Before a patient undergoes liposuction, their surgeon discusses the procedure with them to ensure they understand the operation, the anesthetic used and the risks involved.
A general health check up is recommended for all patients to check if they are fit to undergo surgery. If the patient is on aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs, these are stopped for at least two weeks before surgery to prevent any bleeding complications occurring. Women may also need to stop the contraceptive pill, smokers may be advised to quite a few weeks before the operation and anemic individuals may be prescribed an iron supplement.
The area to be treated with liposuction is marked out on the body with a pen and a photograph of the area may also be taken so that the effects of surgery can be compared to how the patient looked before.
The surgery usually takes around between one and four hours. In most cases, the patient is put under general anesthesia but treatment of the lower extremities may only require numbing of the lower body while the patient remains awake. In cases where only a very small area of the body is being treated, a local anesthetic may be sufficient.
The surgeon prepares the operative area by injecting a mixture of anaesthetic, salt solution and a medication called epinephrine, which helps to reduce any blood loss, swelling and bruising caused by the procedure. For some patients, the fat cells may also be broken down using high-frequency vibrations, a high-pressure water jet or weak laser pulses.
A small incision is made in the area to be treated and a tube called a microcannula is inserted. For larger treatment areas, more than one incision may be required. One end of the microcannula is attached to a vacuum device. The tube is moved back and forth to loosen the fat, so that it can be sucked out by the device. Once this has been done, small drainage tubes are used to drain any excess fluid and blood. The area is then bandaged, the drains are removed and the surgical wound is stitched.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc