The diet we consume every day is converted partly into energy stores and partly into fat. In cases where the individual does not perform sufficient amount of exercise, this diet may result in excessive deposition of fat in the abdominal area. In addition, fat can also get deposited around the legs and the rest of the body as well.
This can result in a person becoming obese. The treatment for obesity is primarily diet and exercise though in some cases patients may require cosmetic procedures such as liposuction to remove excess fat.
We shall take a brief look at what liposuction is and how it is performed.
Liposuction is a surgical/cosmetic procedure where excess fat deposits are removed from various parts of the body in order to improve the overall shape of the body. It is commonly performed around the hips and abdominal area though it can also be carried out on the face, buttocks and thighs.
Liposuction is also called liposculpture, suction assisted lipectomy or lipoplasty. It is not a weight loss surgery but is in fact a surgery that just helps improve the cosmetic appearance of a person with multiple fat deposits around the body. In addition, it is only useful in removing excess body fat and does not help remove cellulite or stretch marks.
The video below provides an overview of liposuction.
Why is liposuction performed?
The primary reason why liposuction is performed is cosmetic. Sometimes, despite every effort of the individual to try and lose weight and get rid of body fat, there are still areas that bulge outwards due to the presence of fat. These fat deposits may even be seen in healthy, slim individuals who have lost weight through diet and exercise. The common sites where these fat deposits are present have already been discussed above.
But the use of liposuction is not just limited to cosmetic applications. It is also utilised in managing medical conditions such as lymphoedema. Lymphoedema is a clinical condition where lymphatic fluid fails to bring out of the body through the lymphatic system and instead accumulates under the skin. This causes a great amount of swelling with associated discomfort and even numbness of the skin. Redistribution of body fat, also called lipodystrophy, is another indication for liposuction. This condition can occur in patients taking anti-HIV medication.
Morbidly obese patients who have undergone gastric bypass surgery tend to lose a great amount of weight over a short period of time. In such individuals, once the weight has come down, there will be a large amount of fat under the abdominal wall. Liposuction is performed to remove this body fat and reshape the abdominal wall.
Finally, liposuction may be used in male patients who have gynaecomastia (enlarged breast tissue). Gynaecomastia may occur due to certain drugs or as a result of certain clinical conditions and can be painful. Liposuction is a useful treatment for it.
How is liposuction performed?
Following an initial consult with the doctor, the patient is listed for liposuction surgery under general anaesthesia (the procedure can be performed under local anaesthesia as well). Patients are advised to stop taking any blood thinning medication or any other treatment that the doctor thinks might interfere with the surgical procedure.
Once the area where liposuction is to be performed has been identified, it is cleaned with antiseptic solution and covered in sterile drapes. If required, multiple small incisions are made in the abdominal wall (or the area where liposuction is being performed) and an instrument called a micro cannula is inserted.
This micro cannula is attached to a suction machine which gently sucks out the abdominal fat. The procedure may be accompanied by injection of water (wet liposuction) or without the injection of water (dry liposuction). Once the required amount of fat has been removed, the instruments are removed and surgical drains are placed in order to allow for any excess fluid that accumulates to drain out easily.
These days, newer procedures have been developed using ultrasound and lasers that help break down the abdominal fat before liposuction is performed. This can make it easier to conduct the procedure.
The videos below demonstrate how liposuction is performed.
After the procedure
Liposuction often does not require admission to hospital and can be performed as a day case procedure. However, patients are advised to have a family member in home as they would still be under the effect of the general anaesthetic.
Patients may be advised to commence a course of antibiotics to prevent any infections occurring at the site of surgery. A tight compression bandage will be applied around the area where the procedure has been performed in order to reduce swelling. This may be required to be worn for a particular period of time and your doctor will advise you regarding that.
It is very common for patients to develop bruising at the site of surgery. This can take a few months to completely resolve and may cause pain and discomfort. In the event of this occurring, painkillers may be prescribed.
Risks of liposuction
There is a possibility that all the body fat in the area where the procedure is performed is not removed and the results can be uneven. Patients may notice a slight change in the colour of their skin and associated numbness sometimes. This can last for months and may resolve completely.
There are complications include the development of a blood clot in the lungs called pulmonary embolism. This requires treatment with blood thinners and can sometimes be even fatal the blood clot is very large. Fluid may accumulate in the lungs and may require diuretic treatment. During the procedure, patients may also develop injury to any internal organs during the manoeuvring of the micro cannula. However, these complications are rare.
The video below discusses these.
The general outcomes of liposuction are very good. Many patients report satisfactory results. However, the results do not appear immediately and can take a few months to become visible as there always is some swelling and bruising for a few months after the procedure. Patients are advised to keep themselves healthy by following a strict diet and exercise plan in order to keep the weight down and prevent the fat from re-accumulating.
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