Undesirable, unsightly body bulges are commonplace in America, even in circles where proper dieting and exercise are followed. It is the reason why liposuction has become one of the most popular cosmetic procedures performed today. For the profiperly selected candidates, substantial improvement in body contour can be accomplished in expert hands. Our board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Eric Okamoto, can reduce pockets of excess fat in a variety of areas and help you recontour your body with beautiful results.

What Is Liposuction?

Liposuction is a method of removing excess fat from specific body areas. The procedure can be performed utilizing a variety of advanced techniques designed to provide effective body contouring. Although surgical in nature, liposuction typically does not require an overnight hospital stay.

Liposuction is primarily designed to help patients who are at or near a healthy body weight for their size by reducing pockets of excess fat that are isolated to specific areas. It is not meant to serve as an option for extensive weight loss.

What Are the Benefits of Liposuction?

For many individuals, even the most rigorous diet regimens and exercise routines have little to no effect on isolated fat pockets that can appear in a range of body areas. Liposuction is an advanced method of removing stubborn excess fat in these areas and improving the body’s contours. The treatment has remained one of the most popular cosmetic enhancement procedures for many years, and has helped millions of patients feel better about the way they look. Some of the areas that can be targeted for liposuction include:

  • Neck
  • Arms
  • Armpits
  • Abdomen
  • Inner and outer thighs
  • Back
  • Flanks (love handles)
  • Hips
  • Buttocks
  • Knees
  • Calves
  • Ankles

While liposuction can be an extraordinarily effective procedure for many patients, it is important to reiterate that the treatment is no substitute for weight loss. In fact, it is best suited for those who are close to their ideal body weight but have stubborn fatty deposits that never seem to go away regardless of weight. In fact, this subset of patients is often the most satisfied since the results can be more exacting.

Am I a Candidate for Liposuction?

The ideal candidate for liposuction should have isolated areas of stubborn excess fat that are resistant to diet and exercise. They should also be in overall good health and have a body mass index (BMI) of under 35 to reduce the risk of surgical complications. In addition, candidates should have realistic expectations about the surgery and their cosmetic goals.

Dr. Okamoto can meet with you for an initial consultation to examine your areas of concern and determine whether liposuction is the best option for your goals. If you are an ideal candidate for this procedure, Dr. Okamoto can develop a customized treatment plan designed to help you successfully meet your needs.

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What Does the Liposuction Procedure Involve?

Liposuction can be very effective when performed for reasonable candidates by an experienced plastic surgeon. This treatment is typically performed on an outpatient basis, and often takes about two hours or less to complete, depending on the size, number, and location of the areas being treated. Because it is a relatively simple concept of vacuuming extra fat with a set of long, thin tubes called cannulas, a wide range of physicians and surgeons offer liposuction services. Simply said, this is an easy procedure to perform, but a difficult one to do well and safely. There can be no doubt that results are closely related to experience. When liposuction is performed for the right patients in a correct manner, complications can be minimized. As with many surgical procedures, the list of things that can go wrong is lengthy and needs to be discussed directly with each patient, but the most common is unreasonable expectations for less ideal candidates.

Once you come in for your initial consultation with Dr. Okamoto, he will talk with you about your needs and goals and explain all risks and benefits of the procedure to you in detail. If he determines that you are a good candidate for liposuction, Dr. Okamoto will create a customized treatment plan designed to provide you with the best possible results.

Liposuction Techniques

Multiple techniques are available. The most common involves mechanical removal of the fat with a suction device after a specially prepared solution is injected into the fatty deposits. However, there are some methods that apply ultrasound or laser assistance. Regardless of the methodology applied, the most important factor for obtaining natural and satisfactory results is the surgeon’s experience with the chosen tools.

Is Liposuction Safe?

