Learn everything about your treatment
Learn everything about your treatment
60 to 180 minutes
Day case or one night
General anaesthetic or local anaesthetic with sedation
What is liposuction?
Liposuction, lipoplasty, or ‘lipo’, is a surgical procedure that removes stubborn pockets of fat from the body. It can be used on different parts of the body and is currently one of the most popular cosmetic procedures in the UK. It is important to have a good understanding of liposuction before you have it done. This liposuction overview will introduce you to the procedure.
What can liposuction achieve?
Certain areas of body fat can be hard to get rid of despite our best efforts. If you are finding that regular exercise and diet is not allowing you to shift this fat, then you may benefit from liposuction.
Liposuction is most effective on people who are at a stable weight and have firm yet elastic skin. It can help:
- Remove excess fat
- Countour parts of the body to create a more shapely figure
- Re-distribute fat from one part of the body to another
- Make the overall appearance of the body more proportionate.
Which areas of the body can be treated with Liposuction?
Some areas of the body are not suitable for liposuction due to the risk of complications or contour irregularities. However, it may be possible to use liposuction in the surrounding area to enhance that part of the body.
Your surgeon can perform liposuction on a number of different body areas that include:
- Inner side of the knees
Liposuction is often performed alongside other cosmetic procedures such as a tummy tuck, breast reduction, and arm or thigh lift.
Who are BAAPS & BAPRAS?
When considering having cosmetic surgery, you should make sure that you choose your surgeon carefully. It is important to choose a surgeon that is qualified and highly experienced. In the UK, the leading associations for plastic surgeons are BAAPS and BAPRAS. These stand for The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) and The British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS). All Medbelle surgeons are members of either BAAPS, BAPRAS or both. Choosing a Medbelle surgeon will ensure you are in the safest hands for your treatment.
Who are the ideal candidates for liposuction?
Liposuction may be of benefit to you if have trouble shifting excess fat through exercise and diet alone. The ideal liposuction candidates, therefore, include those who want to:
- Shift stubborn body fat
- Improve their body contour
- Treat gynaecomastia (male breast enlargement)
- Increase their self-confidence.
If you are considering having liposuction, you should try to optimise your health so that you are fit for surgery. You can do this by:
- Being at a stable weight with a BMI less than 30
- Stopping smoking and using nicotine products for at least 6 weeks before surgery
- Doing regular exercise
- Eating a healthy diet
- Reducing your alcohol intake
- Stopping use of any recreational drugs.
What can liposuction not achieve?
It is important to recognise that although this treatment can help you achieve a more shapely body contour by removing stubborn fat, it cannot directly treat obesity, loose skin, cellulite or stretch marks.
Liposuction is not designed as a weight loss treatment. This is because there is a limit to the amount of fat that your surgeon can safely remove from one area during the procedure. This means that ideal candidates should be at their target weight before having surgery.
If your skin is quite loose and inelastic, liposuction cannot treat or reverse this. In fact, it may make the appearance of skin worse after the surgeon removes fat from that area. Instead, a skin incision is a more suitable procedure for this. Your surgeon can do a skin excision at the same time as the liposuction, or separately as a second procedure.
Cellulite and stretch marks
Liposuction will not improve the appearance of cellulite or stretch marks. You will need to have a different procedure to reduce their appearance.
It is vital that you are honest with your surgeon about what you would like to achieve from surgery. Choosing a BAAPS/BAPRAS surgeon will ensure that you are in the most experienced and qualified hands possible for your procedure.
How is liposuction performed?
A liposuction procedure can last between 60 to 180 minutes. You may need to stay in hospital for one night or you may be able to leave on the same day if your procedure is a day case. The procedure involves the following steps:
1. Consent form
You will need to sign a consent form for the treatment before you have it. The form will outline what the procedure involves and the potential risks and complications that come with it. You will sign the form either on the day of your surgery or during your pre-operative appointment.
Your surgeon will then draw some marks on the areas of your body that they are going to treat. You will then lay on the operating table, after which your anaesthetist will give you your anaesthetic. This will either be a general anaesthetic or a local anaesthetic with IV (intravenous) sedation. You will discuss which one you will have with your surgeon during your consultation.
Once you have been given your anaesthetic, your surgeon will then start the procedure. You can either have a dry, wet or ultrasound-assisted liposuction procedure.
