What is liposuction?

Liposuction is the most commonly requested plastic surgery procedure. Very simply, liposuction involves removal of unwanted fat from various parts of the body. These areas can include the abdomen, hips, thighs, upper arms, buttocks, cheeks, neck, and knees. Other medical terms used to describe liposuction include “lipoplasty” and “suction lipectomy.” In the right patient, liposuction is an excellent way to produce better definition by taking away stubborn pockets of fat. A common misconception is that liposuction can produce large amounts of weight loss to produce a profound slimming effect. In reality, liposuction works best when one has achieved his or her personal goals of maximal weight loss. This is most true when addressing fat in the abdomen, thighs, or arms. Liposuction is also a great way to improve results of other procedures including breast reduction, tummy tuck, and facelift.


How is liposuction performed?

Schematic of liposuction of fat underneath skin.Liposuction is most often performed under general anesthesia or intravenous sedation, depending upon the extent of the procedure. Several tiny incisions are placed in a triangulating fashion around problematic areas. A narrow tube (or, cannula) is inserted through the incisions to suction out layers of fat beneath the skin. Dr. Panossian typically uses Power-Assisted Liposuction (PAL) to facilitate the process of suctioning and breaking up fat cells. Once the first area is complete, the process is repeated through the next incision in an overlapping fashion to feather the contour.

Prior to actually beginning the suctioning process, a special local anesthetic formulation is injected in large volumes through each incision. This is called the tumescent technique. This effectively limits the amount of blood loss during liposuction and improves pain control. 

Once liposuction is complete, patients are then placed in an elastic compression garment which will be worn for several weeks postoperatively. 


What is the recovery?

Liposuction is frequently an outpatient procedure, depending upon the extent of the surgery. An elastic compression garment is worn for 6 weeks continuously. You can take the garment off to wash it occasionally. A prescription for medications is provided to control postoperative pain. Having a friend or relative to assist you in the first week is highly recommended.

Walking is encouraged on the day of surgery, but more aggressive exercise, sports, or heavy lifting are to be avoided for 6 weeks. You should plan on taking at least one week off from work to recuperate.


What are the risks and complications?

Liposuction is a relatively safe procedure in experienced hands. Board certification in plastic surgery ensures that your surgeon has the necessary training in body contouring. Large volume liposuction carries a higher risk profile, as does increasing the number of areas to be treated. The more areas treated and the larger the volume of liposuction, the higher the chance of infection, delayed healing, and the formation of fat or blood clots migrating to the lungs. There is also risk of excessive fluid loss leading to shock and fluid accumulation underneath the skin (seroma). In addition, there may be some nerve sensitivity issues. In very rare circumstances, perforation of vital internal organs can occur. Adverse drug reactions occur rarely.

Make sure to discuss the potential risks and complications with Dr. Panossian in greater detail as it applies to your particular situation. Dr. Panossian performs liposuction in his Los Angeles office, but has privileges at local hospitals, if larger volume liposuction is indicated.

The scars are small and well-hidden. However, contour irregularities (for example, bumpiness or small divots) and asymmetry can occur. There can also be numbness and pigmentation changes over the liposuction areas. Occasionally, additional surgery may be recommended to improve these problems.

Rest assured that Dr. Panossian’s staff is available at all times to answer your pre- and postoperative questions and to address any problems that arise.