Realistic Liposuction Results: What Can I Expect?

Liposuction ResultsUnderstanding what any treatment can do . . . and even more importantly, what it can’t do . . . is critical for you to know when considering the best cosmetic procedure to address your individual needs. This is particularly true for liposuction, as the tremendous popularity of the procedure has spawned some misconceptions and unrealistic expectations. In the right patient liposuction is a wonderful procedure with small scars, quick recovery, and dramatic results. However, in the wrong patient liposuction can lead to disappointment, and if pushed beyond appropriate limits, can even lead to deformity requiring surgical repair.

One of the most common misconceptions about liposuction is that it can help you loose weight. Liposuction, in general, is not an effective weight loss tool. In order to keep the procedure safe, there are long-standing recommendations to limit the amount of liposuction done on an outpatient basis. Very large amounts of liposuction can be associated with the development of loose skin in the treated areas.

Another misconception about liposuction is that it can tighten loose skin, especially if it is “laser liposuction” or “ultrasonic liposuction”. For sure the skin will retract some after any liposuction technique due to the skin’s inherent elasticity, however meaningful tightening typically doesn’t occur, despite marketing claims. Although rare, I’ve had to help a couple of patients in which their surgeon pushed an energy-based liposuction (laser or ultrasound) too far in hopes of tightening the skin. Doing this can lead to an irregular appearance to the skin, lumps, and even burns and visible scarring. The long and the short of it is, if you have significantly loose skin and want it to be smoother and tighter, liposuction by itself is probably not the procedure for you.

Cellulite – that frustrating, pitting appearance of the thighs or buttocks – is another area that patients sometimes expect liposuction to help but it really doesn’t. Currently there aren’t great treatments for cellulite that give consistent and dramatic results (again, despite the marketing!). Sometimes patients have pits that are associated with loose skin but don’t have real cellulite, and in these cases a body lift – not liposuction alone – can help these areas. Here’s a test you can do at home — lift up on the skin above the pitting area. If the pits smooth out dramatically, then the pits are probably related to loose skin in the area and you might be a candidate for a lifting procedure. If you lift and the pits just stare back at you, then a lift is probably not for you.

We’ve just reviewed the things that liposuction doesn’t do, but the great news is that liposuction of the right amount and in the right patient is safe, effective, and gives predictable results. The patients that do the very best with liposuction are at a good weight but have certain stubborn areas that just won’t go away with diet or exercise. The best candidates also have tighter, more elastic skin. Often, but not always, that means that younger patients are better candidates for liposuction.

However if you have some loose skin, don’t despair. Liposuction can still be a powerful tool to contour your body when combined with an excisional procedure. For example, let’s say you have some fatty collections in the love handle area and in the front of the tummy but you have loose skin in the lower part of the tummy. In this case you may be a great candidate for liposuction combined with an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck). Liposuction can smooth and contour the flanks and can thin the upper abdomen while excision of the fat and loose skin of the lower tummy will tighten everything up.

Another area where it is good to set expectations relates to recovery. Patients always want to know how they’ll feel after liposuction, how long it takes for the pain to fade, and how long until the swelling is gone and they see their final result. In general, liposuction is less painful and with a quicker recovery than excisional procedures, like a tummy tuck. Patients are often able to return to work after only a few days, and although they have some soreness for a couple of weeks, they are able to function well. Usually patients can resume light exercise within 2 weeks. There will be swelling, although often even swollen areas look better than before surgery. The majority of the swelling is gone by 3-4 weeks, although subtle amounts of swelling can take 3-6 months to resolve. You may also develop some bruising, and if so, this typically fades away within a couple of weeks.

Liposuction is the most common aesthetic surgical procedure performed in the United States, and with good reason: liposuction works and it works well. It works best in patients who are good candidates and who are not trying to have liposuction do more than it is capable of delivering. The board certified physicians of the Emory Aesthetic Center are happy to consult with you about what are reasonable expectations of liposuction in your individual circumstance, and help develop a treatment plan specific to you.


About Dr. Eaves

Felmont Eaves, MDDr. Eaves recently returned to Atlanta, Georgia, to head the Emory Aesthetic Center as Medical Director, having previously completed his plastic surgery residency as well as a fellowship in endoscopic and minimally invasive plastic surgery at Emory University, The Emory Clinic, and associated hospitals. Before joining the Emory Aesthetic Center, Dr. Eaves was a partner in Charlotte Plastic Surgery for more than fifteen years and served as group president from 2010-2012.

His professional and institutional committee memberships and offices include an impressive list of national, international and local plastic surgery organizations, societies, boards, task forces, advisory councils, coalitions and foundations, including having served as President of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) from 2010-2011 and Trustee (2011-Present).

Dr. Eaves’ primary areas of academic inquiry have been in minimally-invasive and endoscopic aesthetic surgery, patient safety, system and process improvement in plastic surgery, evidence-based medicine applied to plastic surgery and recontouring surgery after massive weight loss. He has received several patents for new medical devices he developed, and has made major clinical service contributions to his field. Dr. Eaves has published more than 100 articles, book chapters and book reviews on plastic surgery in peer reviewed publications, as well as manuals, videos, computer programs and other teaching aids and has coauthored the first textbook on the topic of endoscopic plastic surgery.

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