Liposuction Surgery Cost and Procedure Guide
Written by Medical Quality Manager, Clare , BN (Hons)
Medical Review by Consultant Plastic Surgeon, Asmat Din , MA, MB BS, MRCS, FRCS (Plast)
Liposuction, also known as lipoplasty, liposculpture, or lipo, is a surgical procedure that removes stubborn pockets of fat from the body. It is not a weight-loss procedure. Instead, it is very effective at perfecting and sculpting so-called problem areas. It is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures in the UK every year.
60 to 180 mins
0 - 1 night
General or local with sedation
Liposuction surgery typically costs between around £4000 and £10000.
Prices can vary significantly depending on a number of factors. Each procedure is tailored to a patient’s individual wants and needs, and patients have the opportunity to identify what they would like their procedure to include or exclude.
During the initial consultation with a surgeon, a patient can inform the surgeon of what they hope to achieve from the surgery before the surgeon makes suggestions on how best to achieve those goals. Some of the variables which may affect the cost of the procedure include:
- Surgeon experience and anaesthetist experience
- The complexity of the individual procedure (for example, how many areas are being treated)
- Surgical techniques or combination surgeries (like, with the addition of a tummy tuck)
- Which hospital or clinic is chosen for the procedure
- The time required in surgery for each patient’s case
Once the variables have been decided upon, a final price can be determined. This will only occur after the consultation with a surgeon. But once the price is set, it will cover:
- Surgeon and anaesthetist costs
- Highly rated CQC hospital costs
- Overnight stays (if required)
- Aftercare and follow-up appointments
Wet, dry or ultrasound-assisted lipo might be a good option for patients if they struggle with areas of stubborn fat that have not changed even after lifestyle changes.
This guide details wet and dry lipo. Learn more about VASER liposuction
Patients may be a suitable candidate for wet or dry liposuction if they:
- Have had no results from other fat removal methods and lifestyle changes
- Are at a stable weight and are in overall good health
- Have skin that is firm and elastic in the area where they want fat removal
- Have reasonable expectations for lipo results
What liposuction can't achieve
Liposuction is not a good way to lose weight.
In fact, fat removal is often limited to 3 litres per liposuction surgery in the UK. The likelihood of complications developing increases when fat removal is greater than 3 litres. Too much fat removal at once also increases the chance the patient will be left with sagging skin. This is because the skin cannot usually shrink to fit the area after a large amount of fat removal.
If the patient's goal is to lose weight, they may be a much better candidate for true weight loss surgery like gastric band surgery rather than liposuction.
Lipodystrophy is a rare condition characterised by the body distributing fat abnormally and other physical changes. Certain areas of the body may have a build of fatty tissue, and other parts may not have enough. The condition can be genetic, but this is extremely rare. It is more often an acquired disorder, including a symptom of HIV infection and as a side effect of medication, particularly antiretrovirals. In many cases, the cause is unknown. Liposuction can be an effective way to help remove a build-up of fat in unwanted areas.
Can liposuction be combined with any other plastic surgery procedures?
Yes, liposuction is frequently combined with other procedures. Other surgeries, especially those that involve removing excess skin, are excellent additions to liposuction.
It is good to keep in mind that adding another procedure will increase the liposuction cost. However, combination procedures often provide excellent early cosmetic results as they address the skin excess that can sometimes be left by liposuction.
Commonly, liposuction is combined with:
Surgeon consultations for lipo in the UK usually take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to complete. The consultation is the first time patients and their prospective surgeons meet each other. Together they will discuss:
- Medical history and overall health
- Expectations and goals for liposuction
- Suitability for liposuction alone or in combination with skin excess removal
- The general procedure for lipo
- Any other questions
What to expect during a liposuction consultation?
The surgeon will ask questions about the patient to learn about their health and medical history. By the end of the appointment, they will decide if lipo is right for the patient and create a treatment plan specifically for their needs and goals.
The questions they ask will likely cover these topics:
- Any previous surgeries
- Any medical conditions
- History of weight loss
- Any medications, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications or herbal supplements
- Motivations and expectations for liposuction
- Any smoking or alcohol, nicotine or recreational drug use
The best way to ensure patients have an excellent result from surgery is to always be truthful with the surgeon.
Liposuction takes from one to two hours to perform on average. The patient will be put under either general anaesthesia (most commonly) or local anaesthesia with sedation during the surgery. General anaesthesia puts the patient into a deep, dreamless sleep with medication. Local anaesthesia with sedation is also called twilight sedation. For this, numbing medication is injected into the skin then the patient is given a sedative that helps them remain relaxed during surgery.
Liposuction incisions & scars
The incisions necessary for fat removal are usually no larger than one centimetre long. The surgeon will place these incisions in the most discreet places possible so they are hidden by clothing or obscured by natural folds in the skin. The larger the area requiring liposuction, the more incisions made.