As stated previously, the risks of liposuction are generally much lower when the procedure is performed by an experienced plastic surgeon. The proper credentials and certifications from official organizations (i.e. the American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Aesthetic Society®) often signify that your surgeon has extensive plastic surgery training and a track record of satisfied patients. We highly recommend you choose a board-certified plastic surgeon for your liposuction surgery to further reduce the risk of complications or unsatisfactory results.

What About the Liposuction Recovery Process?

Healing varies according to individual circumstances and the liposuction techniques utilized. In general, the more fat that is removed, the longer the convalescence. Most candidates return to work in a week or even less, but some symptoms of healing can persist for months. In general, some bruising can be expected for several days after liposuction; however, this should fade as recovery progresses. The length of time that post-operative swelling persists varies from several weeks to as long as several months when extensive liposuction has been conducted. In most cases, a compression garment is offered to facilitate post-surgical healing. Full results of the liposuction procedure should become apparent over the course of recovery.

All patients respond differently to surgery, and any post-operative discomfort will largely depend on the techniques utilized and the size and extent of the treatment area. With that in mind, Dr. Okamoto can prescribe medicine to control discomfort during recovery.

Again, recovery from liposuction is dependent on the size, location, and number of treatment areas, so the recovery period will be different for everyone. However, patients who do not have a strenuous job are often able to resume working within a week, and sometimes after just a few days.

Will There Be Scarring from Liposuction?

The incisions utilized for liposuction surgery are typically quite small, often considerably less than an inch in length. Therefore, residual scarring should be minimal. Dr. Okamoto takes great care to ensure that scars from this procedure are as light as possible.

Are There Any Liposuction Side Effects?

The most common side effects of liposuction surgery include swelling, bruising, soreness, and even some level of numbness in the treatment areas following the procedure. These effects should only be temporary, and should diminish as recovery progresses. In some cases, depending on the specific areas that are targeted, patients may experience skin rippling due to pre-existing excess skin that fails to re-contour to the diminished volume in the area undergoing liposuction. An infrequent complication is what is known as a “seroma,” which is a subsurface pool of fluid. Excessive bleeding and infection are also possible complications, though these instances are very unusual. All of these possible complications and how they are treated are part of the consultation with Dr. Okamoto. His extensive experience with this procedure and his use of advanced techniques, in addition to strict adherence to recovery instructions, can be very helpful in minimizing post-operative side effects from liposuction.

How Long Do Liposuction Results Last?

Those who choose to have liposuction to slim down an area in your body should understand how liposuction relates to body weight. When an individual gains or loses weight, his/her fat cell population remains unchanged. This is counter-intuitive because most of us would presume that weight gain would be associated with more fat cells and weight loss with less fat cells. But this is not what happens. Instead, gaining weight means that somewhere in your body certain fat cells enlarge, and the opposite occurs with weight loss—in either case, the number of fat cells remain the same. Liposuction permanently removes fat cells from a treatment zone. For the rest of your life, a diminished number of fat cells will exist in the treated area. As long as your weight remains relatively stable and your fat cells stay about the same size, your improved body contour could last indefinitely.

Are There Alternatives to Liposuction?

For patients who may not need or desire a full liposuction procedure to achieve their goals, there is a non-surgical alternative available at our practice that may be an ideal option. CoolSculpting® is an innovative treatment that can help patients reduce excess fat in targeted areas without requiring needles, anesthesia, or surgical incisions. This procedure works by freezing the excess fat cells in the treatment area, which are then filtered out gradually through the body’s own metabolic processes. CoolSculpting® can be performed on a variety of body areas, including the love handles, abdomen, lower back, and other common “trouble” spots.

