I'm a 30 year old male, who's very active. I love to run, work out, and I just finished a half-marathon last weekend. I'm also in the military and THAT is a very active experience. I also eat healthy. My wife brings home weird food like quinoa (which I'm pretty sure is not from earth, nor designed for human consumption), every thing we eat is low fat, low sugar, no junk food, healthy healthy healthy. But despite my healthy lifestyle, I have this bulge on my lower abdomen that just won't go away! Due to military weight regulations, and the archaic way they measure body fat, as well as my own personal health goals, I decided to pursue liposuction as a potential solution.
So now that I've decided to look at lipo, deciding what kind and where to go was the next decision. And it was WAAAAY harder than I thought! I assumed lipo was pretty straightforward; they cut a hole in you, stick a vacuum in there, and suck that stuff out. Obviously that's not the case haha. There's lasers and sound waves and power-assisted and water jet, there's dermatologists and plastic surgeons and just about every other kind of doctor or "doctor". One thing I've also learned, they all say the other "types" of doctors suck. So it's all very confusing, and even more so when you start looking at the "non-invasive" procedures.
So during this research I learned a few things. First, the type of medical degree a doctor has is not as important as the experience they have. I'd rather have a dermatologist with tons of experience than a newbie plastic surgeon. Second, the non-invasive procedures are crap. Can I say crap here? I'm saying it. They sound cheaper at first, and they are for one visit, but what they don't tell you is that it takes like 12 visits to get the results you want. Not so affordable now, and who has six weeks of their life open where they can take a few hours off of work twice a week to go do this? Plus there's no way control (or sculpt) how much fat is removed in every area, no way to ensure a smooth look. And the last nail in the coffin for that procedure is the results I've seen for these procedures are limited, at best. Better to get it all done at once. I've also learned shopping around is VERY important. The first place I went to wanted to charge around $7500 for lower/upper abdomen, and love handles. The second $4100. The third was $3500, but took off $1500 due to my military service. Obviously $2000 is a lot easier on the wallet than $7500. Keep in mind that you're going to have up to $1000 in other costs, such as garments, pain medications, and blood work. Lastly, I learned that regarding the types of lipo, I have no idea which kind is better. I feel like the experience of the doctor is probably way more important, though I have read a lot of articles suggesting there is more swelling/slower healing with the ultrasonic/sound wave/whatever ones.
After doing a LOT of research, doing different consultations, and a lot of reading and asking questions on RealSelf, I made my decision. I contacted Dr Greenberg in Palm Desert CA and scheduled a procedure. Dr Greenberg specializes in vein treatments, however he has one of those practices that does multiple cosmetic treatments. I was initially worried about going to someone who doesn't "only" do lipo, but everything in my research about him came up positive, and he has a lot of experience. Oh yeah, research your potential doctor. Google is your friend. Yelp is your friend. Don't just read the brochure and assume that because they are attractive and have a cool office that they are the best for you. Back to Dr. Greenberg. He's a shorter, older man with a witty personality and one of the most blunt and direct people I've ever met. Comes off as a no-bullshit straight shooter. That really appealed to me. If you're looking for someone with a pretty smile and lots of sweet talk, he might not be the guy for you. But if I'm spending this much money and altering my body, I want the straight talk, an honest broker. Dr. Greenberg uses PAL (Power Assisted Lipo) tumescent lipo, along with the laser that melts fat cells. From what I've researched, PAL may make your results a little bit better, but that's mainly due to the fact that it is less tiring on the doctor performing the procedure. It's basically like the difference between a toothbrush and one of those vibrating toothbrushes. But that's fine with me, I want my doctor to be as fresh as possible while he's carving me up like a turkey! The laser allegedly makes the healing process faster, as well as improves skin tightening. I won't get into the technical details, but after my research I wasn't really concerned with the benefits or lack thereof from laser lipo. Not really enough evidence out there to prove any one of the lipo types is far and away the best. Again, the experience of the doctor was more important to me.
About a week before the procedure, I had my last consult. They gave me a prescription for hydrocodone and an antibiotic, and gave me Bromelain/Quercetin, and Arnica Montana 30X (pill form). They also advised me to get Arnica lotion. I've taken all the pills, unfortunately due to the multiple surgeries I've had in my life for cleft lip and palate, I seem to be resistant to pain medications. Haven't used the lotion yet, so I can't report on whether or not it's worth it. I started taking most of these the day before the procedure (except pain meds).
This morning was the big day! I woke up, ate a normal breakfast, took a pain pill an hour before the procedure, and picked out some clothes that were loose, dark, and not important to me haha. Make sure you eat with the pain pills, or you may be feeling extra nauseous during the procedure. My wife drove me to Dr. Greenberg's office, and everything happened very quickly from there. They had me undress, put on some RIDICULOUS looking shorts, and took some not so flattering pictures of me. Then they took a marker out and started drawing around where they would be operating. I was very impressed because the whole time they were involving me in the decision process, making sure I had a say in what parts I wanted "trimmed". Afterwards they laid me down on one of those weird operating beds and hooked up a blood pressure cuff to automatically check my blood pressure every 15 minutes. Then I waited for Dr. Greenberg to come in and shoot me up with the tumescent solution!
