What is liposuction?

Liposuction is a procedure that removes excess fat through a suctioning process. Although it is not a substitute for weight loss, it is a way of changing the body's shape and contour.

What are some different liposuction techniques?

  • Tumescent technique - The tumescent technique involves the injection of a large quantity of a medical solution into a fatty area. The medical solution is a combination of drugs that numb the area as well as shrink the capillaries and prevent blood loss. After the injection, a small incision is made into the skin and a tube connected to a vacuum is inserted into the fatty mass. The fat is then suctioned out.
  • Super-wet technique - Similar to the tumescent technique, the super-wet procedure uses a smaller amount of the injected medical solution. After the injection, a small incision is made into the skin and a tube connected to a vacuum is inserted into the fatty mass. The fat is then suctioned out.
  • Ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty - In the ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty, a special tube that produces ultrasound energy is used. This ultrasound energy breaks down the walls of the fat cells turning them to liquid. The fat is then suctioned out.

Possible Complications Associated with Liposuction Techniques

  • Injury to the skin or deeper tissues - In the ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty, there is the potential of damaging the skin or deeper tissues from the heat transmitted from the ultrasound device.
  • Irregular skin surface - Changes in the skin surface can occur after liposuction, giving it an asymmetric or baggy look. There can also be changes in the skin pigmentation and areas that may become numb.
  • Greater risks if large areas are treated - The risk for infection, the formation of blood clots or fat clots, excessive fluid loss, and damage to the skin, nerves, or vital organs is greater when large areas are treated.
  • Lidocaine toxicity or fluid in the lungs - If the lidocaine content is too high, it may cause lidocaine toxicity. If too much fluid is injected, it may cause fluid build-up in the lungs.

Who are candidates for liposuction?

Generally people of normal weight who have localized areas of protruding fat acquire the most desired results, but patients who are slightly overweight can also benefit from liposuction. The best candidates for liposuction are:

  • Normal-weight (or slightly-overweight) people
  • People with firm, elastic skin
  • People who have pockets of excess fat in certain areas
  • Physically healthy and psychologically stable people
  • People with realistic expectations

Age is not a major factor, although older patients, with diminished skin elasticity, may not have the same results as patient's with tighter skin.

Women and Liposuction

Women usually have liposuction performed under the chin, on hips, thighs, and stomach, and in the under arm and breast areas. In women, the single most frequently treated areas are the outer thighs, followed by the stomach.

Men and Liposuction

Men usually have liposuction performed under the chin and around the waist, or in the reduction of enlarged male breasts, a condition known as gynecomastia. In men, the flank area or "love handles" are most frequently treated.

About the Liposuction Procedure

Location options include:

  • Surgeon's office-based surgical facility
  • Outpatient surgery center
  • Hospital outpatient
  • Hospital inpatient

Anesthetic options include:

  • General anesthesia
  • Local anesthesia, combined with a sedative (allows the patient to remain awake but relaxed) for adults

Short-term side effects of surgery:

  • Heat from the ultrasound device used to liquefy the fat cells may cause injury to the skin or deeper tissues.
  • The long-term effects of ultrasound energy on the body are not yet known.

Contact Us

For more information about UM Division of Plastic Surgery or to make an appointment, please call 1-800-492-5538 or 410-328-2360 (patients) or 1-800-373-4111 (physicians).