Liposuction and body contouring are surgical techniques designed to improve the appearance of any area of the body by a combination of fat aspiration, cutting of skin and tightening of overlying muscles and skin. Cosmetic surgeons remove the fat deposits using a stainless steel machine called a cannula.

Lipo comes from the Greek work “lipos” which means fat. The first liposuction procedure was performed in 1974 and has grown leaps and bounds since then.


Due to the many advances in liposuction throughout the years, it is considered one of the safest procedures available. Other terms associated with liposuction are lipoplasty and suction lipectomy.


Cosmetic surgery isn’t cheap. However, costs for procedures vary depending upon the area in which you’re having the liposuction performed. The average cost to have liposuction performed in one area of the body is $2,000 to $4,000 USD, in three areas is $6,000 to $8,500 USD and in five areas is $9,000 to $11,000 USD.

The cost is higher for larger body areas. For example, the average cost for the abdomen is $3,000 to $8,000 USD, but for the outer thighs and arms is about $2,000 USD.

Liposuction: Types & Procedures

There are two types of liposuction. Conventional liposuction entails aspiration of fat under skin using small-diameter hollow needles which are inserted through small incisions or holes. These needles or cannulas are attached to a source of high vacuum pressure, which causes the fat to attach to the openings in the cannula.

The fat which is attached to cannulas is then removed from its bed by the plastic surgeon by various to and fro motions of the needle. The fat particles are then aspirated with a collection device. When healing occurs the overlying skin adjusts to the reduced mass of fat at the liposuction site and the undesirable body contours are diminished.

Ultrasound Assisted Liposuction (UAL) is the second method that has been used to facilitate liposuction. The ultrasound energy is transmitted to a transducer, which transforms the sound waves into mechanical vibrations that are transmitted to a probe or cannula that has been inserted into the fat.

Vibrating the probe or cannula induces tissue cavitation and melting of fat. Initially UAL utilized a solid probe to melt the fat, following which the melted fat was drained from surgical incisions or was vacuumed out using conventional liposuction. Nowadays, a hollow probe is used, permitting simultaneous melting and draining of fat.

Advantages of Ultrasound Assisted Liposuction are:

  • More complete fat evacuation producing greater volume reduction.
  • Selective melting of fat, relatively sparing other collagen tissues to produce more effective skin retraction,
  • Less mechanical effort on the part of the surgeon, with improved operating efficiency.
  • Increased efficiency in scarred areas.

Disadvantages of the ultrasound technique are:

  • The probes used in UAL are larger than conventional cannulas, thus resulting in larger incisions and more visible scars.
  • The effects of ultrasound-generated energy are not totally confined to fat. Other tissues, including the collagen matrix which provides to skin, may be injured.
  • The rapidly vibrating probe heats surrounding tissues along the entire length of the probe and can cause thermal burns. The incision must be protected from burns with a heat-resistant sleeve at the insertion point, requiring a still larger incision to accept both the sleeve and the probe.
  • Conventional liposuction must be carried out after UAL in order to evacuate as much of the melted fat as possible.
  • UAL is slower than conventional liposuction, which results in additional operation and anesthesia time.

Are You a Good Candidate for Liposuction?

If you have bulging and flabby areas of the body from excess fat, especially the abdomen, arms, thighs, and neck, liposuction may be the option you are looking for. This is especially true if you eat a healthy diet and stay physically fit and yet these fat deposits are persisting.

The fat pockets can result from genetic factors, body chemistry, and many other causes. People with localized, exercise-resistant fatty deposits usually obtain the best results. But you should be aware that the flabby appearance of the area being treated by liposuction may persist.

Liposuction is not treatment of choice for weight loss. People who are very overweight or who have large areas of fat deposits are usually not good candidates. It is advisable to lose weight first and reduce the fatty area through diet or exercise before considering liposuction.

Preparing for Liposuction

Your cosmetic surgeon will also advise you of special precautions to take. For example, women taking birth control pills may be asked to stop taking them and find alternative methods until after liposuction surgery. You may also be advised to stop taking ibuprofen because it thins the blood. Because you will be under anesthesia, you will be advised not to eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your liposuction surgery. You’ll want to make special arrangements before surgery.

These arrangements could include child care or extended leave from your job. Don’t take your recovery lightly. In addition, if large amounts of fat are to be removed, you may want to arrange for an extended stay in the hospital. On the day of your liposuction surgery, precise and accurate preoperative markings are done prior to surgery. With the patient standing, areas to be treated are outlined with marking pen. Areas to be avoided or areas for fat grafting are also marked.

Risks & Complications

Serious complications are uncommon. In fact, liposuction scores favorably in complication rates as compared to other cosmetic procedures. The common complications of surgeries, like bleeding and infection, occur infrequently in liposuction. A significant number of patients undergo secondary procedures.

Secondary liposuction surgery may be required to correct contour deformities, but the most frequent reason for additional surgery is patient’s dissatisfaction with results. Some patients may develop postoperative surface depressions which may require correction.

Lipo – Post Op

When calves and ankles are treated, support stockings for legs are worn for six weeks. Other areas do not routinely require use of specialized support garments. All patients are instructed to rest at home for 4–5 days. They are seen at the office after this time and given permission to return to work. Vigorous exercise may be resumed at three weeks.

Recovering from liposuction can take some time. Because some patients heal faster than others, an exact recovery time is difficult to provide. However, there are a few guidelines by which most plastic surgeons abide. With any type of surgery, there is a certain level of risk involved. Cosmetic surgery isn’t any different. In fact, you should be well aware of possible risks and complications before making your final decision.