Is Pain After Liposuction Normal?

I had liposuction 6 days ago on my tummy and hips. Just aout two inches above the right and left incisions at my bikini line for the tummy lipo, I have a sharp pain when I move, like a knife going into the exact place on each side (it is especially bad on the right). I would say it is severe pain, and I have a high tolerance. I am afraid that it is serious, and the doctor won´t diagnose it properly when I go to have the stiches out on the 7th day since surgery (perhaps because I won´t be able to explain well what is the pain). Is this sharp pain indicative or something serious?

Also, My right hip is higher and fatter than my left. I am clearly lopsidded. If my doctor tells me not to worry, that it will be symetrical in time, is that true? Will my hips even out in time?

My legs are very big, swollen (I understand this happens), but they wabble like jello. They are so ugly. I am so afraid that I will not look good without clothes on (and even with, since the hip lopsiddedness is so obvious). I was in such good shape, having been running for 20 years, until 2 years ago when a move and new job kept me from being able to run and exercise more than light walking. I am so afraid that I have made a mistake.

I am afraid I will look much worse than I did. And I am afraid that the knife pain is serious. Do I believe what my doctor will tell me? Any idea of what this sharp pain is? Normal or severe pain?

Doctor Answers 13

Pain is normal after liposuction-especially the tummy. Believe in your Doc's advise!

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Pain is normal after liposuction. you definitely need pain pills so you are not in severe pain. it sounds like you are not taking prescription pain pills. typically the more fat removed then the more pain associated with it. Some physicians only take alittle amount of fat out and send you home on tylenol which is sufficient for the minimal amount of pain but if you have a truely thorough liposuction, then you will need prescription pain pills and especially the abdomen hurts the most. Neck liposuctions don't ususally hurt much so that is the one exception to the rule.

Suturing the incisions are an older method of liposuction done 10-20 yrs ago since the canulas were so much bigger than the microcanulas we use now. Now days we want the canulas to be smaller so the holes are smaller and therefore the scars are tiny. The smaller the canula then the smoother the results also and less waviness and dimpling. We want the holes to drain the excess fluid out so the swelling goes down quicker. The fact that you have stitches tells me you are not draining fluid out therefore the abnormal swelling you are experiencing is probably expected. I sure hope you are in a compression garment that is not too tight as that also contributes to the excess pain and excess swelling.

As a rule, at one week you should see a little improvement in the overall results. At 1 month you see a big improvement and at 4-6 months you see the end results.

Don't worry and trust your physician's advise. What ever technique he or she is doing, they will know the usual and expected symptoms you should have along the way to recovery and advise you appropriately.

Also you should keep a positive attitude since your speedy recovery depends on it and don't worry so much since almost everything in liposuction is fixable.

Beverly Hills Dermatologic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 46 reviews

Be patient

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Pain is expected after liposuction especially in the abdomen where the abdominal muscles can get quite irritated from the mechanical trauma of the act of suctioning. There are a few superficial sensory nerves that can be injured or at least irritated depending on where exactly the incisions are. Usually the pain is electrical or burning in quality.

As far as asymmetry, it depends on what exactly was done. In general, if you did the liposuction after gaining weight, (you said you were in good condition and then didn't exercise), there is more margin of error since the total volume of fat is more. As you gainweight, the contour besomes less well defined in terms of problem areas as everything tends to blend together. Of course there is not much you can do at this point except be patient and continue to ask your doctor questions of concern

Good luck.

Robin T.W. Yuan, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon

Pain & Swelling Following Liposuction is Not Unusual

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It’s not unusual to have pain and swelling following liposuction surgery. These problems are related to the passage of the liposuction canula through the subcutaneous tissue. Post operative swelling can also contribute to post operative discomfort and lead to other problems as well.

In some cases, swelling can lead to asymmetry and a sensation that the treated areas have actually worsened following liposuction. For these reasons, the assessment of symmetry and contour can’t be made for at least six weeks following surgery. Swelling can be minimized by using compression garments, massage, and early resumption of physical activity.

In many cases, the quality of the patient’s surgical experience is related to post operative pain management. Pain tolerance varies from patient to patient with some describing it as minimal, while others describe it as severe.

In the immediate post operative period, patients are given narcotic pain relievers. They are rapidly switched to non narcotic pain relievers as soon as possible.

Small amounts of pain and swelling may be present for several months following liposuction. When prolonged severe pain and swelling are present, this might indicate the presence of a complication. Under these circumstances, contacting your plastic surgeon would be appropriate.

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Severe pain is very unusual after liposuction.

