10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Liposuction
- Last updated: 3 months ago
Liposuction, aka lipo, is a well-known though often misunderstood procedure. Did you know it’s not a weight loss procedure, and instead you may actually gain weight from it? Did you know you’ll have to wear a compression garment after surgery, potentially for months?
We tapped into our community of RealSelf members and doctors to help identify and answer some of the top questions about liposuction.
1. You’re not 'cheating' when you get liposuction.
Liposuction may seem like the easy way out, as in getting a procedure to reduce fat instead of traditional diet and exercise. In that sense, it might feel like cheating. However, that is not really what liposuction does.
Liposuction isn’t a weight loss solution. Instead, it’s a body contouring procedure designed to target specific collections of fat that typically don’t respond to diet and exercise.
If you’re considering liposuction to lose weight while avoiding diet or exercise, you’re not likely to get ideal results. Lipo is no different than any other procedure. It’s simply an aid to help you reach your best self.
2. Liposuction is not a fast way to a fit body.
Liposuction is best for people close to their ideal body weight. It isn’t a way to make a major transformation from overweight to in perfect shape.
“Liposuction is not effective as a weight loss method,” said Dr. Christopher Morea, a Raleigh, N.C., plastic surgeon, in a RealSelf Q&A. “Patients should not expect to lose more than 5-7 pounds from a liposuction procedure.”
Read more: Liposuction frequently asked questions
3. Final results may take three months or longer to show up.
Your surgeon will remove fat during the procedure, so you may naturally expect to see immediate results. Instead, you will likely have to wait months for the true impact. While fat is removed, it is replaced by fluids and swelling.
“It can take several months for this swelling to go completely away,” said Dr. David Shafer, a New York plastic surgeon, in a RealSelf Q&A. “Approximately 80% will resolve in the first month, and then three to six months for the remaining 20%.”
4. Pick the right surgeon.
Selecting the right plastic surgeon is the most important aspect of any procedure. No matter what technology or techniques are developed, it’s ultimately in the surgeon's hands to achieve the best results. You should find a board-certified surgeon with proven liposuction results. It’s important to feel comfortable with the surgeon and their team who will be assisting in the operation.
“It's about finding a person who really focuses and specializes in this procedure specifically,” said Dr. David Amron, a Beverly Hills dermatologic surgeon, explainsin this video. “What you're trying to do is find a surgeon who is nailing the results virtually every time.”
5. Anticipate some post-surgery pain.
It is surgery after all. There is a recovery process, and that process includes some pain. One RealSelf member said the pain on the first night was a 6 on the 1-10 scale. The discomfort and soreness will likely last for a few days.
“Most patients have pain that is usually easily controlled by minimal pain medication,” said Dr. Robert Buchanan, a Highlands, N.C., plastic surgeon, in a RealSelf Q&A. “Many of my patients even go back to work within a few days.”
6. You may gain weight after liposuction.
Liposuction removes fat. That doesn’t mean liposuction changes your overall weight. Dr. Brooke Seckel, a Boston plastic surgeon, said most patients actually gain weight during the procedure because of the fluids administered during surgery.
“Don’t expect it to show on the scale,” Dr. Seckel said in a RealSelf Q&A. “As you recover from liposuction surgery and if you watch your diet eventually you may see the difference on the scale.”
Regardless of your weight, you should lose inches from the process and end up with a more contoured shape.
7. You will experience swelling and bruising.
Swelling is a major part of the liposuction process. That’s the reason it usually takes six months or longer to see the final results.
The significance of your procedure, the location, and the surgeon's technique will all impact the level of swelling.
8. Expect to wear a compression garment for an extended period, even months.
To help with swelling, you’ll wear a compression garment following surgery. Some people can stop wearing the garments after two weeks, others need to wear them for a couple of months.
How long and often you need to wear the garment will depend on the scope of your procedure and your recovery. The garment should promote healing and could also improve your end result.
“Wearing a compressive garment helps the skin become more adherent and give a better contour,” said Dr. John McFate, an Austin, Texas, plastic surgeon, in a RealSelf Q&A. “This also helps to close down some of the space where the fat is removed and help speed up the process of resolving the swelling.”
9. Liposuction can make cellulite look worse.
Liposuction doesn’t cause cellulite, but it doesn’t treat it either. In some cases, if the fat underneath is removed unequally, it could make existing cellulite worse.
“My cellulite looks much, much worse, and the skin quality is looser and wavy,” member clk wrote in a RealSelf Review. “I look 20 years older without clothes. My shape under clothes is nice, at least, but I'd give anything to have my old legs back.”
10. Healthy habits are important after surgery.
While liposuction removes fat cells, it doesn’t prevent future weight gain. It’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle with exercise and diet to preserve the results. Weight gained after the procedure will tend to distribute to other areas, though the leftover fat cells in the treated area can also expand.
“The operation does not prevent you from gaining weight,” said Dr. Aldo Guerra, a Scottsdale, Ariz., plastic surgeon, in a RealSelf Q&A. “Small increases in weight rarely have an effect. Large weight gain can cause one to gain weight and could increase the chances of having more liposuction in the future.”
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