Traditional (dry) liposuction
A dry liposuction is the traditional type of technique that is performed. For this technique, your surgeon will start by making small incisions in the skin. They will then insert a thin, hollow tube (called a cannula) through the incisions. They will use this cannula to break apart the fat under the skin by using a backward and forward motion. As the fat breaks apart, a powerful vacuum that is attached to the cannula will suction out the broken fat.
This technique is highly effective and allows your surgeon to treat large areas during one procedure. It is, however, more invasive and carries a higher risk of bleeding, bruising and swelling.
Tumescent (wet) liposuction
A wet liposuction procedure involves the use of a “tumescent” solution. This is a solution that contains a mixture of saline, local anaesthetic, and adrenaline. During this technique, your surgeon will first inject this mixture into the treatment area, then use a smaller cannula (microcannula) to break down and remove the fat. They will then remove the broken fat using a vacuum that they attach to the microcannula.
A wet liposuction technique reduces the risk of bleeding, bruising and swelling. Although it is a less invasive procedure, it may take longer than a traditional liposuction.
Your surgeon may also use an ultrasound to help perform the liposuction. This is a less popular technique that uses ultrasonic energy to break down the fat and liquefy it. The surgeon removes the liquid fat with a vacuum that they will attach to the cannula.
This technique works well in areas where there is dense fat (e.g. the neck, beck, chin, knees, calves and ankles). However, the heat of the ultrasound waves does put patients at a risk of burning and scarring.
During your consultation, your surgeon will discuss which of these methods is best to use for you and your body.
4. Return to the ward
After your surgeon finishes the procedure, you will go back to the ward to recover. Depending on how your recovery goes, you will either return home the same day or spend a night in hospital.
What should I expect during my liposuction consultation?
You will need to have a liposuction consultation with your surgeon prior to having your treatment. During this consultation, your surgeon will ask you for information regarding the following:
- Your past and current medical conditions
- Any surgical procedures you have had in the past
- Any prescription, herbal or over the counter medications you may be taking
- Your alcohol intake, recreational drug use, and smoking status
- Any allergies you have.
After the surgeon has taken your medical history, they will examine the area that you would like to have treatment on. They may also take confidential photographs for your medical record. They will, of course, ask for your permission before doing this.
Your surgeon will then go on to discussing all aspects of the liposuction procedure, and decide which technique is most suitable for you. They will consider:
- The results you expect to receive from surgery
- The amount of excess fat you have in the area
- The quality of your skin.
What questions should you ask during your liposuction consultation?
Being honest and frank with your surgeon about what you would like to achieve from liposuction is very important. You must make sure that you speak to your surgeon clearly about the expectations and desires you have.
To help you do this, we have listed a few questions that you should consider asking during your consultation:
- Do you think what I want to achieve from liposuction is realistic?
- What can I do to help achieve the best results?
- Will there be scarring? If yes, where?
- Can you show me before and after pictures of liposuction procedures you have done in the past?
- How long will I need to recover?
Liposuction risks & complications
What are the main liposuction risks & complications?
Before you go ahead with your surgery, it is vital that you are aware of all the potential liposuction risks and complications. If you smoke, have a high BMI or have any serious medical conditions it can increase the risk of complications occurring during and after surgery.
General surgical complications
Every type of surgery comes with specific risks and complications. These can include such things as:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Post-operative pain
- Blood clot formation
- Anaesthetic risks
- Allergic reactions
Your surgeon and anaesthetist will talk you through these risks before you have your procedure.
Bleeding & bruising
A common complication of surgery is minor bleeding and bruising. You should expect to see this after your operation. There may be large amounts of bruising if your surgeon removes a large amount of fat from the body. It usually disappears around a month after the procedure. Bleeding can, however, can become more severe. If you notice a large amount of bleeding, you should seek medical attention straight away.
After your liposuction, a build-up of fluid may collection underneath your skin. This fluid can collect into a pocket, which is called a ‘seroma’. Seromas often develop just beneath where the incision is, and tend to resolve naturally if they are small. Larger ones may require your surgeon to drain them.
As your surgeon will use cannulas to perform the liposuction, the scarring from the procedure should be very minimal. You should be aware however that some patients may scar more severely than others. You should notify your surgeon if you have any history of keloid or hypertrophic scars.
