Liposuction allows James M. Shaw, MD in Wichita, Kansas to target stubborn areas that are resistant to changes with weight loss. When those fat cells are broken up and removed, your body cannot replace or regenerate them.
Artwork throughout time has depicted the female shape in ways that are popular for the era. In previous centuries, a fuller, heavier shape was a sign of health, access to nutrition and enough wealth to avoid manual labor. Today popular media—magazines, TV shows and movies—tend to highlight a female form that looks leaner, but has full breasts. It is unusual for this combination to occur in nature. Few women are naturally endowed with a lean shape and full breasts. Similarly, few men are built like the classic statues one would find in a museum—flat abdomen and no “love handles.”
Most of us have a body shape that resembles other members of our family. The number of fat cells you have and the distribution of that fat is determined by genetics. When we reach our adult height, our bodies are not going to make additional fat cells. If we gain or lose weight, those fat cells can get larger or smaller. But, the total number of fat cells and their placement on your body does not change. With weight loss or gain, those fat storing areas will change in size, but the body proportions stay about the same.
Not A Weight Loss Procedure
Although liposuction removes fat, it does not treat obesity. By targeting the stubborn areas, liposuction can improve body contour and proportion, but cannot substitute for a healthy lifestyle. One liter of fat removed weighs about 2 pounds. The average liposuction patient has between two and three liters of fat removed during the procedure.
Patients with a “beer belly” are typically not good candidates for liposuction. Having a beer belly is not really about drinking beer, it is more about genetics. These patients tend to have round, tense abdomens combined with fairly slim arms and legs. In this situation, the fat is not stored just below the skin and is not able to be removed with liposuction. Almost all of this fat is stored inside the abdomen, behind the muscle, and wrapped around the internal organs. This intra-abdominal fat can only be reduced with generalized weight loss.
Most patients will see a change in the treated area right after surgery. However, unlike breast augmentation or a tummy tuck, it takes a long time to see the final result. Initially there is puffy, watery swelling that takes about two or three weeks to go down. After this, patients have more firm, rubbery swelling and the skin has less sensation than normal. This secondary swelling takes about two and one half to three months to resolve, during which time the sensation normalizes. The skin in the treated area can continue to tighten for up to six months from the time of surgery. In the end, the average thickness of the fat is reduced by about 45 percent in the treated area.
What About SmartLipo?
SmartLipo (also called laser-assisted liposuction) is the same surgical procedure as traditional liposuction with an extra step added. Before removing the fat, the laser is used under the skin to break up and soften the fat. In my experience, there are several benefits to adding the laser treatment. Patients tend to have less bruising, less swelling, less discomfort and a shorter recovery time with SmartLipo. There is also considerable evidence that skin tightening is enhanced by as much as 40 percent. However, there is a downside—increased cost. The laser is an expensive tool to buy and maintain, and there are additional disposable supplies for each use. Also, adding the laser step means the surgery takes longer, so there is some additional expense for the operating room and anesthesiologist. Overall, most patients with looser skin and those that want a faster recovery period feel the SmartLipo procedure is well worth the extra expense.
What About CoolSculpting?
CoolSculpting is an in-office method of targeted fat reduction with no surgery and no downtime. We offer this procedure in our office at Shaw Plastic Surgery. It is well suited for patients who are opposed to having surgery or who have very small areas of stubborn fat to be addressed. The results are typically very good and patients are very pleased with the results. However, it is not possible to remove fat as thoroughly or achieve the same degree of skin tightening as with the surgical liposuction procedure.
What To Expect After Surgery
The surgery will be performed by James M. Shaw, MD, a board certified plastic surgeon, under general anesthesia in an ambulatory surgery setting. The anesthesia provider is certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology. The surgery center is also fully accredited by the appropriate regulatory agencies. Patients go home the same day and a responsible adult driver is required for dismissal. Patients who live more than one hour from Wichita are encouraged to spend the first night in a local hotel or with family or friends. During the surgery, extra fluid is infiltrated into the fat before removal. Much of this fluid will drain out through the small incisions during the first day or two. It is helpful to have extra towels in the car for the ride home and for the bed and chairs once you get home. Keep absorbent pads over the incisions as long as there is drainage. These pads can be gauze, maxi-pads, towels, washcloths or small baby diapers depending on what is convenient and the amount of fluid being produced.
Most patients will able to get out of the house to run errands the first day or two after surgery. Return to work will vary with the number of areas treated, but usually three or four days is sufficient. Strenuous exercise should be avoided for the first two weeks and modified according to discomfort.
Swelling and bruising are to be expected. These are usually reduced in patients having SmartLipo. Bruising is affected by gravity and will usually move down lower on the body than the area that was treated.