liposuction. You can ask your physician to tell you whether he or she has had specialized training to do liposuction and whether they have successfully done liposuction before. But remember, even the best screened patients under the care of the best trained and experienced physicians may experience complications as a result of liposuction.

Liposuction may be performed in a

  • doctor's office.
  • surgical center.
  • hospital.

Because liposuction is a surgical procedure, it is important that it be performed in a clean environment. Emergencies may arise during any surgery and access to emergency medical equipment and/or a nearby hospital emergency room is important. These are things that you should ask your physician before the liposuction.

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How can I find the right doctor for me?

The FDA cannot recommend physicians to you. However, there are some things that you may consider:

  • Ask questions. If you decide to take the step to talk to a doctor about liposuction, be sure that you ask questions and understand what happens during the liposuction procedure and what you can expect. Your physician should also answer any and all questions you have about potential problems with liposuction. Remember that you are purchasing a service when you pay a physician to do a liposuction procedure and you shouldn't feel embarrassed to ask hard questions about the procedure or about the physician's experience in performing liposuction.
  • Advertising. Be wary of advertisements that say or imply that you will have a perfect appearance after liposuction. Remember that advertisements are meant to sell you a product or service, not to inform you of all the potential problems with that service.
  • Don't base your decision simply on cost and remember that you don't have to settle for the first doctor or procedure you investigate. The decision you make about liposuction surgery is an important one but not one that you must make right away.
  • Read. You should learn as much as you can about liposuction. It is important for you to read the patient information that your doctor provides.
  • Don't be pressured. Do not feel that because you speak to a physician about this procedure that you must go through with it. Take your time to decide whether liposuction is right for you and whether you are willing to take the risks of undergoing liposuction for its benefits.

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What Does the FDA Regulate?

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the sale of medical devices, such as the equipment (canulas, pumps, collecting containers, ultrasound probes, etc) and drugs (anesthesia) used for liposuction.

Before a medical device can be legally sold in the U.S., the person or company that wants to sell the device must seek approval from the FDA. To gain approval, they must present evidence that the device is reasonably safe and effective for a particular use, the "indication." Once a device is approved, other similar devices may be cleared by the FDA for use. This requires less information since an equivalent device has already been shown to be safe and effective. In some cases, devices that were on the market before FDA started regulating medical devices may be cleared. Once the FDA has approved or cleared a medical device, a doctor may decide to use that device for other indications if the doctor feels it is in the best interest of a patient. The use of an approved or cleared device for other than its FDA-approved indication is called "off-label use."

The FDA does not have the authority to:

  • Regulate a doctor's practice. In other words, FDA does not tell doctors what to do when running their business or what they can or cannot tell their patients.
  • Set the amount a doctor can charge for liposuction surgery.
  • "Insist" that patient information be provided to the potential patient.
  • Make recommendations for individual doctors, clinics, or liposuction centers. FDA does not maintain nor have access to lists of doctors performing liposuction.
  • Recommend a physician to you.
  • Conduct or provide a rating system on medical devices it regulates.

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Page Last Updated: 06/06/2014
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