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Alternate Names

  • suction lipectomy
  • lipoplasty


Liposuction is a procedure used to shape the body by removing unwanted fat from certain areas.

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.
This procedure is not a substitute for exercise and healthy eating as a means of weight reduction. Rather, 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 because their 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 either in women or men may also be a basis for liposuction. In some cases, it may be used to reduce 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.
A tiny incision is made through the skin. A narrow, hollow tube 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 4 to 5 hours, considerably longer than traditional liposuction.
  • 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 same technique as for traditional liposuction. 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. The lower part of the body can be numbed by an injection of anesthetic into the spinal canal if the liposuction is being done below the waist.
Some people may need a general anesthesia for extensive liposuction. General anesthesia means the person is put to sleep with medicine given through an intravenous line.


Bermant Plastic Surgery, [hyperLink url="" linkTitle=""][/hyperLink]

Merck Manual of Medical Information, Home Edition, 1997.

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