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This Is What Happens When You Get Liposuction

You may hit the gym everyday, limit your diet and and calorie intake and be super careful about what you put in your body — but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll see the body-changing results you so desperately want. Sometimes, it’s just damn near impossible to get rid of stubborn fat… no wonder it’s called stubborn, right? If you’re here, chances are you’ve been frustrated by your inability to lose fat in certain areas.

Liposuction, one of the most popular body contouring treatments, is notorious for helping people get rid of stubborn fat deposits. Is it actually all the rage? Read on!

What is liposuction?

Liposuction is a surgical procedure during which a plastic surgeon or dermatologist will use a suction device to remove fat cells from targeted areas. You can have liposuction on your thighs, hips, buttocks, abdomen, waist, upper arms, back, inner knee, chest, cheeks, chin, neck, calves, and ankles.

Who’s a good candidate for liposuction?

If you have fat cells that just aren’t going anywhere with weight loss or exercise, then you could be a good candidate for lipo. Basically, these fat cells are unresponsive due to genetics (thanks, Mom!) or aging, so surgery is the only way to remove them.

Ideally, you should be within 30% of your goal weight and have firm, elastic skin as well as good muscle tone. That being said, if you do get liposuction, that doesn’t mean you can use this procedure to replace a healthy diet or regular fitness regimen — those two things are still really important to keep in place post-lipo! Of course, the only way to know for sure if liposuction is an option for you is to book a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist.

What happens during a liposuction treatment?

Once you’re in your doctor’s office, you’ll be asked to stand up so that your physician can mark your body with a pen — these marks are where your fat cells will be removed. You’ll be given light sedation, but you won’t need to be put under general anesthesia.

Once you’re sedated, your doctor will make itty-bitty incisions — only about 2-3 millimeters — where they’re going to remove fat. Your surgeon will pump in what’s called a tumescent solution into the areas where you want fat removed. This solution is made from a combination of saline, epinephrine (this will help ensure you don’t lose too much blood), and lidocaine (a numbing agent).

With a thin, hollow tube (called a cannula), your doctor will go back and forth to break up the fat and suction it out. Then, they’ll sew up the incisions with stitches. Depending on what kind of stitches you get, they’ll either dissolve on their own within a couple of weeks or you’ll have to head back to your doc to have them taken out after five days.

After the procedure, you will be put into tight surgical compression garments. These will help ensure proper drainage, help reduce bruising, and decrease pain. You’ll have to wear these pieces for 4-6 weeks until any swelling is completely gone.

What’s the recovery process like?

Liposuction isn’t quite as invasive as other surgeries, but you’ll still be out of commission for up to three days post-procedure. You will definitely experience some drainage (a mix of blood and liposuction solution) at the incision sites, and these could leak through your compression garments and the gauze that your doctor has placed underneath. This should stop after a few days. You’ll have to avoid cardio exercise until your plastic surgeon clears you for it, but it is important to walk regularly, beginning the day after surgery, to encourage drainage. You’ll also have to wear the compression garments at all times for the next few weeks, but you can take them off to shower or to clean them.

What kind of results can I expect?

Once your swelling has healed, you can expect a more contoured body. These results, however, are a gradual process, and may take 6-12 months to really show. Liposuction results are pretty much permanent — just remember to continue to maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine, as liposuction isn’t a way to keep weight off.

The skin around the treated areas should tighten up once you’re healed, but if it remains lax, you may want to consider a small procedure to remove it (however, keep in mind that this will leave you with a scar).

Dr. Ashley Steffens, a dermatology resident at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine (SIU), helped contribute to the accuracy of this story.

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