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.
Liposuction is designed to target stubborn areas that are resistant to changes with weight loss, actually removing fat cells from the treatment region until the desired contour is achieved. When those fat cells are broken up and extracted, your body cannot replace or regenerate them, allowing you to enjoy a slimmer, more sculpted physique so long as significant weight is not regained.
James M. Shaw, MD is a board-certified plastic surgeon who has extensive training and experience in performing liposuction for both women and men—always with the focus of achieving natural-looking results. For more information about this popular body sculpting procedure, we invite you to read the sections provided below and/or contact our practice today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Shaw to find out if liposuction is right for you.
- Liposuction Treatment Areas
- Liposuction vs. Weight Loss Surgery
- Liposuction Candidates
- Liposuction vs. Tummy Tuck
- Liposuction vs. CoolSculpting®
- Liposuction Procedure
- Liposuction Recovery
- Liposuction Side Effects
- Liposuction Scars
- Liposuction Results
- How Long Liposuction Lasts
- Liposuction Safety
- Liposuction Cost
- Liposuction Alternatives
What Areas of the Body Can Liposuction Treat?
Thanks to continual advancements in technologies and techniques, liposuction can remove localized fat from virtually anywhere on the body. Some of the most common treatment areas include:
- “Love Handles”
Liposuction vs. Weight Loss Surgery
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 and/or weight loss surgery. One liter of fat removed weighs about two pounds. The average liposuction patient has between two and three liters of fat removed during the procedure.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Liposuction?
Candidates for liposuction typically include men and women who have one or more areas of localized fat that remain resistant to healthy dieting and exercise. Ideally, patients should also be in good overall health, be at (or very near) their ideal weight, have good skin quality and elasticity, and have realistic expectations for what can and cannot be achieved—all of which will be evaluated and discussed in full detail at the time of your consultation with Dr. Shaw.
What About a Beer Belly?
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.
Liposuction vs. Tummy Tuck
Liposuction and tummy tuck surgery are two of the most commonly requested procedures at our practice, and they are both effective body contouring options. While both of these treatments can address aesthetic concerns in the abdomen, it is important to understand the distinctions between them since they have significant differences when it comes to the goals that can be accomplished. Liposuction can extract excess fat from the abdomen and improve contours in this area; but, that is essentially the limit of its capabilities. A tummy tuck can eliminate loose, excess skin, tighten and repair the muscles of the abdomen, and redrape the remaining abdominal skin to produce results that give the area a firmer, smoother, and flatter appearance.
With this in mind, patients who are primarily affected by excess fat in the abdominal region may be able to effectively achieve their enhancement goals with liposuction alone. If excess, inelastic abdominal skin is the main issue, a tummy tuck may be the more ideal treatment option. In many cases, both of these concerns are present, and a combination of liposuction and tummy tuck surgery can be performed to create the best possible result. Once Dr. Shaw has examined you during the initial consultation, he can talk with you about the option that is best for your needs and goals.
Liposuction vs. CoolSculpting®
The state-of-the-art fat reduction procedure known as CoolSculpting® has become very popular over the years, and our practice has been offering the treatment for quite some time. The biggest difference between CoolSculpting® and liposuction is that CoolSculpting® does not require surgery to reduce excess fat, whereas liposuction is a surgical procedure. This often makes CoolSculpting® a desirable option for patients; however, there are additional distinctions between these two treatments that can make one more appropriate than the other, depending on factors that are unique to each patient.
CoolSculpting® utilizes a special applicator placed on the skin that essentially “cools” targeted fat cells in a localized area of the body, ultimately causing them to break down. The treated fat cells are then expelled from the body via natural metabolic processes, gradually reducing the excess fat in the treatment area over the ensuing months. Most individuals do not need an extensive recovery period after CoolSculpting®. For many patients, CoolSculpting® can generally produce a 20-30 percent fat reduction in the targeted area. With this in mind, liposuction is typically better suited to patients who have larger, more severe levels of excess fat in the area targeted for treatment since it is capable of reducing greater amounts of fat. Since liposuction involves surgery, there is a recovery process that will be necessary; however, the initial results of liposuction are often more immediately apparent when compared with CoolSculpting®.
Both liposuction and CoolSculpting® have advantages and disadvantages, depending on each patient’s anatomical needs and ultimate goals for treatment. Dr. Shaw will be happy to talk with you about the options and make a recommendation that is most ideal for your expectations.
How Is Liposuction Performed?
Liposuction surgery is performed by Dr. Shaw in an ambulatory surgery setting that is fully accredited by the appropriate regulatory agencies. General anesthesia is utilized to maximize patient comfort, and the anesthesia provider is certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology.
