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Liposuction

5-minute read

Liposuction (also called lipectomy or lipoplasty) is a type of cosmetic surgery that some people consider to improve how they feel about the way they look. It is not a weight loss method.

What is liposuction?

Liposuction changes the shape of certain areas of the body by removing fat from that area. It is most commonly used for the thighs, buttocks, abdomen, arms, neck and under the chin, but it is also used for the back, inner knee, chest, cheek, calves and ankles.

Some people choose only to have liposuction, whereas other people have it at the same time as other cosmetic surgery procedures such as a facelift, a breast augmentation or an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck).

If you are thinking about liposuction

There is a great deal of pressure on people to have a certain look and body shape. But liposuction might not be the solution.

It might be right for you if you have realistic expectations about the procedure, have tried to change your body shape with a healthy diet and regular exercise, and are in good health going into the procedure.

You should speak to your GP before undergoing liposuction since your GP is best placed to help you manage your overall health.

You should also be aware:

  • Liposuction is probably not right for you if you are looking for a way to lose weight.
  • Medicare does not cover the cost of liposuction, and often private health insurance doesn’t either.

Choosing a surgeon

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has a register of medical practitioners. This will tell you if the doctor is a specialist plastic surgeon.

If the doctor is not a specialist plastic surgeon, they may still be able to do cosmetic procedures such as liposuction, but you need to know that they do not have the same qualifications as a specialist.

If you are considering a surgeon, you should ask them plenty of questions about the procedure, about their experience and qualifications, and you should make sure you are comfortable with them.

Questions to ask before liposuction

There is a lot to consider before deciding to have cosmetic surgery. You can ask your doctor questions about surgery in general, and there are other questions you should ask about liposuction, such as:

  • What type of liposuction do you recommend for me? Why?
  • How much bruising, swelling or pain would you expect me to experience? What should I do about this?
  • After surgery, how long before I can return to my normal activities?
  • Will I have stitches, or bandages, or dressings? How long will they be in place? Will I need to have the stitches taken out?
  • Will I have scars? What will they look like?
  • How many of your patients have complications? What will it mean for me if this happens?
  • How frequently do people need to re-do liposuction because of problems?
  • If I need further surgery due to complications or if I am not satisfied with the result, will there be extra costs?
  • Would I need to make any changes to my medications before surgery?

You can also use the Question Builder tool to create your question list for the appointment. Prepare your list, then print or email it so you remember what you want to ask.

How to prepare for a liposuction procedure

You should make sure you have as much information as possible about the procedure and know what results you can expect.

You should be as healthy and fit as you can to recover from the surgery. If you smoke, you should quit smoking.

Discuss with your doctor if there are any changes to your medication that you need to make before surgery.

What happens during a liposuction procedure?

You will have either a local or a general anaesthetic.

The procedure uses very small cuts in the skin and then different techniques are used to remove fat from under the skin in that area.

The fat can be turned into liquid or shaved before being suctioned out.

What to expect after liposuction

What you can expect will vary, depending on how much surgery you have, and which part of the body is involved. You might wake up with a small tube draining fluid from the site of the surgery.

Illustrations of liposuction procedures in the arm, abdomen and thigh
A canula (a thin hollow tube) is inserted through the skin and used to dislodge and remove fat

Some people need a short hospital stay after liposuction. You will also need a few days’ rest at home.

There will be dressings on the wounds and you may have to wear an elastic bandage or a compression garment for a time. You should expect to have pain for several days and will probably be prescribed some form of pain relief medicine.

Risks of liposuction

Any surgery comes with risks. Liposuction is no exception.

Risks that are reasonably common include:

  • uneven skin with ripples or dimples
  • baggy skin
  • numbness or reduced sensation in the skin
  • scarring
  • changes to skin colour
  • slow healing.

Serious complications, which are less common, include:

  • blood clots in the legs, which can travel to the lungs and cause serious illness
  • excessive fluid loss, which can lead to shock
  • burns to the skin or deeper tissue due to the ultrasound used to liquefy fat
  • infection in the fatty tissues, which can be hard to treat.

Some people feel they may need to have more cosmetic surgery to remove or tighten any loose skin that may remain after the fatty tissue has been removed.

Cost

The fees for liposuction will be different in each case. These costs include:

  • surgeon’s fees
  • anaesthetist’s fees
  • clinic or hospital fees
  • medication, dressings and support garments.

You should discuss fees with the surgeon before the procedure.

More information

If you are considering liposuction, you should feel free to discuss this with your doctor. There is also more information on the Australasian Foundation for Plastic Surgery website.

Last reviewed: August 2017

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