Your wound may develop an infection after surgery. In most patients who develop an infection, it is often minor and can be treated with a short course of antibiotics. In some cases, however, the infection can become more severe and require you to go back into the operating theatre.
If you notice any of the below signs of infection, make sure that you notify your surgeon as soon as possible:
- Redness at the incision site that is beginning to spread away from the area of the incision
- A temperature of 38 degrees or over
- Pus coming out of your incision or drains
- Foul-smelling discharge coming out of your incision site or drains
- Increasing amounts of swelling
- Tenderness or pain that does not go away when you take painkillers.
During liposuction, the blood supply to fat, skin or tissue may be disrupted. If this disruption is large enough, the blood supply to these areas may be lost. A loss of blood supply can cause the death of the tissue, skin or fat in that part of the body. This is called necrosis and is a very rare complication. If it does occur, however, you will need to have another operation to remove the dead tissue, skin or fat.
Sensation changes & numbness
A liposuction procedure may also cause some damage to the nerves around the treatment area. This can result in some changes in the sensation felt in the skin. This can include:
In most cases, any changes in sensation may take a few months to settle but are often only temporary. In more rare cases, this change in sensation may become permanent.
Skin colour changes
Changes in the colour of the skin may occur in the treatment area. This is more comon in certain parts of the body such as the ankles.
Finally, you should always keep in mind that you may not be happy with the end result of your liposuction. This is one of the main reasons why it is so important to communicate very clearly what you wish to achieve from surgery with your surgeon to minimise the risk of this happening.
How should you prepare for liposuction?
Preparation is vital before any elective or cosmetic surgery. Preparing well for your operation will also help you during your recovery. Your surgeon will give you specific pre and postoperative advice which you must follow. Below, we have given some general advice which may be useful to consider when doing your liposuction preparation:
On the day you are sent back home after your surgery, you will not be able to drive. You must, therefore, organize for someone to take you home after your operation. Furthermore, your surgeon may advise that you will not be able to drive for a period of 5 days to 2 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 you are sleeping, it may be useful to have extra pillows on your bed so that you can sleep propped up after surgery. Sleeping in this position may help reduce the swelling from the procedure.
When you come home, you certainly do not want to worry about doing all your household chores! It is therefore handy to do things like cleaning the house, doing the laundry and taking the bins out before you have your operation. This means you’ll come back home ready to put your feet up and recover.
Finally, as you do not want to strain yourself by reaching up to grab cupboard items, you might want to put all mugs, crockery and dry food on a kitchen counter so they are easy to access.
Shopping & food
If you do a lot of cooking at home, you may want to pre-cook some meals and leave them in the freezer so that they are ready for you when you get home.
Your surgeon may also instruct you not do any heavy lifting for a few weeks after your liposuction. If this is the case, you may want to do a big grocery shop before having your operation.
Children & pets
If you have any young children or pets at home, we advise that you get a family member or friend to assist you in taking care of them for a few days while you recover.
As you want to be as comfortable as possible during your recovery at home, we advise you 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. Your surgeon will also give you a compression garment to wear after the procedure, which will help reduce swelling.
Alcohol, smoking & drug use
Another important aspect of your liposuction preparation is following your 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 your surgical procedure. Smoking, in particular, is quite worrisome for surgeons as it can increase the time it takes your 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 you stop smoking and using all nicotine products for at least 6 weeks before and after your procedure.
The Body Mass Index (BMI) is an important factor for surgeons when considering if patients are suitable for surgery. You can calculate your BMI using your 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, your surgeon will not perform the procedure on you and will advise that you reduce your weight before you can go ahead.
Certain prescription, over the counter and herbal medications can also increase the risk of complications during and after surgery. Your GP will provide your surgeon with a list of the prescription medications you take. It is important, however, for you to also mention if you take any other medications or herbal remedies.
Some homeopathic medications can increase the risk of bleeding and bruising, and some surgeons therefore advise that you stop taking these at least 2 weeks before your 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 your surgeon’s liposuction preparation advice will reduce the risk of any complications occurring and help you during your recovery.
What should I expect after a liposuction?
