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Medical Devices

What Can I Expect Before, During, and After Liposuction?


Before you undergo liposuction, you should undergo a complete physical exam so that your doctor can determine if you are an acceptable candidate for liposuction. It is important for you to discuss any medical conditions that you have and to tell your doctor about any medications that you are taking including any herbal or other non-prescription ones. If your doctor decides that you can have liposuction, discuss the procedure thoroughly with him or her before deciding if you want to go through with the procedure. Just because a physician says that you may have liposuction does not mean that you must decide to have liposuction. You may still change your mind even after discussing the procedure with a physician.

Your physician should be able to answer any questions that you have about liposuction including questions about what to expect during and after liposuction and the complications or problems that sometimes occur with liposuction. Some physicians will provide written information about liposuction. You may also take information from this website to your appointment to discuss with your physician.

You may want to have someone drive you to your appointment for liposuction. You may be tired or uncomfortable after liposuction and unable to drive yourself home. Discuss this with your physician before the day of your procedure.

Your physician may prescribe an antibiotic drug for you to take before and after the surgery. This is to prevent infections.

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On the day of the liposuction surgery, the physician will mark your body with a pen to indicate where the fat is to be removed. Then you will receive anesthesia, that is medicine that prevents you from feeling pain. Some physicians use only local anesthesia, that is, anesthesia that they inject with a syringe or pump into the area where they will do the liposuction. The anesthesia medicine is injected along with a lot of fluid, usually buffered salt water and epinephrine, a drug to reduce bleeding. Large volumes of liquid may be injected, until the skin is very firm. If your physician uses only this kind of local anesthesia, also sometimes called tumescent anesthesia, then you will be awake during the procedure. Other physicians use local anesthesia and a sedative that can be taken by mouth or injected from a syringe. Still others prefer to use general anesthesia, that is to use anesthesia that will put you to sleep during the procedure. This is usually done in a hospital.

Once the anesthesia is working, the physician will make an incision (cut) in the area where the liposuction will be performed. A canula, a hollow tube that is about the size and shape of a skinny pen, will be inserted into the incision. The physician moves this canula back and forth to suction out the fat. The fat, and liquid that has been injected, are collected in a flask. The physician will monitor the amount of fluid and fat that are removed. Because you will be losing liquid and fat from your body, it may be necessary to replace some of that fluid. This is done with an intravenous (i.v.) line for the replacement of fluid.

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Depending upon the amount of fat removed and the location of the surgery (doctor's office, surgical center, hospital), you may leave the doctor's office soon after the surgery or you may spend the night in the surgical center or hospital. Ask your doctor how long it will be before you should be able to return to your normal level of activity or if you will need to miss work after liposuction.

The cuts where the doctor inserted the canula may be leaky or drain fluids for several days. In some cases, the doctor may insert a drainage tube to drain fluid away from the wound.

You will wear special tight garments to keep your skin compressed after the liposuction procedure. Your doctor will tell you how long to wear these, usually for weeks. Some doctors provide these garments but others will tell you where to purchase them before your surgery.

Your doctor will also probably give you some after-surgery instructions. This will include information about wearing compression garments, taking an antibiotic if that has been prescribed, and the level of activity that is safe for you after your liposuction procedure. You should also have information about signs of problems that you should be aware of, for instance the signs of infections or other problems that you need to know about.

When the anesthesia wears off, you may have some pain. If the pain is extreme or of a long duration, you should contact your physician. You will also have some swelling after the surgery. In some cases, this swelling will remain for weeks or even months. If you have pain and swelling, this may be the sign of infection and you should contact your physician.

You will have scars, usually small, where the physician cuts your skin and inserts the canula to remove fat tissue.

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Will I look the way I want after liposuction?

While medical complications are important, the reason that people have liposuction surgery is for cosmetic reasons. The cosmetic effect after liposuction may be very good and many patients report being satisfied. However, it is possible that the cosmetic effect will not be what you expected. In other words, your appearance after liposuction may not be what you expected or wanted. Some physicians counsel their patients that reasonable expectations are important. It may be difficult to have reasonable expectations after reading advertisements and looking at pictures of women and men who have had liposuction. Remember that advertising is made to make you want to purchase a product or service. Advertisements do not usually tell you about problems or shortcomings of the product or service. If you want to know more about advertising ethics, or want to report on false advertising, explore the following website:

Some cosmetic shortcomings after liposuction include:

  • There may be scars at the site where the doctor made the cut to insert the liposuction canula. These scars are usually small and fade with time but in some people, scars may be larger or more prominent.
  • The liposuction site may have a wavy or bumpy appearance after liposuction.
  • Liposuction results may not be permanent. If you gain weight after liposuction surgery, the fat may return to sites where you had liposuction or to other sites.
  • Results may be less dramatic than what you were expecting and this can be disappointing.

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Liposuction Surgery Checklist

Know what makes you a poor candidate for liposuction

Medical conditions - Do you have any medical conditions that could interfere with healing after liposuction?

Medications - Are you taking any medications, including herbal remedies or non-prescription medications, that can increase your risk for complications or that may interfere with healing?

Cost - Can you really afford this procedure?

Weight loss - Are you considering liposuction as a way to lose weight? Consider changing your diet and exercise regimen if you are trying to lose weight. Liposuction is not a good way to lose weight.

Know all the risks and procedure limitations

Risks - Do you understand that complications could happen to you and that some of the complications from liposuction can be serious and even occasionally fatal?

Liposuction outcomes - Do you understand that although many people will be satisfied with the outcome after liposuction, that some people will not have the outcome that they wished for?

Understand all the answers to your questions about liposuction

Questions answered - Have you read about and do you understand what liposuction is? Has your doctor answered all of your questions to your satisfaction?

Read and understand the informed consent - Has your doctor given you an informed consent form to take home and read?

Know what to before during and after the liposuction operation

Have a thorough medical exam -Have you had a thorough medical examination and are fit for liposuction?

Arrange for transportation to and from appointment - Can someone drive you home after surgery?

Plan to take a few days to recover - Can you take time off if necessary to recover?

Expect some pain/discomfort - Do you know how much pain to expect?

Know when to seek help - Do you know what the signs are for different complications after liposuction? Do you know when to seek medical help? Did you receive after care instructions from your doctor telling you what to do if you experience problems after liposuction?

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Page Last Updated: 01/16/2015
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