During the liposuction procedure, Dr. Shaw will make tiny incisions in and/or around the treatment area, ensuring to place them in the most inconspicuous locations possible. Through these incisions, he will insert a cannula designed to break up and extract excess fat tissue as he carefully maneuvers it throughout the targeted region until an optimal contour is attained. This process is repeated for however many areas are being treated in the patient’s customized surgical plan.
As an outpatient procedure, most patients are able to go home the same day, though a responsible adult driver is required for dismissal. Out-of-town patients who are traveling at least an hour to Wichita for surgery with Dr. Shaw are encouraged to spend the first night in a nearby hotel, or with local family or friends.
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 Dr. Shaw’s 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 Can Be Expected During Liposuction Recovery?
Swelling and bruising following liposuction are to be expected. These are usually reduced in patients having SmartLlipo™. Bruising is affected by gravity and will usually move down lower on the body than the area that was treated.
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 be 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.
What Are the Side Effects of Liposuction?
Side effects of liposuction include soreness, swelling, bruising, and perhaps even a certain degree of numbness following the procedure. Please note that these effects are normal and should dissipate over time. There is also a rare possibility that a seroma may develop in the treatment area, which is an accumulation of fluid under the skin. In addition, weight redistribution is a potential long-term side effect of liposuction. Since the fat cells extracted from the targeted area are gone forever, future weight gain that may have affected those areas if liposuction had not been performed may end up collecting in different regions. The likelihood of this effect can be minimized by maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen to limit weight fluctuations as much as possible.
Ultimately, post-operative side effects can typically be well-managed by closely adhering to the recovery instructions provided by our team. If you ever have any questions or concerns about side effects, we encourage you to contact our practice.
How Noticeable Are Liposuction Scars?
Although liposuction is a surgical procedure, and all surgeries result in a certain amount of scarring, one of the treatment’s most prominent benefits is that the incisions required for it are generally very small. In fact, they are often just a few millimeters in length, depending on the extent of treatment. In many cases, Dr. Shaw can also strategically place the incisions in locations that are relatively inconspicuous, which can further diminish the noticeability of scars.
When Will My Liposuction Results Be Apparent?
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 generally 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.
How Long Does Liposuction Last?
Body contouring results achieved with liposuction can be extremely long-lasting—if not permanent—as long as a relatively stable weight is maintained after treatment. While the fat cells removed from the targeted area(s) during surgery will never return, the remaining fat cells have the ability to swell in order to store more fat in the event significant weight is gained, potentially disrupting liposuction results previously achieved. For this reason, Dr. Shaw recommends eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising on a regular basis after liposuction to help ensure an optimal outcome lasts well into the future.
Is Liposuction Safe?
Liposuction has been utilized as a body contouring treatment for many years. During that time, there have been numerous advances in liposuction technology and treatment techniques, as well. When performed by a highly-qualified plastic surgeon who is experienced with these procedures, liposuction can be very safely and effectively utilized. It should also be said that liposuction does involve surgery, and all surgeries have risks. However, Dr. Shaw is extensively trained and skilled with liposuction procedures and works diligently to minimize those risks. He will explain all aspects of liposuction surgery during your initial consultation so you will have a comprehensive understanding of the risks and the safeguards that will be in place for this treatment.
What Does Liposuction Cost?
At our practice in Wichita, the average cost of traditional liposuction for one area is approximately $2,600 (including operating room fees), with a maximum expense of about $8,500 for multiple areas. SmartLipo™ typically ranges from $3,100 to $10,000.
It is important to note that these are simply averages, and exact pricing will be dependent upon your customized treatment plan. Key factors that influence the total expense of liposuction include the technique utilized, the number of areas treated, the quantity of fat removed, and whether or not another procedure is performed in combination. Generally speaking, liposuction costs can also be impacted by the skill and experience of the plastic surgeon, fees for the anesthesiologist and operating facility, and the geographic location of the practice.
For a personalized price quote, Dr. Shaw will need to meet with you in person for a consultation at our practice. At this time, he can develop an individualized treatment plan based on your unique needs and provide a total cost estimate for the procedure. If desired, a member of our team can show you how to browse various plastic surgery financing options available through CareCredit®. This respected healthcare lender offers numerous payment plan options with little to no interest that help to make liposuction affordable for almost any budget.
Are There Any Alternatives to Liposuction?
For patients seeking an alternative to liposuction, CoolSculpting® is an in-office method of targeted fat reduction with no surgery and no downtime offered here 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. Patient satisfaction is very high after completing the CoolSculpting® treatment plan. The resulting fat reduction and skin tightening can be comparable to those seen with surgical liposuction.
Contact Shaw Plastic Surgery
To learn more about liposuction, or to schedule a consultation to find out if you are a good candidate for this body contouring treatment, please contact Shaw Plastic Surgery today.