Definition: Liposuction is a surgical technique that improves the body’s contour by removing excess fat from deposits located between the skin and muscle. Liposuction involves the use of a small stainless steel tube, called a cannula (from the Latin word for reed, tube, cane) that is connected to a powerful suction pump and inserted into the fat through small incisions in the skin. Fat removal is accomplished as the suction cannula creates tiny tunnels through the fatty layers. After surgery, these tiny tunnels collapse and thus result in an improved body contour. [1]

Liposuction can be accomplished either with the use of general anesthesia, or with heavy IV sedation, or totally by local anesthesia. [1]

Different Liposuction Techniques
There are many ways to do liposuction, for example liposuction can be accomplished painlessly either totally by local anesthesia or with general anesthesia. [2] Local anesthesia is generally safer and results in fewer complications then general systemic anesthesia does, but some patients might be more comfortable with being put completely to sleep.

In the realm of liposuction, maximum speed and maximum volume of aspirate are not criteria for excellence. Ultimately, excellence is measured in terms of patient happiness which is a function of safety, patient comfort, finesse, and quality of results. The important distinction between liposuction surgeons who are board certified is the liposuction technique that they use. The surgeon’s specialty is not as important as the surgeon’s technique, experience and attitude toward safety. [2]

Tumescent Technique for Liposuction is Safest
The tumescent technique for liposuction is unquestionably the safest form of liposuction when it is done correctly.  There have been no reported deaths associated with tumescent liposuction totally by local anesthesia. Even when general anesthesia is combined with the tumescent technique, liposuction is quite safe provided the volume of fat removed and the number of areas treated during a single surgery is not excessive. [2]

Risks of Liposuction
As with any surgical procedure, there are significant risks associated with liposuction. In order to minimize the risk of liposuction, the patient must be aware of the following facts: 
Too much liposuction is an excessive volume of aspirated fat, or an excessive number of areas treated. Excessive surgical trauma (excessive liposuction) is dangerous and is an important cause for serious liposuction complications. [2]

Unrelated surgical procedures on the same day as liposuction are unnecessary. Prolonged exposure to anesthesia is dangerous and is an important cause for serious liposuction complications. [2]

Disfiguring skin irregularities and depressions are frequently the result of the surgeon’s inattention to detail. [2] If the surgeon attempts to do too much on a single day and becomes fatigued you may have undesirable cosmetic results.

The size of the liposuction cannula can influence the smoothness of the skin after liposuction. The use of large cannulas tends to create irregularities more commonly than microcannulas (outside diameter less than 3 millimeters). Surgeons who do total-body liposuction tend to use larger cannulas. [2]

Traditional Liposuction vs. Laser Liposuction
Some physicians genuinely believe that laser liposuction is more of a marketing gimmick than actual science. There are 2 distinct advantages of laser liposuction over traditional liposuction.

Laser liposuction results in collagen retraction and generation as a result of the heat from the laser underneath the skin. This helps reduce some of the looseness in the skin often associated with liposuction. [3]

Laser liposuction is far less-invasive than normal liposuction. Liposuction uses a mechanical form to break the fat away from the surrounding structures, breaking blood vessels. [3] Because the thermal heat produced by the laser, laser liposuction requires less mechanical work and this leads to far less downtime post-procedure.

Cost of Liposuction
Cost of Liposuction is an important factor when considering liposuction surgery. However the quality of liposuction is more important than the price of liposuction. Choosing a liposuction surgeon based on the lowest price might ultimately be the most expensive choice, if the initial cosmetic results are so bad that another surgeon must be paid to repair the work of the first liposuction surgeon [4]. Common undesirable outcomes of liposuction include:

  • Incomplete liposuction with very little evidence that liposuction was actually done
  • Excessive liposuction producing an unnatural or disfigured appearance
  • Irregular and uneven results with unsightly depressions in the skin
  • Large scars that reveal that the patient has had liposuction [4]

The following table is merely a rough estimate of the possible liposuction prices. [4]

Table of Approximate Liposuction Surgical Fees in the United States of America
Body AreaApproximate Lower End of Range of Lipo Surgical Fee ($)Approximate Upper End Range of Lipo Surgical Fee ($)
Abdomen, upper & lower3,0007,500
Abdomen, lower2,0002,000
Back, female1,5004,000
Breasts, female3,0007,500
Breasts, male3,0005,000
Chin, Cheeks, Jowls, Neck2,0004,500
Flanks, male2,0005,000
Anterior Thighs & Knees2,0005,000
Inner (Thighs & Knees)2,0005,000
Outer Thighs1,6005,000
(Total fee = All Liposuction Surgical Fees + Non-Surgical Fee). If an anesthesiologist is required, then an additional fee must be anticipated.

Who is a Good Candidate for Liposuction?
A good candidate for liposuction is any person who has realistic expectations and is in good health. Although liposuction can often provide very substantial improvements, it is rare for liposuction results to be absolutely perfect. It is not realistic for a woman who weighs 154 pounds (70 kg) at the time of liposuction, to expect that the removal of 2.2 pounds of fat will permit her to wear clothes that fit well when she weighed 130 pound (60 kg). [5] If you are interested in liposuction talk to your physican about the procedure.

Who is NOT a Good Candidate for Liposuction?
If you are not healthy, you may be at greater risks for liposuction complications than a healthy person. If you have a past medical history of immunodeficiency disorders, cardiac arrhythmias, seizure disorders, excessive bleeding, or a significant history of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the legs) or pulmonary emboli (blood clots in the lungs), these can all result in a more risky procedure. [5]

If you are taking certain drugs that inhibit the metabolism of lidocaine, the local anesthetic used in the tumescent technique, then you might be at an increased risk of drug interactions, unless you can discontinue the drug(s) at least two weeks before surgery. [5]

You will be disappointed if you expect liposuction to be an effective means to lose weight permanently. Liposuction is not proven to be an effective treatment for obesity. [5]

If your skin does not have good elasticity, then you must expect there to be some degree of wrinkling. However in many cases, patients with poor skin elasticity are very happy with their new shape despite the slight wrinkled appearance of the skin. [5]