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A Newbie’s Guide to Liposuction

Liposuction is a body sculpting procedure that is really versatile—it can be used to remove unwanted fat from many different areas of the body, including the abdomen, hips, thighs, knees, arms, chin, cheeks, neck and more. It can achieve really amazing and natural-looking result in the right candidate.

Whether you’re just beginning to research liposuction out of curiosity or a longstanding desire to contour different areas of your body, here’s what you need to know about this popular surgery.

What’s involved in a Liposuction procedure?

If you have localized pockets of unwanted fat that have been and continue to be resistant to your efforts with diet and exercise, liposuction is a really effective surgical method to eliminate them. Requiring only a very small incision, a narrow tube (also known as a cannula) is inserted beneath the skin and is expertly guided by your plastic surgeon to suction out the unwanted fat.

Your surgeon will move the cannula back and forth through this fat layer to continually break up cells and vacuum them out, following very careful markings on your skin to create a smooth and sculpted result. If you are having more than one area treated, your surgeon will also ensure that each incision, though small and mostly imperceptible, is placed in as inconspicuous a location as possible.

The cannula draws out unwanted fat cells, but also suctions naturally occurring fluids in the body. Because of this, every liposuction patient is very carefully monitored throughout the operation and receives intravenous fluids both during and after surgery.

Wondering if you’re a good candidate for the procedure? Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  • You’re at a stable goal weight that’s easy for you to maintain, and you’re not expecting liposuction to be a weight loss treatment (it’s for getting rid of unwanted fat in localized areas; if you’re hoping for overall weight loss, making changes to your diet and exercise routine are a better plan)
  • You have firm, elastic skin, which can help create a great result
  • You are physically and mentally in good health, and you have realistic expectations about what liposuction can achieve
  • Being above a certain age does not typically restrict you from having liposuction, but older patients may have less skin elasticity which can have an impact on your final result (which can be discussed in detail in person with your surgeon during your free consultation)

The Different Liposuction Techniques Your Surgeon Might Use

Because liposuction is so versatile and adaptable, and as the procedure has been refined over the past several years, there are different approaches that your surgeon may choose depending on the area(s) being treated and desired outcomes. These are the most common options.

Fluid Injection: a medicated solution (composed of IV fluid, a local anesthetic, and a drug that contracts blood vessels) is injected into fatty tissue before liposuction is performed. This not only reduces the amount of bruising experienced after surgery, but also provides pain relief during and after the operation, minimizes blood loss, and enables an easier removal of fat.

Tumescent Technique: larger volumes of fluid are injected into the targeted area of fat that produce a swelling and firmness in the tissue. This can aid with increased accuracy of body sculpting and helps minimize irregularities like skin rippling. This technique typically takes longer than traditional liposuction.

Super-Wet Technique: essentially the same as the tumescent technique, although smaller volumes of fluid are used—approximately an equal amount of fluid to the amount of fat being suctioned. The super-wet technique usually requires less time than the tumescent technique.

Power-Assisted Liposuction (PAL): Dr. Lista and our team at The Plastic Surgery Clinic were among the first to use this method in Canada. Power-assisted liposuction rapidly oscillates the cannula 3-4 mm at a frequency of several hundred cycles per second. This vibration helps remove fat with less force, more quickly and evenly, and produces less bleeding. The result is less bruising and a faster recovery period.

Meeting Your Surgeon for Your Liposuction Consultation

Your consultation is an important opportunity for you to ask any and every question you might have, no matter how big or small. Does it seem like a stupid question? It’s not! We’ve heard them all. If it’s something you’re wondering about, it’s worth asking about so that you can have peace of mind and feel fully informed.

In light of this, it can be a good idea to make notes of what you want to know in advance so that you don’t miss anything in the moment. There can be a lot of information to cover. But don’t worry, if you have follow up inquiries we’re always available to answer them by phone or email, and you can come in for another consult if you need more time or information.

This is also a great opportunity to look through our full library of before and after photos that are only available in clinic. You can discuss different results you like with your surgeon and talk about realistic expectations for your procedure.

