American Society of Plastic Surgeons
For Medical Professionals

Five questions to ask your plastic surgeon about liposuction

Last year, liposuction was the second most popular cosmetic surgery procedure performed in the United States, with more than 222,000 procedures performed. So many people turn to the semi-invasive technique for good reason: liposuction can provide individually-tailored body sculpting results that will last for years to come. The minimally invasive technique is done on an outpatient basis and requires only a few days of recovery.

However, not every procedure will provide the same, satisfying results. The key to a safe and effective liposuction session is an informed and educated patient. Know what to ask your potential surgeon during the initial liposuction consultation. Start with the following five questions, which should then spark a more complex discussion of what you can expect from your liposuction procedure.

Are you board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery?

The first question to ask a new plastic surgeon is about their experience, training and board certification. For the safest results, only choose a surgeon who has years of liposuction experience. Ask about any unique training they have received, as well as continuing education credits. Most important, ask the doctor if they are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. This will immediately tell you that the physician has undergone extensive training in their specialty and routinely passes rigorous board certification exams.

Where will you perform my liposuction procedure?

Liposuction is normally performed as an outpatient procedure, meaning you will be home resting the same afternoon. You will need to arrange for a ride home, after the liposuction procedure, so keep in mind how far the hospital or surgery center is from your house – or consider arranging for an overnight stay at an area hotel or recovery center. Prior to scheduling your treatment, learn the details about where your surgeon chooses to do his liposuction procedure. Does he/she use an office-based treatment room, a day surgery facility, or an area hospital? All of these are acceptable, just make sure it is an accredited facility.

What types of liposuction do you perform?

There are several different types of liposuction available today. The right technique for your situation will depend on several factors, including treatment location, the extent of correction desired and your doctor's personal protocols. Ask your surgeon which type of liposuction he/she performs on a routine basis – a skilled doctor will be experienced in a variety of techniques. Then discuss the type of liposuction your surgeon recommends for your concerns, including the anesthesia that will be used and the expected recovery progression.

Tumescent liposuction is the most common technique. A solution of lidocaine and epinephrine is first injected into the target area, then the fatty tissue is suctioned away. Another method, ultrasound-assisted liposuction uses ultrasound waves to liquefy the fatty tissue, providing effective results in hard to address areas like the neck and back. Finally, laser-assisted liposuction is one of the newest contouring techniques available. The procedure uses concentrated waves of laser energy to break down the targeted fat before it is removed through a tiny cannula.

Will the results of my liposuction be permanent?

One of the best parts of liposuction is that the fat cells that are removed do not return. However, the surrounding fatty tissue can still expand with future weight gain. As changes can be expected in your body over the following years that may exacerbate fat accumulation, including normal aging, weight fluctuations and pregnancy. Ask your surgeon how to best maintain your liposuction results for the long-term. He/she should have advice on retaining your desired physical contours and explain the chances of needing a repeat treatment in the future.

Why is etching or etch-liposuction not advised for patients?

Etch-liposuction is a technique used by some doctors to achieve the look of a sculpted, chiseled abdomen by creating tubes of fat that resemble stomach muscles. However, this "new" musculature still feels like soft ribbons of fat; not hard or taut like true muscles. The results from etch-liposuction do not always look natural. As weight fluctuations occur, over the years to come, the surrounding fat cells will expand, making the abdomen look distorted. A talented surgeon can offer suggestions for eliminating frustrating layers of abdominal fat using effective liposuction methods, combined with exercise and a healthy diet, which can achieve your desired results. It is good to remember that liposuction results that sound too good to be true, probably are.

To find out if liposuction is right for you, schedule an in-person consultation with a respected plastic surgeon. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) website can help you find a board certified plastic surgeon in your area. Additionally, the ASPS has extensive information on the liposuction procedure and recovery, as well as an animated demonstration.

Visit Dr. Vitenas' website for more information: Vitenas Blog

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.


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