Since its first implementation in the 1980s, the liposuction procedure has definitely taken its fair share of heat from critics. Although plastic surgery patients of all procedures are always made aware of the risks ahead of time, there seems to be a common misconception that liposuction is a secret danger that no one talks about, the black sheep of cosmetic treatments.
Why Liposuction Is Better Than Ever
It’s understandable since the surprisingly dramatic results of the first liposuction procedures in the 80s that the procedure would have seemed too good to be true. There’s a procedure that can magically remove fat and make you appear slimmer overnight? It’s human nature to question such advancements. The truth is: while there are some risks to any procedure – including liposuction – there aren’t any secret threats your doctor isn’t telling you. In fact, liposuction today is safer than ever before.
New Advances in Research & Technology Make It Safer
The traditional liposuction procedure was literally designed to suction unwanted fat from localized areas of the body. These original techniques were known to cause bruising and bleeding, which were only temporary side effects.
Today, this method is still used but it has been refined to decrease these side effects, more effectively remove the fat, and leave patients with less recovery time. Today’s liposuction procedure begins with an injection comprised of saline, or salt water, a local anesthetic called lidocaine, and a small amount of adrenaline to lessen the amount of bruising and bleeding. A small incision is made in a well-hidden place near the area. Then, the surgeon will choose one of the two methods of liposuction: suction-assisted lipectomy (SAL) or ultrasonic-assisted lipectomy (UAL).
In a suction-assisted lipectomy, the plastic surgeon inserts a small tube, or cannula, and moves it back and forth beneath the skin to break up the layer of fat and suction it out. In the ultrasonic-assisted lipectomy, the surgeon applies ultrasonic energy to the area to liquefy the fat and then suction it out through the small tube. Either procedure can last for anywhere from one to five hours, depending on how much fat is being removed and how many areas of the body are being treated.
The Type of Anesthetics Used Today
When liposuction was first introduced on the cosmetic surgery scene, the most common way to perform these procedures was under general anesthetic. This might have been a large part of the initial concerns about this type of surgery, since allergic or unfavorable reactions to general anesthesia are much more common.
Today, doctors have been able to shift their preferred sedation choice to a localized anesthetic, typically lidocaine as mentioned above. These have far greater risks of bad reactions and can leave a patient awake throughout the procedure while experiencing no pain.
In some cases, if larger amounts of fat are being removed or a patient does not respond to the local anesthetic, a plastic surgeon may opt to use general anesthetic. These choices are only made with the patient’s knowledge and after careful consideration. While most people are fine with both types of anesthesia, it is an added risk that surgeons today will only take when needed.
More Experienced & Better Educated Surgeons
The more liposuction procedures gained in popularity, the more chances plastic surgeons have had to grow in experience and knowledge. Just like anything else, the more something is practiced, the more refined your techniques can become.
Now, thirty years after the first introduction of liposuction, doctors have had a lot more field time working with fat removal from people of all shapes and sizes, with various needs. Whether they are removing fat deposits from the face, abdomen, back of the knees, thighs, or anywhere else on the body, today’s plastic surgeons have a definite upper-hand over those who first launched this procedure in their clinics.
That being said, it is imperative that the physician you choose be reputable and trustworthy, with a proven history of success in the realm of liposuction and related cosmetic procedures. You don’t want to assume they have experience just because they say so; take the time to research your chosen physician and ask him the questions you need answered to become more confident in his abilities. Experienced plastic surgeons will be happy to address your concerns.
A More Selective Patient Pool for Liposuction
Plastic surgeons today take great care in determining whether a patient is truly a good candidate for any procedure, including liposuction. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t simply walk into a clinic and demand liposuction. The risks are greater for you if you have not been properly evaluated, and your well being is the number one priority to your physician.
Some would-be patients do not make good candidates for liposuction, something a skilled plastic surgeon will recognize. For example, largely overweight or obese patients could be in significant danger from liposuction. Most doctors will advise you to lose the weight that you want and be at or near your ideal body weight before having liposuction to help minimize risks. The procedure is a much better fit for those people who are eating healthy diets and exercising regularly but who still have stubborn areas of fat that won’t budge. If this sounds like you, it may be time to seek a consultation and find out if you’re a good candidate for this procedure.
Common Risks to Liposuction Surgery
Even with better education and technological advancements, there are still some risk factors that do exist. Why? Every patient is different, so sometimes reactions occur to the treatment, the anesthesia, or other factors. While risks are uncommon with this procedure, things can go wrong just like with any other kind of surgery. Your risks may include infection, delayed healing, fat clots or blood clots, shock, fluid accumulation, burns, perforation injury, lidocaine toxicity, or an unfavorable drug or anesthesia reaction. Sometimes the skin’s appearance can change after liposuction, with possible effects including looseness, numbness, or pigmentation changes.
While considered less invasive than other procedures, liposuction is indeed a surgery and should be considered carefully and discussed thoroughly with your physician before making your decision. Risks are always there and, though unlikely, you should understand what your procedure includes from start to finish. Getting liposuction today reduces these risks and even if they do occur, your physician is better prepared to help you manage any problems that may arise.
*This is a sponsored guest post submitted by Douglas Steinbrech, MD FACS. All thoughts and opinions are those of the author.