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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Surgeries and Procedures > Liposuction


Alternate Names : Suction Lipectomy, Lipoplasty

Overview & Description | Preparation & Expectations | Home Care and Complications

Liposuction is a procedure used to shape the body and remove unwanted fat from certain areas. Liposuction may be done in any of these areas:

  • abdomen
  • buttocks
  • cheeks
  • chin
  • hips
  • knees
  • neck
  • thighs
  • upper arms
  • Who is a candidate for the procedure?

    The best candidates for liposuction are people of average weight. They should have firm, elastic skin with pockets of fat they want removed. Candidates need to be in good physical health.

    The goal of liposuction is to remove pockets of fat. The procedure is not a method of dieting. It does not take the place of exercise and healthy eating in weight reduction. It is used to remove stubborn pockets of fat that do not go away with regular exercise and dieting. Older people may not respond to liposuction as well as younger people. Older people's skin may not be as tight. Those who have diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease may be at risk for complications during liposuction.

    Liposuction is sometimes used for noncosmetic reasons to treat fat tumors such as lipomas. Enlarged breasts in both women and men may also be a basis for liposuction. In some cases, it may be used to lessen excessive underarm sweating.

    How is the procedure performed?

    The basic technique of liposuction begins with fluid injection. This injection consists of a mixture of:

  • salt solution, called saline. This helps firm up the skin.
  • an anesthetic, such as lidocaine. This helps numb the area.
  • epinephrine. This medicine constricts the blood vessels, so less blood is lost.
  • This mixture makes it easier for the fat to be removed from the body. It also helps control blood loss and bruising and provides pain control. Next, a tiny incision is made through the skin. A hollow tube that is the size and shape of a skinny pen, called a cannula, is then inserted into the fat layer beneath the skin. The cannula is used to vacuum out the fat layer. The tube is pushed and pulled back and forth through the fat layer, breaking up the fat. The fat is then pulled up through the tube using a vacuum pump or large syringe. How long liposuction takes depends on the following:

  • how many areas must be worked on
  • the size of the areas
  • how much fat is in each area
  • the type of anesthesia used
  • A few new techniques for liposuction have been developed in recent years. These new techniques may help provide better results. Patients who have them often recover more quickly too. These techniques include:

  • Tumescent technique. In this procedure, larger amounts of fluid combined with anesthesia are injected into the fat. The fluid injected may be equal to as much as three times the amount of fat to be removed. This procedure takes longer than traditional liposuction. It can take up to 4 to 5 hours.
  • Super-wet technique. In this type of fat removal, an amount of fluid roughly equal to the amount of fat to be removed is injected into the fat. This procedure requires intravenous or general anesthesia.
  • Ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty. Also called UAL, this technique uses ultrasound waves to break up the walls of the fat cells. Then the fat is removed using the basic technique described above. This procedure can improve the success rate for liposuction when used in fibrous areas of the body, such as the upper back or the male breast.
  • The type of anesthesia needed during liposuction can vary quite a bit. A person may just need a local anesthetic at the site of the procedure. This may be combined with an intravenous medicine to make him or her sleepy. In more extensive liposuction, regional anesthesia may be used. In this case, the lower part of the body is numbed by an injection of anesthetic into the spinal area. Some people may need a general anesthetic for extensive liposuction. General anesthesia means the person is put to sleep with medicine given through an intravenous line.


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    Liposuction: Preparation & Expectations

    Author: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Reviewer: Kathleen A. MacNaughton, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 10/15/02

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