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According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), liposuction is the second most common type of cosmetic surgery performed in the United States (after breast augmentation), with over 300,000 procedures routinely performed each year, pointing to its safety, success, and popularity.

The word “liposuction” can bring many images to mind, but how much do you really know about this increasingly common procedure? If you’re considering a liposuction treatment for weight loss and/or body contouring purposes, first familiarize yourself with the benefits and side effects of liposuction and other weight loss procedures that may be available to you.

Myth: Liposuction is purely cosmetic—there are no medical benefits to liposuction.

Fact: When liposuction is used for body contouring it is often for cosmetic purposes. But liposuction is a weight loss procedure, and losing weight has medical benefits. Lowering your body fat content can in turn lower your cholesterol, blood pressure, risk of heart disease, insulin and other medication requirements. Lowering your body fat can have other positive benefits as well, including a better self-image and more motivation. In addition, larger people have a harder time exercising and losing weight, so removing some of the excess weight can make movement and access to exercise a lot easier.

Keep in mind that physical health is not the only component to total health—psychological wellness is also very important, and makes the former easier to manage.

Myth: Liposuction will reduce fat in one area of the body but causes it to build up elsewhere instead.

Fact: This used to be true to an extent, but thanks to new advancements in liposuction surgery, there are now types of less invasive procedures with fewer side effects. In traditional liposuction fat cells are broken up and removed from the body entirely. Since the body will not make new fat cells to replace the ones that were removed, if a patient who has undergone this type of liposuction gains a significant amount of weight later in life, s/he will gain the weight on a different part of the body.

Laser liposuction treatments do not destroy or remove fat cells from the body, so the patient could gain weight back in the same place that was previously targeted by liposuction. In either case, the patient must make an effort to keep off weight removed from a liposuction treatment, since the effects of the treatment are not permanent.

Myth: Liposuction can take the place of diet and exercise in your weight loss program.

Fact: All weight loss programs must include diet and exercise in order to be effective. Liposuction is only recommended as a body contouring procedure in patients that have been unable to lose weight on a certain problem area of the body with diet and exercise alone. By using liposuction to remove the unwanted fat from an otherwise trim person, the patient is usually able to keep the weight off through diet and exercise alone after the procedure.

When liposuction is used as a weight loss procedure, it is not safe to remove large amounts of fat cells at a time, so the procedure must be repeated multiple times to remove significant amounts of fat. In these cases, the desired outcome is removing enough excess weight from the person’s body so that they can successfully follow a diet and exercise program in order to continue losing weight.

Types of Liposuction/Liposuction Techniques

Liposuction has been practiced routinely since the early 1980s, but new advancements in liposuction have made it safer and more effective than ever before, debunking the myth that liposuction is unsafe or can have dangerous side effects.

Tumescent: “Tumescent” means swollen and firm. In a tumescent liposuction procedure, a local anesthetic of lidocaine and epinephrine is injected into the targeted fat cells, causing the area to become swollen and firm before the fat cells are removed. The procedure is considered safer than traditional liposuction because the effects of the local anesthetic are so long-lasting that no other anesthesia is necessary. The procedure also minimizes the blood loss and bruising often associated with traditional liposuction surgery.

Power-Assisted Liposuction: Power-assisted liposuction (PAL) is a liposuction technique in which an electric motor or compressed air is used to give more power to the procedure through either a spinning movement or rapid in and out movement of the cannula (the hollow tube used to break up and suction out the fat cells in a liposuction procedure). The procedure is reportedly easier for surgeons to perform and less traumatic for patients to endure than traditional liposuction.

Laser Liposuction: Laser liposuction treatments are now increasingly available. A low-level laser pierces a small hole in each fat cell, allowing the fat to leak out of the cells. The fat is then absorbed by the body and released through its normal elimination systems. Laser liposuction is a non-surgical, outpatient procedure that is minimally invasive, allowing patients to walk away from the surgery without missing any work or taking time off from daily routines.

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