Liposuction

Liposuction is a plastic surgery procedure for sculpting the body by removing body fat from specific parts of the body via suction. Despite being one of the oldest plastic surgery procedures around, modern technologies by brands such as VASER and MicroAire have greatly improved liposuction techniques in terms of both efficiency and safety.

A common misconception is that liposuction can be a replacement for weight loss programmes like dieting and exercising, which is not true. Liposuction is not a cure-all for obesity and should only be considered when other weight-loss measures have failed or are not possible.

Contrary to certain beliefs, liposuction is not a weight loss procedure. It is meant for individuals who are already in their desirable body weight range but are looking to remove stubborn pockets of fat which does not go away despite improved diet and exercise habits.

Surgery Procedure

Liposuction typically consists of these general steps:
Administering of general/local anaesthesia, which may involve the injection of tumescent fluid into the tissue to be treated. This fluid reduces pain, blood loss and protects the overlying skin from heat generated by the instruments and usually consists of saline, local anaesthesia and a blood vessel constricting drug.

Preparing the fat for liposuction. At this stage, the surgeon breaks up the fat tissue in smaller particles or emulsify them into liquid droplets so they can be suctioned out easily. There are many different approaches to this such as:
Manual liposuction, where the surgeon dislodges the fat manually using the liposuction cannula
Ultrasonic-assisted liposuction, also known by the trade name VASER (Vibration Amplification of Sound Energy at Resonance) or liposuction emulsifies fatty tissue into liquid droplets, while also mechanically breaking up the fat tissue. VASER Liposuction is one of the most popular liposuction procedures in the market as it is considered to be less invasive than other approaches.
Power-assisted liposuction, also known by the trade name MicroAire, prepares the fat via oscillation of the liposuction cannula at a frequency of 4000 – 6000 cycles per minute. This breaks up the fat mechanically similar to manual liposuction. MicroAire is one of the leading technologies used in liposuction and is popular among bot patients and plastic surgeons alike.

Suction removal of the fat using a liposuction device and cannula. This may be performed together with fat preparation depending on the approach used.

Closing of any surgical incisions.
Depending on the conditions and requirements of each patient, the actual procedure can differ slightly. Typically, the procedure takes from 1 hour to 3 hours or more to complete, and patients may need to be monitored for a few hours before discharge.

Possible risks and complications

Liposuction is generally a safe procedure. However, there are still risks of complications. These may include:

Dehydration and related complications following the removal or large amounts of fluid from the body.
Uneven contours and skin texture caused by disturbance or damage from the liposuction cannula. This is usually a result of improper healing due to poor skin elasticity.
Fluid accumulation under the skin.
Minor superficial/internal burns from heat generated by the cannula.
Altered sensation, numbness or soreness from disturbed nerves and tissue during the surgery. This is usually temporary but can be permanent in rare cases.
Inflammation and infection
Punctured internal organs. This is very rare and usually happens only in inexperienced hands.
Fat embolism, where loose fatty tissue enters the bloodstream and become lodged in blood vessels, clogging them. This is a medical emergency that requires immediate surgery.

Complications with liposuction can be largely, if not completely avoided in the hands of a skilled and experienced surgeon. Patients should pay attention to hydrate themselves well and adhere to the post-care instructions closely to ensure a safe and smooth recovery.

FAQs

What are the differences between VASER liposuction and traditional liposuction?

VASER liposuction uses ultrasound to emulsify fats into smaller droplets before it is suctioned out, making it less invasive and much safer than traditional liposuction. On the other hand, VASER liposuction cannot remove as much fat per session compared to traditional liposuction. However, this is of little concern because of regulations by Singapore’s Ministry of Health on the maximum amount of fat removed per liposuction session.

How much fat can be removed per session?

For outpatient procedures, a maximum of 1 litre of fat can be removed per session. Any procedure involving a larger volume must performed in a hospital on an inpatient basis.

Is the procedure painful?

Liposuction will be performed under local or general anaesthesia so there will be minimal pain and discomfort.

How long is the procedure?

The duration of liposuction varies from 1 hour to 3 hours or more depending on the number of areas treated and the volume to be removed.

Is there any downtime?

You are likely to feel giddy and drowsy for several hours after the surgery due to removed bodily fluids and lingering effects from anaesthesia.

Most sedentary work and activities can resume about a week after the surgery. However, strenuous activities should be avoided for at least 4 weeks or more as advised by the surgeon.

When can I see the effects?

The effects of liposuction are immediately visible after the surgery. However, it may take a couple of weeks or months for the best results to show after the initial swelling and bruising subsides, and the remaining fat settles into position.

Are the results of liposuction permanent?

In most cases, results of liposuction are permanent as removed fat cells will not grow back, as long as patients maintain their body weight after the procedure.

Additionally, fat usually deposits in areas with existing fat cells, hence areas treated with liposuction are likely to gain fat slower than other areas with these existing fat cells.

Nevertheless, you should maintain a balanced diet and exercise routine. Liposuction does not prevent fat from accumulating in your body in the future and fat deposits will recur with weight gain.

What should I take note of before the procedure?

Keep yourselves hydrated starting about a week before the procedure by drinking plenty of fluids.

Smoking and tobacco consumption should stop about 6 weeks prior to the procedure.

You should inform the surgeon about your past medical history, drug allergies and any medication or health supplements you are currently taking. You may be asked to stop certain drugs like blood thinners to prevent unnecessary complications.

What should I take note of after the procedure?

Continue to drink plenty of fluids and keep yourself hydrated.

Rest well at home and refrain from all strenuous activities for at least 4 weeks.

You will need to wear a fitted corset/compression garment for several weeks post-surgery to reduce swelling and sculpt the body by helping remaining fat settle into desirable regions. The corset can be removed occasionally for cleaning and while showering.

Am I suitable for liposuction?

Liposuction is the most suitable for patients who:

  • Are looking to remove stubborn pockets of fat that does not go away even with healthy dieting and regular exercise
  • Are within 30% of their ideal body weight
  • Have generally good skin elasticity, muscle tones and are in general good health

However, you should not undergo liposuction if you fall under the following, either due to high risks of complications, or reduced odds of achieving desired results.

  • Pregnant, have recently ended pregnancy, or is currently breastfeeding.
  • Have bad skin elasticity
  • Are on medication that can cause complications when undergoing surgery, such as drugs that interact with anaesthesia and anti-inflammatory drugs.