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How is liposuction done and what are the risks?

Liposuction, also called lipoplasty or liposculpture suction, lipectomy or just lipo is a process in which the fat under the skin is broken up, dislodged and sucked out through a tube. Most common areas where liposuction is perform include abdomen, back (backside of love handles), buttocks, chest (for both men and women), inner side of the knees, love handles / flanks, under the chin (to remove double chin), thighs (inner thighs, outer side of thighs), upper arms.

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Important notes before you think about liposuction:

  1. Liposuction is NOT a weight loss procedure. Many times, liposuction is done for medical reasons and some people with stable weight get the extra stubborn fat removed to get back in shape.
  2. Liposuction is done for people older than 18 years. The skin of the person should have good elasticity so that it contracts well after fat removal and gets back into shape instead of just falling loose that will need to be removed with another surgery.
  3. People with heart related ailments, diabetes; weakened immune system should not opt for liposuction.

Our doctors at DG Laser & Cosmetic Gynecology Clinic, Chennai will brief you all of this information when you present yourself for the procedure but it is important that you know it before you make your visit.

Before the liposuction surgery

Once your doctor fixes up a date of your surgery, he/she will give you some guidelines to follow before the procedure so that the procedure goes well and you heal as expected:

  1. Quit or pause smoking – smoking hinders healing.
  2. If you are a female and on contraceptive pills, you may have to stop taking them.
  3. Stop taking anti-inflammatory drugs
  4. Patients with low haemoglobin count will be provided with iron supplements.
  5. Don’t shave the area where liposuction needs to be done.

You may have to undergo certain tests to check if your body is eligible for the surgery. Only when the required vitals are in desired range, your doctor may proceed with fixing up an appointment for the liposuction surgery.

On the day of liposuction surgery

Depending on where liposuction needs to be done, the surgery may be carried out as an outpatient surgery or as inpatient surgery.

Administration of anesthesia:

Local anesthesia may be given if the fat that needs to be removed is localized in a particular spot, like the outer sides of the thighs. Full body anesthesia or even epidural may be used to numb the abdomen and the lower part of the body as deemed necessary by your doctor.

Different liposuction techniques:

  1. Tumescent Liposuction – The most popular technique used by most cosmetic gynecologists or plastic surgeons in Chennai and across the world. This is relatively less painful, safer and more effective way of removing excess fat. During the procedure, the targeted area is filled with saline water, local aesthetic medicine and a blood vessel constrictor. This solution causes the area to swell and contracts the blood vessels, thereby reducing the blood supply to the area (resulting in less blood loss) and the surgeon will have more remove to perform the procedure.  Then a small incision will be made through which a cannula (a small tube connected to a vacuum cleaning like machine) is inserted and the fat is sucked out with front and back motions of the cannula.
  2. Dry Liposuction – No liquid is injected in this procedure. This is an outdated way of liposuction and typically not used now-a-days.
  3. UAL – Ultrasound Assisted Liposuction – The cannula that is inserted has an ultrasound device which produces energy in the form of ultrasound waves. The energy is used to burst the walls of fat cells and liquefy the fat. The liquefied fat is then sucked out through the cannula.
  4. Power Assisted Liposuction – In this method, the cannula that is used has a mechanical device attached to it. The mechanical motion (rapid back and forth motion) of the device helps in easily removing and sucking out the fat.
  5. Laser Assisted Lipolysis – Also called Laser Guided Lipo. Like tumescent lipo procedure, the saline solution is filled into the area before the procedure. A small tube is inserted into the body through the incision that is made to melt the fat under the skin using controlled laser beams.

Then the cannula is used to suck the melted fat. The incision is left open after the surgery to drain excess fluid and blood from the area.

After liposuction surgery

Depending on the area of surgery, you may have to stay back for a night at the hospital or you may be allowed to go home. Bandages will be wrapped around the surgical area. You will be put on some pain killers and antibiotics to prevent any possible infection. It is really important that you see a real good cosmetic gynecologist near you to get the liposuction done because; the operations done by less trained doctors may be more riskier and sometimes life threatening.  Incisions may be sutured and you should be feeling well and nearly normal in a period of 8 weeks after the surgery.

It is also important to be in constant touch with your doctor after the surgery and notify him/her of any abnormalities you may see.  After you get back into desired shape, it is important to change your eating and workout habits in order to keep the results permanently.

Risks associated with Liposuction Surgery

  1. Irregular Contouring – If the surgery is done in people whose skin has less elasticity or if the removal of fat is not even across the area, the area after healing would look bumpy or withered and may not heal as expected. If the cannula causes any damage to the skin, a permanent spotted appearance may be seen on the skin after healing.
  2. Accumulation of fluids – Temporary pockets of fluid may form under the skin. The fluid has to be removed using surgical/sterilized needles.
  3. Numbness – Temporary numbness in the area can be expected but in some cases, the numbness may be permanent.
  4. Infection – Possibility of skin infection is rare but happens. This may be life threatening.
  5. Damage to internal organs – In very rare cases, the cannula may hurt the internal organs which then require immediate medical attention and surgery.
  6. Fat Embolism – Pieces of fat may break away and spread to other parts of the body including lungs and brain. This can be a medical emergency situation.
  7. Kidney and Heart Problems – As the liquids are injected and sucked out of the body in an unusual way, this may pose a risk to life in some patients.
  8. Problem with Anesthesia – The anesthesia administered along with fluids is usually safe. In some people it may cause heart problems or affect central nervous system. If you have undergone chemotherapy or any kind of treatment related to cancer, you have to let your surgeon know before scheduling the liposuction surgery.
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