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Liposuction vs. Tummy Tuck for Abdominal Sculpting

While liposuction and tummy tuck surgery are both procedures that offer significant benefits for abdominal contouring, there are several differences between the two treatments that can make one more ideal than the other in certain cases. Liposuction can recontour abdominal areas by removing pockets of excess fat; however, it cannot address loose, excess skin or lax abdominal musculature. Conversely, tummy tuck surgery is designed to tighten underlying abdominal muscles, remove excess skin, and tighten the remaining skin to provide a more fit look and an enhanced contour. For some individuals, liposuction may be the only procedure necessary to fulfill their needs; in others, tummy tuck surgery is the better option. For patients who are affected by excess fat and skin and lax muscles in the abdominal region, a combination of the two procedures may offer the best results. Once Dr. Okamoto has examined you in the initial consultation, he can determine whether liposuction, tummy tuck surgery, or both procedures are necessary to achieve your goals.

What Procedures Can Be Combined With Liposuction?

Liposuction can be one part of a comprehensive cosmetic enhancement makeover from our practice. In addition to liposuction, tummy tuck surgery can be performed to tighten the abdominal muscles and give the abdomen a firmer, flatter appearance; arm or thigh lift surgery can firm up the skin of the arms and thighs; and some of our other body contouring or breast surgery procedures can also serve as complements to liposuction for patients who are looking to enhance a range of body areas. Dr. Okamoto will be happy to talk over your options with you once you have explained the areas you would like to address.

Can Liposuction Get Rid of Cellulite?

While liposuction can be extremely effective in removing pockets of unwanted fat, the procedure was not designed to remove cellulite. In fact, liposuction might cause increased dimpling of the skin, which may have the look of cellulite, but is actually caused by different anatomical circumstances. For those interested in removing cellulite and fat buildup in the thighs or buttocks, we offer Cellfina®, an advanced, non-surgical treatment which is FDA-cleared to remove cellulite in these areas. We encourage you to inquire about procedures which can be used to further enhance the results of liposuction.

Additional Frequently Asked Questions About Liposuction

Is liposuction covered by insurance?

Liposuction is considered a cosmetic treatment; therefore, medical insurance policies typically do not offer coverage for this procedure. With that in mind, it is important to note that Dr. Okamoto accepts a comprehensive array of convenient payment methods and works with CareCredit®, which is a reputable lending agency that offers qualified applicants a variety of affordable plastic surgery financing options. We will be happy to answer your questions about ways to pay for liposuction that can work best for your budget.

How old do you have to be to get liposuction?

Generally, liposuction candidates should be at least 18 years old.

How much fat can be removed with liposuction?

Liposuction is capable of removing small to large amounts of excess fat. In some cases, liposuction can remove up to 70 percent of fat in a specific body area; however, the risk of complications is greater when the patient is having larger amounts of fat removed. In these cases, patients who have significantly large amounts of excess fat that are targeted for removal are often advised to either stay overnight (when feasible) or to stage the treatment over multiple operations to be on the safe side. Dr. Okamoto will talk with you about whether this is the recommended approach once he has evaluated your needs during the initial consultation.

How much weight can you lose with liposuction?

While liposuction can be an extraordinarily effective procedure for patients looking to reduce isolated pockets of excess fat and renew their body contours, it is very important to be aware that this treatment is not a weight loss solution. In fact, most individuals who are ideal candidates for this procedure are already at or near the average weight for their body type, but are finding it challenging to eliminate excess fat that has collected in specific regions of the body. While some individuals may notice a slight drop in weight after liposuction, it is quite common for patients who have this procedure to successfully renew their body contours without any significant change in their weight at all.

How can I reduce swelling after liposuction?

Post-operative swelling is to be expected after liposuction. This common side effect can be controlled by wearing compression garments during the recovery process as directed by Dr. Okamoto. Individuals can also help reduce swelling after liposuction by minimizing their intake of foods that are high in salt throughout recovery. In many cases, the majority of swelling will likely have gone down after approximately four to six weeks, but it is not unusual for persistent swelling to last for months, particularly when the liposuction has been extensive.

For more information on liposuction, or to schedule a consultation with our board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Eric Okamoto, please contact Fremont Plastic Surgery.

*Individual results may vary