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Liposuction

7-minute read

Key facts

  • Liposuction is a form of cosmetic surgery to reshape the body by removing body fat.
  • Liposuction should be performed by a specialist plastic surgeon.
  • Medicare does not cover the cost of cosmetic liposuction.

What is liposuction?

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

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

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

Liposuction 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 at the time of the procedure.

While people — especially women — often feel pressured to have a certain look and body shape, liposuction might not be the solution.

The best candidates for liposuction are people of normal weight who have firm, elastic skin but pockets of excess fat in certain areas.

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 that:

  • 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.

NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT? — Use our BMI Calculator to find out if your weight and waist size are in a healthy range.

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How do I find a plastic surgeon?

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has a register of medical practitioners. This will tell you if a doctor is a specialist plastic surgeon, the best type of healthcare professional to perform a liposuction procedure.

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, and about their experience and qualifications. You should make sure you are comfortable with them.

Questions to ask before liposuction

There is a lot to consider before deciding to have any form of 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 and 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, 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 should I prepare for a liposuction procedure?

To prepare for a liposuction procedure, you should make sure you have as much information about the procedure as possible and know what results you can realistically expect.

You should reach your optimal weight and 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 you need to make any changes to your medication before the surgery.

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What happens during a liposuction procedure?

Before having the liposuction procedure, you will have either a local or a general anaesthetic.

The procedure involves making 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 off before being suctioned out.

What happens after a liposuction procedure?

After liposuction, you may wake up from the anaesthetic to find there is a thin tube draining fluid from the site of the surgery. This tube is called a canula and it is inserted through the skin to continue to dislodge and remove fat.

Whether you have this will depend on how much surgery you have had and which part of the body was involved.

You will need a few days’ rest at home after liposuction. There will be dressings on the wounds and you may have to wear an elastic bandage or a compression garment for a while. You should expect to have pain for several days and your doctor will prescribe some form of pain relief medicine.

Some people may need a short hospital stay after a liposuction procedure.

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

What are the risks involved in liposuction?

Liposuction can sometimes have unexpected or unwanted results. Reasonably common ones 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 may want more cosmetic surgery to remove or tighten any loose skin that may remain after the fatty tissue has been removed.

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What costs are involved?

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

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

You should discuss these fees with your surgeon before the procedure.

Other questions you might have

Will liposuction leave scars?

When you have invasive surgery there will be scarring. All surgeons aim to achieve minimal scarring. Where possible, scars will be along natural creases and skin lines.

Will I need to get liposuction again?

Usually liposuction does not need to be repeated. There may be excess skin after the surgery and an additional procedure may be needed to remove this if necessary. Usually, however, the skin will contract and tighten after the procedure.

When will I see the results of my surgery?

After surgery there will be some swelling. Once this has settled down, you will be able to see the results. Changes can take place for up to 6 months following surgery.

Resources and support

If you are considering liposuction, you should feel free to discuss this with your doctor.

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Last reviewed: September 2019


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