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Within the last few years, plastic surgery has become less taboo. This is in part thanks to people on social media as well as celebrities becoming more transparent about procedures they've undergone, and it's all made it easier than ever to access information on treatment options. One of the most common cosmetic surgeries available is liposuction, which in 2020 was the fourth most popular procedure in the United States, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgery.
As for what it is? "Liposuction is a procedure that slims and contours the body and reduces stubborn areas of fat surgically," plastic surgeon Smita Ramanadham, MD, FACS, tells POPSUGAR. "The procedure is performed using cannulas that are introduced through small incisions in the skin, and the fat is mechanically disrupted and suctioned back through these cannulas removing them from the area treated."
To help uncover the answers to some of the most pressing questions about liposuction procedures, we've asked the country's top plastic surgeons to walk through what you need to know, including the cost, downtime, how to find the right doctor, and everything in between.
What Is Liposuction?
"Liposuction is a procedure that removes unwanted fat from different areas of the body," plastic surgeon Douglas S. Steinbrech, MD, FACS, tells POPSUGAR. "We do this procedure to improve the shape and contour of the body and to help get rid of fat from areas that diet and exercise alone don't help with."
While people typically equate this procedure to the removal of abdominal fat from the stomach area, liposuction can be performed anywhere on the body that has excess deposits of fat. This can include the neck, arms, abdomen, back, lower waist, and thighs.
How Much Does Liposuction Surgery Cost?
The price of liposuction surgery can vary greatly based on a host of factors like geographical location, the practice where you are getting the procedure, and which area (or areas) you are getting treated. However, you can expect the cost of the surgery to start around $3,000 to $4,000 and go up from there. In some cases, Dr. Steinbrech says, "liposuction can cost up to $18,000."
Since liposuction is considered a cosmetic procedure, it's not typically covered under insurance. "In the event it is covered, patients typically present with conditions such as lymphedema and need to undergo debulking procedures," Dr. Ramanadham says. "These are surgeries during which the fibro-fatty tissue is removed in patients with chronic lymphedema."
Things to Consider Before a Liposuction Surgery
Do be aware that should you get liposuction, you'll have bit of work to do to prepare for the surgery. "Much of the prep, day of, and after the procedure, instructions are based on whether the procedure is performed in an office setting or hospital, requires local or general anesthesia, and on the treatment area," Dr. Ramanadham says. For more invasive procedures, you should expect to see your primary-care doctor for any necessary medical-clearance letters, as well as any presurgery testing, such as blood work and COVID tests. Be sure to coordinate a ride from the hospital as well.
Liposuction Recovery Time
While no two patients are exactly the same, there are some baseline experiences that you can expect if undergoing liposuction surgery. "If liposuction is done in a smaller area such as the submental neck (what you might call a double chin) or bra bulge, these procedures have a quick and minimal recovery," Dr. Ramanadham says. "Expect some swelling and bruising for a couple of days. However, patients can certainly return to normal activity during this time."
On the other hand, if you get invasive surgery in a larger area like the abdomen or back, or if you combine procedures and get the surgery in different locations, you are looking at a longer surgery time and a longer recovery time. "Liposuction surgery can take several hours if larger and multiple areas are being treated," Dr. Ramanadham says. "Recovery can result in soreness, pain, and bruising for up to two weeks. Patients often take several days off of work to recover. In general, one might expect to wear a compression garment, and getting lymphatic massages following surgery may be recommended."
Is Liposuction Permanent?
While liposuction is technically permanent, there are a few different factors that can affect your results. "Once the fat is removed, it is permanently gone," Dr. Ramanadham says. "The caveat is that the remaining fat left behind can increase in size if the patient gains weight. Conversely, it can also decrease if the patient loses weight. Typically, patients are counseled that results are long-lasting as long as the patient's weight remains stable."
Life events that cause a fluctuation in weight — like pregnancy, for example — can dramatically impact your liposuction results, so be sure to discuss any concerns you have with your physician during your consultation.
Potential Risks With Liposuction
As with all major surgeries, liposuction does come with its share of risks that can include (but are not limited to) excess bleeding, an adverse reaction to anesthesia, bruising, fluid accumulation, infection, and more. While you can't possibly know whether any of these risks may occur, one way to put your mind at ease about your chances of them developing is to bring your concerns to your board-certified surgeon and to have a plan in place should any adverse effects crop up.
How to Find the Right Doctor For Liposuction Surgery
Whether you're just curious about the procedure or ready to book a consultation, legitimate plastic-surgery websites like PlasticSurgery.org, which is the official website of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, can help point you in the right direction. "Patients should be seeing board-certified plastic surgeons for liposuction procedures," Dr. Ramanadham says. "These surgeons understand the underlying anatomy and can understand the nuances associated with the procedure. This remains an invasive procedure, and safety is of utmost importance."
The website also allows you to connect directly with board-certified surgeons with whom you can book a consultation in order to truly assess your candidacy for this surgery.
If you're considering liposuction, make sure that you understand the risks that can come with the surgery. Be vigilant when doing your research, and don't be afraid to visit multiple practices in order to find the best surgeon to meet your needs. At the end of the day, the goal is to love your results, so the best way to feel comfortable when undergoing this procedure is by being inquisitive and prepared.