Myths and facts about weight loss and liposuction

For many Americans, weight loss can seem like a lost cause, especially when diet and exercise fall short of helping them achieve their ideal physique. No matter how hard they try, sometimes certain problem areas just won’t go away. Fortunately for people with these stubborn areas, tumescent liposuction provides a safe and effective solution to the bulge battle.

Speaking at the American Academy of Dermatology’s (Academy) Derm Update 2004, dermatologist Naomi Lawrence, M.D., associate professor of medicine and head of procedural dermatology with Cooper University Hospital, an affiliate of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, discussed liposuction and some of the reasons it is the most popular cosmetic procedure in the U.S. today.

Developed by dermatologic surgeons in 1985, tumescent liposuction is performed under local anesthesia, offering patients lower risk and faster recovery. “The local anesthetic technique is so safe and effective that it makes general anesthesia for liposuction virtually obsolete,” Dr. Lawrence explained before dispelling some myths about excess fat and liposuction.

Myth: “If I could just be motivated to diet and exercise, I could lose this fat deposit on my…”

Diet and exercise are important aspects in achieving a healthy body. A well-balanced diet is essential for building and maintaining overall health, while regular exercise is excellent for increasing muscle tone and improving cardiovascular health. Although diet can produce moderate weight loss results over an extended period of time, neither diet nor exercise is effective for spot reduction.

“Diets have a relapse rate of about 85 percent,” said Dr. Lawrence. “And contrary to popular belief, ‘spot’ exercise does not reduce localized fat deposits. For example, abdominal crunches will not get rid of stomach fat. The best way to remove these trouble spots is with liposuction.”

In addition to the stomach, another common trouble spot for women is the posterior waist and hips. Particularly noticeable after menopause, this “back fat” can cause obvious and unattractive ripples in clothing, which can be successfully smoothed by liposuction.

Myth: “Since my stomach hangs after pregnancy, I must need a tummy tuck.”

According to Dr. Lawrence, “Most women with the lower abdomen ‘roll’ don’t need a tummy tuck – even if they have stretch marks and poor elasticity.” Rather than undergoing a surgical tummy tuck (abdominoplasty), liposuction provides women with a safer alternative. As opposed to invasive surgical procedures, tumescent liposuction removes the fat gently and relatively pain-free. The procedure causes the skin to retract, reducing the stomach’s prominence.

Myth: “If my breasts are too large, my only choice for reduction is surgical mammoplasty.”

Women with large breasts often suffer from physical and psychological ailments, as well as difficulty performing everyday tasks. In the past, the only solution was for a woman to undergo a breast reduction under general anesthesia, which often caused discomfort and limited activity for weeks. “Liposuction is much less invasive than traditional breast reduction and it requires significantly less recovery time for the patient,” said Dr. Lawrence. “The procedure works best for a 1 to 2 cup size reduction, and the best candidates are women with moderately large breasts with a significant fat component,” stated Dr. Lawrence. Patients interested in liposuction for breast reduction should visit their dermatologist for a physical exam and a referral for a mammogram.

“Patient safety is dermatologists’ number one priority,” stressed Dr. Lawrence. “To demonstrate its commitment to patient safety, the American Academy of Dermatology Association was the first medical group to publish guidelines of care for liposuction. These guidelines recommend:

  • Liposuction should not be performed under general anesthesia;
  • It should be performed on healthy individuals;
  • Liposuction is not a procedure for the treatment of obesity and should not be used to extract large amounts of fat; and
  • Liposuction should not be performed along with other procedures.

“Studies have shown that tumescent liposuction is one of the safest surgical procedures performed in aesthetic medicine today,” stated Dr. Lawrence. “But as with all surgical procedures, patients should do their homework and ask their dermatologist questions about what they can expect before, during and after the procedure.”

Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 14,000 physicians worldwide, the Academy is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the Academy at 1-888-462-DERM (3376) or www.aad.org.

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