Liposuction overview: benefits, techniques, & best candidates

There are some people who, no matter how much they diet, or how frequently they exercise, still have disproportional bulges of fat on their body that simply won’t go away. Liposuction, a cosmetic surgery procedure in which deposits of fat are removed from the body, can remove those bulges, allowing the skin to re-drape over the area to improve the body’s overall shape. There are two basic techniques used for liposuction: tumescent, and ultrasound assisted lipoplasty (UAL). In tumescent liposuction, the surgeon injects a solution (made up of saline solution, local anesthetic, and epinephrine) into the area where the fat is to be removed. The fluid creates a space between the muscle and the fatty tissue, making it easier for the doctor to insert the cannula (a long, thin hollow tube) through small incisions, and suction out the fat. In ultrasound assisted lipoplasty, the surgeon uses sound waves to liquefy the fat in the targeted area, then suctions the fat out with a cannula through a tiny incision.

Within these two methods, there are various mechanisms put to work. One newer development used in tumescent liposuction is what is referred to as Power Assisted Liposuction (PAL). PAL uses a powerized cannula—because of the cannula’s mechanized movement, it involves less intensive, manual work on the surgeon’s part.

A good candidate is someone who is in good overall health; of an average, or only slightly above-average weight; has reasonably firm, elastic skin; and who has attempted diet and exercise, but continues to have localized areas of fat on their body that they can’t get rid of. Age is not a prohibitive factor, although older patients do tend to have reduced skin elasticity, which means that they may not achieve the same results from the procedure that a younger patient might. It is important to note that liposuction does not remove cellulite—in fact, patients with poor skin quality are not good candidates for liposuction, because it only targets deep, not superficial fat (i.e. cellulite). For such patients, liposuction can actually worsen the appearance of skin by causing further irregularities.

Liposuction can have positive effects on people’s self-confidence and overall body-image, but it is important to go into it with realistic expectations. The surgery is considered to be relatively safe, but it is a surgical procedure, and (as with all surgical procedures), some risk is involved.