Liposuction is one of the most effective procedures in all of plastic surgery, yet still gets swept up in misunderstanding about what it can achieve. When done safely in the hands of an experienced plastic surgeon, liposuction carries little risk and offers big-time spot-reducing rewards. The procedure truly does wonders for those stubborn fat deposits that won’t respond to diet and exercise, while also being ineffective at massive weight loss, a common misconception.
Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Jason Cooper gives the skinny on liposuction and the incredible results it offers when used by an expert.
What is Liposuction?
Liposuction is a reliable surgical method to spot-reduce pockets of fat sitting just below the skin. The procedure involves anesthetizing the treatment area, inserting a hollow, stainless steel tube called a cannula, and using mechanical energy via the surgeon, as well as a vacuum process by the attached machine, remove unwanted fat. Liposuction treatment, for as elegant as it seems on paper, can appear rather corybantic when witnessed – surgeons really have to apply force to achieve the smooth contour that reward the best of results.
The aspect of contour is critical to understanding the difference between mediocre and outstanding liposuction results. The procedure isn’t just about grabbing some unwanted fat and pulling it out; surgeons use liposuction to remove some fat and smooth that which remains, creating aesthetic external contour.
Who is a Candidate for Liposuction?
Before you say goodbye to your belly bulge, you’ll need to make an appointment with a board certified plastic surgeon to determine if you are a good candidate for liposuction. “One of the first things I do when I see a patient who desires improvement of their abdomen and is considering liposuction, is to examine them,” begins Dr. Cooper. “If they don’t have much excess skin, and their skin quality and elasticity is good, liposuction may be the best solution for them to achieve their goals and improve their abdominal appearance.”
While genetics play a big role in the quality of your skin as you age, other factors such as smoking, poor diet and weight fluctuations can also contribute to a decrease in both skin quality and elasticity.
Who is Not a Candidate for Liposuction?
Liposuction is a great option for people who are fit and healthy yet struggle with stubborn problem areas. Liposuction is not, however, a shortcut that allows anyone to skip the gym or the healthy diet. In fact, Dr. Cooper expects his patients to be at or very near their ideal body weight before undergoing liposuction.
“One of the biggest misconceptions about liposuction is that it is a weight loss tool,” says Dr. Cooper. “When patients say, ‘I can eat whatever I want because you’ll suck it all out,’ I think, ‘Boy, that’s someone who really needs to meet with us more and we can better educate them about the advantages of liposuction, because that’s not one of them.’”
When a Tummy Tuck is the Answer
Liposuction will not tighten loose skin, remove stretch marks nor address muscles that have been stretched out due to pregnancy or weight gain. Think about it this way: if the skin of the abdomen is loose to begin with, and the fat below the skin is removed, the skin will look even more deflated and loose unless something is done to tighten the skin. If your “problem areas” involve excess skin as well as fat, you may need a more invasive procedure, such as a tummy tuck.
Liposuction vs. Tummy Tuck:
- Lipo: Skin on the abdomen is tight, little or no excess skin
- Tummy Tuck: Skin on the abdomen is loose and wrinkly
- Lipo: Addresses stubborn fat
- Tummy Tuck: Addresses loose skin, loose muscles and excess fat
During a tummy tuck, also known as an abdominoplasty, excess skin is removed and the stretched out muscles of the abdomen are restored to their pre-pregnancy position. While a tummy tuck offers results beyond fat reduction, the trade-off for a bigger surgery is that it requires a bigger scar and a more extensive recovery period.
“In patients who have a lot of excess skin, it’s better to do a conventional abdominoplasty and avoid liposuction,” explains Dr. Cooper. “Sometimes liposuction will not achieve their goals or it will simply deflate them. They’ll be left with additional excess skin and without the improvement they desire.”