This is also called tumescent liposuction. As the name suggests, it uses a tumescent solution of sterile saltwater called saline, an anaesthetic that numbs the skin and a chemical that reduces blood flow to the fat. This solution reduces the likelihood of excessive bleeding during the procedure while helping to control pain, bruising and swelling after surgery.
Wet lipo is performed as seen in the image above:
- The surgeon begins by making a small incision near the treatment area
- Through this incision, the tumescent solution is injected into the fat
- The surgeon then uses a thin hollow surgical tool called a cannula to break down the fat and separate it from the other tissues in the skin
- Saline solution and fat are removed from the body with the cannula via suction
- The area now has fewer fat cells and gives the patient a more contoured silhouette
Wet lipo is a less invasive fat removal procedure with less likelihood of complications when compared to dry liposuction. However, wet lipo may take longer to perform than dry liposuction.
Dry liposuction was the first type of lipo performed. This method relies on suction and movement of the cannula to break down and remove.
Dry liposuction is performed as seen in the diagram above:
- An incision is made at the treatment area
- The cannula is inserted into the area and moved backwards and forwards to break apart the fat under the skin
- A powerful vacuum is attached to the cannula to suction the fat cells out of the area
- The patient is then left with much less fat and a more defined look at the treatment area
Dry lipo allows your surgeon to more quickly remove fat from larger areas of the body than wet lipo. It is, however, more invasive and carries a higher risk of bleeding, bruising and swelling. For this reason, it is performed less commonly than wet liposuction.
Liposuction recovery & results
Generally, liposuction patients are able to return home the same day as their procedure. However, the surgeon will decide if this is safe for the patient after surgery, depending on how they recover.
The surgeon will likely recommend patients wear a compression garment on the surgical area for at least a few weeks after the surgery. This garment helps reduce swelling and may speed up liposuction recovery. The area will likely look much slimmer immediately after surgery. However, it can take up to six months for final results to show as any underlying swelling goes down and the skin contracts.
Risks & Complications
No matter how unlikely, patients should always be aware of the possible side effects of liposuction before agreeing to have surgery. The surgeon will always discuss these risks before patients have the surgery.
The risks and complications associated with liposuction include:
- Complications or allergic reaction to anaesthesia
- Allergic reaction to other surgical elements such as tape or latex gloves
- Temporary bruising
- Temporary swelling
- An altered sensation at the treatment area
- Temporary fluid balance issues (only for wet lipo)
- Abnormally raised scars (hypertrophic or keloid)
- Contour irregularities - unwanted lumps or bumps at the treatment site
- Damage to underlying structures deeper than the fat layer
- Blood clots in legs or lungs
Preparation is vital before any elective or cosmetic surgery. Preparing well for the operation will also help you during recovery. The surgeon will give specific pre and postoperative advice which patients should follow. Below, there is some general advice that may be useful to consider when doing any liposuction preparation:
On the day patients are sent back home after surgery, they will not be able to drive. Patients must, therefore, organise for someone to take them home after the operation. Furthermore, the surgeon may advise that patients will not be able to drive for a period of five days to two weeks after the procedure.
Although you should take time to rest after your procedure, you should not stay in bed all day. You should try your best to take light, short walks around the house. This is so that you reduce the risk of developing any blood clots in your legs.
When patients get home, they certainly do not want to worry about doing all the household chores. It is therefore handy to do things like cleaning the house, doing the laundry and taking the bins out before having the operation. This means patients come back home ready to put their feet up and recover. Finally, as patients do not want to strain themselves by reaching up to grab cupboard items, patients might want to put all mugs, crockery and dry food on a kitchen counter, so they are easy to access.
Shopping & food
Patients may want to pre-cook some meals and leave them in the freezer so that they are ready for them when they get home. The surgeon may also instruct patients to not do any heavy lifting for a few weeks after having liposuction surgery. If this is the case, patients may want to do a big food shop before having the operation.
Children & pets
If patients have any young children or pets at home, it's advised that they get a family member or friend to assist in taking care of them for a few days whilst in recovery.
As patients want to be as comfortable as possible during recovery at home, it is recommended that patients wear loose and comfortable clothing. For example, this can include baggy trousers, tops that easily fasten from the front or back and slip-on shoes. The surgeon may also give the patient a compression garment to wear after the procedure, which will help reduce swelling.
Alcohol, smoking & drug use
Another important aspect of liposuction preparation is following the surgeon’s advice on alcohol, smoking and drugs. Drinking large amounts of alcohol and using recreational drugs can increase the risk of complications developing during and after the surgical procedure. Smoking, in particular, is quite worrisome for surgeons as it can increase the time it takes wounds to heal. The longer it takes the wounds to heal, the higher the chance of them developing an infection. It is therefore vital that patients stop smoking and using all nicotine products for at least 6 weeks before and after the procedure.
