Each year, nearly half a million Americans undergo liposuction to help “sculpt" their bodies. Liposuction is a form of body-contouring surgery that suctions away fat.
This surgical method, introduced in France more than 20 years ago, has since been improved with new techniques that make liposuction safer and more effective than ever before.
Who is a good liposuction candidate? Some patients who come in for a consultation are surprised to find that an overweight person is not an ideal candidate for liposuction. This procedure should not be considered a treatment for obesity.
The best candidates for liposuction are women and men of any age with good skin elasticity and muscle tone who are:
- Within 30% of their ideal body weight
- In good physical health
Which areas of the body can liposuction treat?
- Outer and inner thighs
- Breasts (in men and women)
- Neck and under the chin
- Upper chest near the armpit
- "Bra bulge" in the mid-back
- Upper and lower back
- Upper arms
- Back of thighs above the knees
- Calves and ankles
Sometimes diet and exercise are not enough
If you are truly overweight, it is best to lose weight before undergoing liposuction. An overweight person may benefit more from a tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty - a procedure that removes excess skin and fat - than from liposuction. Because it removes excess fat, liposuction may actually worsen the appearance of loose skin. Patients whose skin does not have enough elasticity could develop skin folds, constrictive bands, grooves or rippling. Liposuction is also not designed to treat cellulite or stretch marks.
Who is not a good liposuction candidate?
You are not a good candidate for liposuction if you have severe heart problems, blood clotting disorders or are pregnant. Diabetes or immune system disorders may also present concerns. If you have scar tissue in the area to be treated, liposuction would not work well for you. Scar tissue below the skin may make it difficult or impossible to suction the fat in that area, leading to uneven contours after surgery.
Liposuction treats many areas of the body
Traditionally, liposuction has been used to treat women's stomachs, hips and thighs. But an increasing number of men are also opting for the procedure to reduce their “love handles" or fat in the neck and under the chin. Men also seek liposuction to trim the waistline or to treat “male breasts, " a condition known as gynecomastia. The New York Times recently reported that liposuction has become increasingly popular for treating “bra bulge, " the excess fat in the mid-back that protrudes around the band of a woman's bra. More and more patients are also seeking liposuction for their knees and ankles, as well.
How is liposuction performed?
Liposuction is normally performed under general anesthesia and takes about 45 minutes to two hours, depending on the number of areas treated.
After preparing the area, the surgeon inserts a hollow, blunt rod called a cannula, which is attached to a flexible plastic tube connected to a high-powered vacuum machine. The surgeon uses the cannula to suction away excess fat. Liposuction incisions are tiny, usually measuring no more than one-eighth to one-half inch each.
What can you expect from liposuction?
Patients are generally very happy with the results of their liposuction procedures. Women in particular pay close attention to what size clothes they're wearing. When their pants size goes down one or two sizes, it makes them very excited.
"I'm looking forward to wearing that sexy dress - the one I haven't been able to wear for a while!" says one woman who recently had abdominal liposuction.
"I was genetically prone to abnormally large ‘love handles’ from a young age, " says a male patient. “I had liposuction two years ago at age 26 - and my identical twin was so impressed with the results that he had liposuction on his love handles, too.
"The best thing is that now when a girl has her arm around me, I don't have to worry about her feeling my love handles. "
For more information on liposuction, visit www.parungao.com/liposuction .
Allan J. Parungao, MD, is an Oak Park, Illinois plastic surgeon board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. He is author of A Woman's Guide to Cosmetic Breast Surgery and Body Contouring (Addicus Books, 2006). Visit Dr. Parungao's web site at http://www.parungao.com or call his office at 708.660.3223.