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Severe pain is very unusual after liposuction and might be a sign that something is wrong (like an infection).  I would visit you surgeon and have him take a look.  Early asymmetry is common so I wouldn't worry about that.

Recovery after liposuction

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Liposuction is a safe, popular, and effective way to contour the body. Patients should be aware of the recovery process after liposuction. Immediately after the surgery, they will experience a moderate amount of pain, swelling, and bruising. In our practice, we provide every patient with a special compression garment that helps decrease the swelling and provide support for the patient to increase their comfort. Most patients statement that the first two days after liposuction are the most uncomfortable and they can return to work shortly after that.

Liposuction post-op pain

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The pain at the incision may be nothing more than usual post-op pain or it could be "sopmething" like a localized infection. The best thing to do is call yoru doctor and see him for an evaluation. 

As to the other thoughts, you have to give it some time for things to settle down. Remember no one is completely symmetric. I'll bet if you look at your pre-op photos, one hip was higher than the other.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

Listen to your doctor please

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Hopefully, you chose a good doctor. If you trusted them to operate on you, and they know you best, you should also trust their answers to your questions. You have been given many good answers here but really nobody can better help you than the doctor who operated on you.

It is normal in the first 2 weeks after surgery to have questions about your results and these should be answered directly and completely by your doctor. Be calm and patient and realize that it takes 4-6 months for your tissues to heal and your skin to shrink after liposuction.

Yes and it's way too early to judge your liposuction results

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While pain is very subjective and everyone has a different threshold, pain is very normal after liposuction. As far as it being sharp, the abdominal and waist/hip area is particularly sensitive for a lot of patients.

In general pain should continue to get better day by day, but if it seems to be getting worse or not improving, definitely let your surgeon know. Although it's rare, you just want to make sure there is no infection - things you want to look for are persistent redness or any drainage from the wound.

As far as your right side being bigger than your left, it's most likely just swelling (assuming you were even before and the same amount of tissue was removed from both sides). Just be patient, and see what happesns.

You just had surgery, so you will have to be patient to see the final results

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First of all, you state that you just had liposuction 6 days ago and you are concerned about several issues. You also have another question just submitted stating that you had blepharoplasty 5 weeks ago and you are concerned about the incisions not healing properly. (Please see my response to the blepharoplasty question). It is good that you are seeking answers to your questions, but many of these issues you need to discuss with your doctor, especially if you are going in for multiple procedures at different times and still have unresolved issues with the surgery.

To specifically address your present concerns...

"I have a sharp pain when I move, like a knife going into the exact place on each side"

You are fresh out of surgery and your body is trying to heal from your procedure. Occasionally, underlying sensory nerves can be irritated and cause temporary discomfort. You also had small incision to perform the liposuction and, occasionally, you may feel discomfort at these sites (almost like a paper cut) until they heal. However, you need to discuss these issues with your doctor and have them examine you to make sure nothing more serious is happening.

"My right hip is higher and fatter than my left. I am clearly lopsidded."

After liposuction, you may become swollen. Depending on how you lay in bed or how you put on your post-operative garments, your swelling may be asymmetrical. The swelling will take several weeks to months to completely resolve. Additionally, many people have asymmetric body structure. When you are heavier, the fat camouflages the underlying asymmetries. However, after the fat is removed, your asymmetry may be more apparent. These are issues that you need to discuss with your surgeon before surgery.

My legs are very big, swollen (I understand this happens), but they wabble like jello."

When you deflate your legs with liposuction, the skin needs to contract or tighten. There is an important balance required when performing leg liposuction to avoid loose skin. This is also an issue that you need to discuss with your surgeon prior to surgery.

"I am afraid I will look much worse than I did."

Hopefully, you have a good relationship with your surgeon. It sounds like you have many issues to discuss. I suggest writing down your questions and bring them with you so that you make sure all of your issues are addressed during your visit. As with every surgery, you have to go through a healing phase. Some people recover faster than others. Good Luck.

Normal liposuction recovery

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Thank you for your question, and congratulations on your surgery!  At 6 days post-op, you are very early in the recovery process, and what you are experiencing is completely normal.  Liposuction results in a predictable degree of swelling and bruising, proportional to the amount of fat removed, and also preferentially settling into the legs and pubic region with gravity.  Swelling peaks at around 3 days after surgery, and continues to decrease until about 3 months later.  Much of the swelling can be expected to have resolved in the first few weeks.  We can control the swelling with compression garments and lymphatic massage, but at 6 days what you are seeing is just part of the process.  Additionally, some asymmetry can definitely be expected in the early phase.  Be patient - how you will look in 3 weeks, or 3 months, will be better by leaps and bounds!!

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.