The Body Mass Index (BMI) is an important factor for surgeons when considering if patients are suitable for surgery. Patients can calculate their BMI using height and weight. Many surgeons have a maximum BMI limit that they will accept; usually, this is 30. This means that if you have a BMI that is greater than 30, the surgeon may not perform the procedure on the patient and may advise that patients reduce their weight before they can go ahead. The reason for this is that above a BMI of 30 the risks of the operation are much greater.
Certain prescription, over-the-counter and herbal medications can also increase the risk of complications during and after surgery. It is important for patients to mention if they take any medications or herbal remedies. Some homoeopathic medications can increase the risk of bleeding and bruising, and some surgeons, therefore, advise that patients stop taking these at least two weeks before the procedure. These include, but are not limited to:
- Preparations that contain ginger or gingko
- Cod liver oil
- St John’s Wort
- Multivitamin preparations.
Making sure to follow all the surgeon’s liposuction preparation advice will reduce the risk of any complications occurring and help during recovery.
What to expect after liposuction surgery?
It is important to consider what the recovery process will be like after having the liposuction procedure. The BAAPS/BAPRAS surgeon will give specific and individual instructions that patients should follow. Their instructions include timeframes for when patients can return to work, driving, and exercise. Patients can, however, find general guidelines for liposuction aftercare listed below.
The surgeon will arrange a post-operative appointment to check how recovery is going after the procedure. They will use this time to examine the treatment area, change any dressings and address any complications that may have arisen.
Returning to work
The time patients will need to take off work will depend on the surgeon’s advice, the type of job they have, and how extensive the procedure was. If the job requires patients to do a lot of physical activity, the surgeon may recommend that patients take more time off work. In general, patients should be able to return to work after seven to ten days.
A liposuction procedure is not a weight-loss procedure. Although the surgeon will remove fat in certain parts of the body, patients can still gain weight after they've had the surgery. Therefore, to avoid reversing the results of the liposuction, it is important that patients maintain a healthy diet and a stable weight.
Try to eat foods that are low in sodium and sugar but high in protein. Be sure to try and eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and drink lots of water to maintain a healthy weight.
Exercise & Sport
The surgeon will give some specific timeframes for when patients can start doing regular exercise and sport. The general guidelines are as follows:
Do not do any exercise in the first week after the liposuction surgery. Even minor forms of exercise can increase swelling and affect the final results.
Weeks 2 to 4
During this time, patients may slowly begin to resume light cardio activity such as walking on a treadmill. After three weeks, patients can do more vigorous activities such as cycling.
Weeks 4 to 6
After 4 to 6 weeks have passed, patients should be able to resume all sports and activities, including heavy lifting and contact sports.
The surgeon may give a compression garment to wear after the liposuction surgery; this is an important part of liposuction aftercare. They may ask patients to wear this garment every day and night for the first two to three weeks of recovery, removing it only when bathing and showering. The surgeon may ask patients to wear this for a longer or shorter period of time, depending on their body’s particular needs. The garment will help reduce swelling and increase the chances of producing better results after the liposuction procedure.
There are a couple of techniques patients can use to help reduce the appearance of scars. Patients should only practice these techniques once their scar fully heals.
Some surgeons may recommend massaging the scar. Patients may use cream or oil when massaging. Typically they will recommend doing this for ten minutes at a time twice a day once the scars have healed (usually by two weeks after the operation).
Silicone creams, gels or sheets
It has been clinically proven that using silicone-based products can help reduce the appearance of scars. These usually come in the form of gels, creams or sheets that can be applied over the scar. Patients can use these products for around six months to a year to help achieve the best results.
Following all your surgeon’s liposuction aftercare instructions will help patients to achieve the best possible results from their surgery. Although patients may see a change in their body immediately after the procedure, it will take some time for the swelling to subside, the skin to contract and for the body to completely settle. It can, therefore, take up to six months before patients can appreciate the final results, so do try to be patient.
Frequently Asked Questions
It is important to get answers to all questions before having liposuction surgery. This liposuction FAQs page answers some questions that patients often have regarding the liposuction procedure.
Liposuction Surgery FAQs
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All of the information found on our website is sourced from highly reputable experts, government-approved authorities and is widely used by healthcare professionals.
- https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cosmetic-procedures/liposuction/ NHS
- https://baaps.org.uk/patients/procedures/17/liposuction British Association Of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons
- https://www.bapras.org.uk/public/patient-information/surgery-guides/liposuction British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons
- Understand.com Understand
- https://www.americanboardcosmeticsurgery.org/procedure-learning-center/body/liposuction-guide/ American Board of Cosmetic Surgery
- https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/acquired-lipodystrophy/ Rare Diseases
- https://patient.info/doctor/lipodystrophy-syndrome Patient Info
Our content is written by our Medical Quality Managers and Patient Care Advisers, all of who have medical backgrounds and training. Prior to publishing, all the information is reviewed by a surgeon specialised within the relevant field.
Learn more about liposuction surgery
Liposuction can be used on its own or alongside other surgeries to remove stubborn fat that cannot be lost with diet and exercise