Facts, fiction about liposuction

As swimsuit weather approaches, so does the daunting moment when we shed our layers of Northwest fleece and see what months of eating in front of the television has done.

Some of us are hoping that 19th century swimsuit styles will become popular again so that we only have to bare our wrists and ankles. If you feel self-conscious about extra fat, liposuction may be an option for changing your physical contours. But with all the pros and cons of liposuction circulating, what is the real story and what can one expect?

The truth is that liposuction will not make your life perfect and may not even give you an ideal body. It also won’t eliminate cellulite or the need to exercise. But it can remove fat deposits in areas that don’t respond to exercise and weight loss programs.

And because the actual fat cells are removed, they don’t grow back. That means that an important aspect of liposuction is that it’s a lasting method of reshaping the body. Unless a lot of weight is gained after the procedure, the change in body shape is permanent.

Liposuction is most effective on people who maintain a generally stable weight and who have been unsuccessful with exercise and diet changes to reduce certain areas on their body. The most typical areas for liposuction on women are the abdomen, hips and thighs. Women in their 30s and 40s are the most common candidates, but occasionally men decide to undergo liposuction as a way of getting rid of love handles around their mid-sections.

If you’re considering liposuction, it’s important to have realistic expectations. Skin irregularities can appear in areas that have been treated with liposuction. Since a younger person’s skin has more elasticity, it may tighten up more easily after the procedure than an older person’s skin.

Liposuction is safest when performed at a hospital or medical center under the care of an anesthesiologist. Safety problems can arise when liposuction is performed in a doctor’s office under the local anesthetic lidocaine, which can cause sedation problems or toxicity. Also because of the limitations of a local anesthetic, liposuction performed in a doctor’s office may require multiple procedures to achieve the desired affect. On the other hand, a general or spinal anesthetic in a hospital setting decreases risks.

During the procedure, a surgeon makes small incisions and inserts a tube deep into fat pockets. A vacuum-pressure unit is used to draw out unwanted fat. The procedure can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours, depending on the amount of fat to be removed. There is a significant amount of bruising afterward; so plan ahead. Don’t expect to hit the beach the next day or even the following week. A person may require a week off of work, depending on the specific surgery, and usually four to six weeks until the discoloration and bruising has faded. A follow-up appointment is scheduled for two weeks and four weeks after the surgery.

Anyone considering liposuction should be carefully screened and provided with a thorough consultation, including various treatment options, possible risks and recovery expectations.

Liposuction continues to gain popularity and is now the most commonly performed cosmetic surgery in the United States. Most people are very pleased with the results. To find out more about liposuction or to make an appointment for a consultation, call (206) 341-0600 or toll-free 1-877-341-0600.

Dr. Keith Paige is a plastic surgeon at Virginia Mason Federal Way.

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