There are various types of fat in the human body. Most fat that is deposited during periods of weight gain may be lost by exercise and dieting, however, the type of fat that is deposited in certain areas of the body – such as the outer thighs, inner thighs, buttocks, flanks and abdomen – is different, and does not readily respond to these measures. These fat deposits are known as areas of lipodystrophy, and may have to be treated by liposuction or surgery – or a combination of the two.
Why do patients seek liposuction?
Patients who have undertaken exercise programmes and diet regimes may remain unhappy with unsightly bulges, even after significant weight loss. They find that they are unable to get clothes that fit, they have unsightly bulges in fitted skirts and trousers – or their thighs rub or chafe in the middle, especially in hot weather. The lower abdomen and flanks bulge and are visible above and below the waistline in skirts and trousers and swimwear. Patients are self-conscious about their appearance on social occasions, on holiday, on the beach and seek advice about the possibility of having liposuction to correct the problem.
What does the procedure involve?
Liposuction is usually carried out under a general anaesthetic, but small areas may sometimes be treated under local anaesthetic with sedation, as a day case. Liposuction of large areas or of multiple areas involves a hospital stay of one night.
The procedure is carried out through multiple small incisions (a few millimetres in length) in areas that are hidden. These are closed with one or two very fine sutures which give rise to scars that are almost invisible in the long term. Following surgery, patients are given an elasticated garment which helps to reduce postoperative swelling.
What is the normal postoperative care?
Patients can usually shower the day after the procedure, and reapply waterproof dressings over the sutures. Sutures are removed a week later, and an outpatient review appointment is usually made two weeks after the procedure.
An elasticated pressure garment is worn for four to six weeks after the procedure, to help manage any swelling.
What is the aftercare following this surgery?
Patients may experience slight discomfort but no pain following liposuction; this is managed by painkillers for the first few days after the procedure. Areas that have been treated are bruised and swollen for seven to ten days after the procedure. The final result of liposuction may not be visible until six to twelve weeks after surgery.
How much time do I need off work?
Following liposuction for a single area or a small area most patients can return to work within a few days. For more extensive liposuction procedures, one to two weeks is a reasonable time to take off work.
What are the complications of this procedure?
All surgical procedure carry a risk of complications. These include bleeding, haematoma (blood clot under the skin), seroma (fluid collection under the skin) and a change in sensation in the skin over the area that has been treated. There can be asymmetry or “rippling” of the skin overlying the treated area. However, very rarely do patients need a revision procedure following liposuction.