Regarding the anesthetic part, I know there is a lot of controversy between local and general anesthesia. Local anesthesia means you are awake, and numb. General anesthesia means you are asleep. When anti-liposuction peeps talk about the death ratio and dangers of lipo, what they aren't telling you is that's pretty much ALL from general anesthesia. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but no one has died from lipo under local anesthesia. What that tells me is it's not the lipo that is dangerous (unless you go to Tijuana), it's the general anesthesia. Apparently no matter what procedure you are getting, any time someone puts you to sleep there are major risks. Also, it's a lot easier to move around so the doctor can get the best angle if you are awake. And that's what's important; getting the best results. You paid a lot of money for this, so suck it up and do it right!
I didn't realize it was such a multi step procedure. First he injected me with some numbing shots all around my stomach. Then due to my apparent resistance to anesthesia, he did some more lol. Keep this in mind if you are someone who has had a lot of surgeries in your life. This is the point where you want to be telling your doctor if you feel anything, NOT when he has a Dyson in your tummy. After that he started injecting me with the tumescent solution. I think overall he used two of those bags, so that's what, 2.5 liters? He used a little more he said to make sure I was numb (again, due to my lovely natural resistance). Once that was finished he made some incisions to stick the cannula in. I had one in my belly button, one below the belly button, one in my upper abdomen, and two on each side. So I think 7 insertion sites overall. I've read that its better to have more insertion sites, because you can "sculpt" better that way, have more control over the process. Then he pulled out what looked like a cross between a space probe and a wand from Harry Potter, with a light at the end. The laser. He started moving it around in me, melting the fat cells. I could feel the pressure from him moving it around, but no pain. Very strange. No weird smells either; I kind of though it might smell like a BBQ party, so I guess he did a good job and didn't burn anything he wasn't supposed to. Finally it was time to take out the fat! He showed me the cannula, and turned it on to show how it worked. Basically it just vibrates. So he started moving it back and forth in me, sucking everything out. During this whole time we are talking, and he is answering any questions I have. I'm not feeling any pain, but the vibrations are not unlike the vibrating feeling I get when I get my hair cut and they use the electric razor. It's a very surreal feeling. As he gets close to my ribs, and my upper abdomen I'm a little more sensitive. He says this is normal. During this time his nurses are helping and guiding him, and moving my skin around to help get the best angles. He has me roll onto my sides a few different times and changes the angle of the bed so he can get the best possible angle. Again, this would be very difficult if I was asleep. There are a couple sore spots near my love handles where there wasn't as much numbing, but nothing I can't take and I don't really want to stop the procedure to do more numbing. Overall I would say the pain was never any worse than what it feels like when you get a tattoo.
Once he is done (around noon) he has me look over everything to make sure I'm happy with it. My stomach looks kind of bloated, but feels like a deflated balloon when I touch it. Also my stomach is totally numb, kind of like the feeling when you fall asleep on your arm. There's some bruising and blood and it's not a sexy look at all, but I can already tell that I'm missing stuff from my stomach. Hooray! They put some Neosporin (or whatever the hospital equivalent is) on, cover me in kotex pads, tape me up, and help me put on my compression garment. It zips up on the left side, and the shoulder straps velcro together. There's an awkward hole on the bottom, but useful for obvious reasons. BTW when you pick your garment, get one that's as easy as possible to take on and off. And get more than one. He tells me to wear it for minimum of two weeks, but I might wear it for another two weeks after that for limited periods of the day.
It's 7pm now, same day of operation. I've been taking the pain pill every 4-5 hours. They say the first two days are the worst with pain. I'm a little sore, the numbing solutions are starting to wear off. I've changed (with my wife's help) my pads twice now. He recommended I gently massage around the insertion sites, and try to kind of (gently) push the fluid out from the bottom incision site. That and the lowest sites on my love handles are what's draining the most. During this time I'm getting a little light-headed, so I have to sit down for a minute before continuing. Not sure what's up with that, any ideas? The draining is supposed to be the worst the first two days as well. I've taken a nap, ate some food, and watched an episode of Psych. Lazy day. It's Thursday now, and I'm not going to work until Tuesday. "Planning" on going to the movies on Sunday, we'll see how that goes. And I have a follow up appointment on Monday. They wanted a week after the procedure, but I couldn't fit that into my work schedule, so this was the best compromise.
During the next change I'll start using the Arnica cream, and tomorrow I'll start showering again. I'll probably post an update tomorrow (day 2), day 3, and then weekly for the first 4 weeks. Then we'll see. I'm going to Finland mid-July, so I'm hoping I'll be looking pretty good by then! Please let me know if you have any thoughts, questions, or advice. This is a huge decision I think for anyone to make, and I encourage anyone interested in this procedure to do as much research as possible. Dinner time!