Your surgeon will perform a full physical exam and take a careful medical history. They’ll be able to advise you on whether or not you’re a good candidate for the operation, and they’ll also discuss the different ways you’ll need to prepare for surgery to ensure the best possible outcomes. These will include guidelines on eating and drinking as well as any medications, supplements or vitamins you might be taking.

Once You’ve Booked Your Surgery

If you’re a smoker, you’ll need to quit at least two weeks prior to surgery and throughout your recovery. This is not only beneficial to your overall health, but is really important for your recovery. Smoking decreases blood circulation and impedes the healing process. And many patients who are smokers who have wanted to quit find that this is the opportune time to kick the habit for good.

In addition to the guidelines you discuss with your surgeon, you’ll receive a comprehensive information packet from us that will tell you everything you need to know about your surgery. Read through it carefully until you feel confident you know it well. You’ll also be paired with your surgical coordinator who will be there to help you every step of the way, before and after surgery. They’ll book your appointments, make sure all of your information and documents are up to date, and will answer any questions as they arise.

Your coordinator will make sure you fill out a number of required documents and medical forms. There are also a few lab tests you’ll need to have done and those are due two weeks before your surgery.

You’ll need to plan to take a week off of work and household duties where all you’ll be doing is recovering. We’re talking resting, reading, watching TV in bed, and staying home. Making arrangements in advance to support this recovery plan is highly recommended. If you are looking after small children, you’ll definitely need alternative childcare during this time. We know, it can be really hard to slow down and stop, but this is essential to help speed up healing and achieve the best results possible.

On the Day of Your Liposuction Surgery

It’s super exciting! But it’s also completely normal to feel a bit nervous. Our team is here to support you however you need every step of the way and to make you feel more at ease.

You’ll need to choose a responsible and trustworthy caregiver who can drop you off and pick you up on your big day. They’ll be given a lot of detailed information about your recovery care and they have an important job to do.

Once you’ve been checked in, you’ll have a visit with your nurses and patient coordinator where you can ask any questions before your surgery. They’ll then guide you to the pre-operative room where you’ll change into a hospital gown.

Your anesthesiologist will meet with you, assess you and provide you with pre-surgery medications. Your surgeon will join you and map out and markings required. When they confirm you’re good to go, you’ll be taken to the operating room and gently put to sleep. It will feel like no time has passed at all and you’ll be waking up in our recovery room.

You’ll definitely be feeling a bit groggy or dazed at this point, which is totally normal and typically subsides in a short timeframe. Your anesthetist will carefully monitor you to make sure everything is going as planned. You won’t be in pain, but you will likely feel a bit strange. You’ll stay in the post-op room until your surgeon confirms that you’re good to be picked up by your caregiver.

We’ll be seeing you again the next day for your first post-op appointment, and your caregiver will need to bring you here again as well. We’ll check you out to make sure everything is healing according plan and looking good and we can talk through any questions that come up for you. We’ll also discuss pain management and how you’re feeling. Every patient is different, so we’ll make sure you know your options for relieving any discomfort you’re in, including which medications (and how much) are recommended.

Recovery After Your Liposuction Procedure

We’ll provide you with lycra compression garments that you’ll need to wear for 6 weeks after your surgery. They can be worn underneath your clothes, like underwear, and are essential for your recovery and for achieving the best-looking result possible. As a bonus, they’ll help you feel good. You can shower a day after your surgery, and at the same time, wash and dry your garment and then reapply it post-shower.

You’re going to have a noticeable amount of swelling and bruising after liposuction, which is totally normal. It can be a bit frustrating, but this will take around 6-8 weeks to subside. However, once it resolves, you’ll have traded in a few frustrating weeks for a lifetime with your new result. We get it—you probably want to see your result right away. Just have patience and follow your surgeon’s guidelines really carefully, especially in terms of post-op massage techniques, as these help decrease swelling and break up scar tissue.

In addition to your strict weeklong do-nothing recovery phase, you need to lay off exercise for a month. At that point you can take up light exercise again like walking (sorry, no running or lifting at the gym!) and at 6 weeks you can resume more strenuous activities and higher impact workouts.

You’ll continue to come see us for regularly scheduled post-op appointments, which are super important, throughout the year after your surgery.

Have more questions about liposuction?

We’d love to hear them! And we can’t wait to meet you. Come visit us for a free consultation.

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