By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Liposuction is a form of cosmetic surgery used to remove unwanted body fat. The procedure is also referred to as suction-assisted lipectomy or liposculpture.
Liposuction is used on areas of the body where fat deposits collect such as the thighs, buttocks, hips and abdomen. The operation is mainly carried out for cosmetic reasons and to improve appearance rather than to treat health conditions. However, two examples of health conditions that the procedure may be used to treat include lymphedema and gynecomastia.
Although liposuction does permanently remove fat cells and can resculpture the body, it should not be viewed as a cure for obesity as people can easily regain weight after the procedure if they do not exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.
Procedure and side effects
Choosing liposuction is a major decision and patients should be well informed about the potential risks involved before they proceed. Liposuction is usually only recommended in cases where lifestyle changes such as exercise and dieting have failed to work.
Liposuction is usually performed using a general anesthesia, although a local anesthetic or epidural may be all that is required in some cases. A small incision is made in the area that requires fat removal and a suction tube called a microcannula is inserted. The tube is passed back and forth to loosen the fat, which is then removed using a vacuum device that is attached to the tube. Any excess fluids and blood is then drained and the incision is sutured. The area that has been treated is then bandaged and compression clothing is sometimes provided to reduce swelling.
Some amount of swelling, pain and bruising is common after liposuction and it often takes around two weeks for patients to make a full recovery.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Jan 11, 2015