It is important to consider what the recovery process will be like after you have your procedure. Your Medbelle BAAPS/BAPRAS surgeon will give you specific and individual instructions that you must follow. Their instructions include timeframes for when you can return to work, driving, and exercise. You can, however, find general guidelines for your liposuction aftercare that are listed below.
Your surgeon will arrange a post-operative appointment to check how your recovery is going after your procedure. They will use this time to examine the treatment area, change any dressings and address any complications that may have risen.
Returning to work
The time you will need to take off work will depend on your surgeon’s advice and on the type of job you have. If your job requires you to do a lot of physical activity, your surgeon may recommend that you take more time off work. In general, you should be able to return to work after 7 to 10 days.
A liposuction procedure is not a weight loss procedure. Although your surgeon will remove fat in certain parts of the body, you can still gain weight after you have had the treatment. Therefore, to avoid reversing the results of your liposuction, it is important that you maintain a healthy diet and a stable weight.
Try to eat foods that are low in sodium and sugar, but high in protein. Add lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet, and drink lots of water to keep at a healthy weight!
Excercise & sport
Your surgeon will give you some specific timeframes for when you can start doing regular exercise and sport. The general guidelines are as follows:
Do not do any exercise in the first week after your liposuction. Even minor forms of exercise can increase swelling and affect the final results.
Weeks 2 to 4
During this time, you may slowly begin to resume light cardio activity such as walking on a treadmill. After 3 weeks, you can do more vigorous activities such as cycling.
Weeks 4 to 6
After 4 to 6 weeks have passed, you should be able to resume all sports and activities including heavy lifting and contact sports.
Your surgeon will give you a compression garment to wear after your liposuction, this is an important part of your liposuction aftercare. They may ask you to wear this garment every day and night for the first 2 to 3 weeks of your recovery, removing it only when bathing and showering. Your surgeon may ask you to wear this for a longer or shorter period of time, depending on your body’s particular needs. Some surgeons will ask you to buy this garment before the procedure. The garment will help reduce swelling and increase the chances of producing better results after your procedure.
There are a couple of techniques you can use to help reduce the appearance of your scars. You should only practice these techniques once your scar fully heals.
Some surgeons may recommend that you do a gentle massage of the scar. You may use cream or oil when massaging.
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 you can apply over the scar. You can use these products for around 6 months to 1 year to help achieve the best results.
Following all your surgeon’s liposuction aftercare instructions will help you to achieve the best possible results from your surgery. Although you may see a change in your body immediately after the procedure, it will take some time for the swelling to subside and your body to completely settle. It can, therefore, take up to 6 months before you can appreciate the final results, so be patient!
It is important to get answers to all your questions before you have your treatment. This liposuction FAQs page answers some questions that patients often have regarding the liposuction procedure.
Am I too big to have liposuction?
It is important to understand that liposuction is not a type of weight loss surgery. Removing too much excess fat through liposuction for weight loss purposes can lead to serious complications. The aim of a liposuction is to remove stubborn fat that exercise and diet alone cannot shift. We therefore strongly recommend that you reach a stable weight before you have liposuction.
Your surgeon will not operate on you if you have a BMI (Body Mass Index) greater than 30.
Do I need a GP referral for cosmetic surgery?
Your surgeon will not require you to provide a GP referral in order to have liposuction. They may, however, contact your GP practice to get a record of your medical history. This will help clarify if you are fit for surgery.
How much fat can be removed during liposuction?
Your surgeon can safely remove up to 5 liters (10 pounds) of fat during a liposuction.
Should I have liposuction or a tummy tuck?
Your surgeon is the best person to advise you on whether you are more suitable for a tummy tuck or liposuction. If you have loose skin that has lost its elasticity due to pregnancy, aging or weight loss, a tummy tuck may be a more appropriate procedure for you. If you are a younger patient who has healthy, elastic skin and you simply want to enhance your figure and smooth the contour of your body, liposuction may be more suitable for you.
Are the results of liposuction permanent?
The results of your liposuction should last a very long time as long as your weight remains stable. Although liposuction will permanently remove fat from a certain area of the body and reduce the accumulation of fat in that area, it will not completely prevent future weight gain. The fat is likely to accumulate in other areas of the body.
If you have any questions that do not appear on this liposuction FAQs page, one of our patient care advisers can help answer them for you.