The liposuction procedure
Liposuctions are performed with different methods. The most common liposuctions are traditional, laser liposuction (Smartlipo), radio frequency liposuction (BodyTite) and water assisted liposuction (Body-Jet).
The liposuction procedure differs slightly depending on which method you are undergoing. In terms of preparation and planning prior to the procedure there is no difference.
This page is about what happens before and during a liposuction.
Planning prior to liposuction
Once you have decided on liposuction the first step is to book a clinical appointment. You can read more about how you find an appropriate plastic surgeon and clinic on the information page about choosing a plastic surgeon ».
Remember that not all clinics work with the different liposuction methods which can influence their recommendations. Do not count on a surgeon recommending a method which they do not have experience of or equipment for.
At a clinic that works with several different methods it is fair to expect a recommendation that is most suitable for your wishes and physical prerequisites.
At the introductory consultation your surgeon will assess your general health, where your fat deposits are located and the skins character. Furthermore together you will discuss which liposuction method is most suitable for you. For instance you may have the intention to liposuction your stomach but it turns out that a tummy tuck is the most suitable method to achieve your goals.
You can read more about this on the cosmetic surgery consultation page.
Be honest when describing your expectations to your surgeon and demand the same honesty from your surgeon when describing the risks and limitations the surgery involves.
Preparations before liposuction
You will receive specific instructions about how to prepare for your liposuction. These include information about how you shall eat and drink, rules about smoking, taking vitamins, medication and other substances.
You will also receive detailed instructions about how you should perform a preoperative shower and wash before surgery. This is performed with the purpose of minimising the risk of infection and implies taking a double shower twice a day for two days before and once on the day of surgery, using a specific soap (Hebiscrub or Decutan).
Weight stability important prior to liposuction
A liposuction using the traditional method is generally a fairly large procedure. It is vital that one is of the correct weight. Correct implies that one slowly looses weight or at least maintains ones weight before surgery. If weight is gained before a liposuction or straight after the results may be poorer and unevenness can occur in the treated areas.
Based on the above it is possible to conclude that the results of liposuction are dependent on a combination of the surgeon’s performance and the patients discipline surrounding weight prior and post liposuction treatment.
With laser liposuction (SmartLipo) or radiofrequency liposuction (BodyTite) weight stability is not as important or a determining factor towards whether one can undergo the procedure.
If you get a cold or are hit by another infection your liposuction may be postponed.
As part of your preparation prior to traditional liposuction make sure someone collects you after surgery and can assist you for a few days afterwards. With radiofrequency liposuction or laser liposuction this is often not necessary since the procedure does not cause the same postoperative troubles.
You can read more about this on the page about preperations and restrictions before surgery.
The liposuction procedure
Depending on whether you are undergoing liposuction with a traditional method, laser liposuction or radio frequency liposuction the procedure is slightly different. We have therefore chosen to present the procedures for each method individually.
Surgical procedure for traditional liposuction
Liposuction with a traditional method is performed at well equipped plastic surgery clinics in a traditional operating theatre. As a patient you generally arrive to the clinic on the morning of surgery where you will be signed in and given a patient room.
Once you have installed yourself in your room and changed to surgical clothing you will meet your plastic surgeon who draws up the area and does a final run-through of the operation. If pictures have not been taken previously then a few will be taken of the surgical area from different angles. You will then be given sedatives and after a moment of rest be moved into the operating theatre.
In the operating theatre you will be connected to surveillance equipment and thereafter given your anaesthesia. A liposuction is performed with local anaesthesia, narcosis, epidural anaesthesia or a combination of these. Liposuction on smaller amounts of fat on a few places on the body can be performed under local anaesthesia. Liposuction of greater amounts of fat on several places of the body are performed under narcosis.
Once you are under the anaesthetic, the surgical area is sterile washed and covered whereby the surgery begins with the surgeon placing one or a few small incisions (approx. 1-1.5 cm) in the area of surgery.
Through the small incision a large injection is inserted into the tissue which is to be liposuctioned and injected with a specific solution. The solution is combined of salt water, anaesthetic and adrenaline. The injections cause the fatty tissue to swell which makes it easier to remove and minimises fluid loss while the adrenalin simultaneously causes the blood vessels to contract. This minimises bleeding, swelling and bruising.
The amount of solution injected varies depending on the amount of fat that is removed, the area of surgery and the surgeon’s preferences. It can be threefold the amount of fat being removed, as much or also less.
Once the tissue has been prepped the liposuction begins. How long it takes varies from 1-3 hours depending on the size of the area, the amount of fat to be removed and what type of anaesthesia and which method is used.
Through the small incision a little hollow probe is inserted under the skin and up to the area that is going to be treated. There the deep lying fat deposits are sucked away by the probe being moved back and forth breaking the fat cells. The vacuum effect is caused by using a vacuum pump or a large syringe. The surgeon works systematically through the different areas of treatment.
During the entire liposuction the surgeon continuously feels the skin with his free hand to make sure the results are nice and even.
In some cases a motor driven vibrating probe or a probe equipped with an ultrasound transmitter is used aimed at simplifying the breakdown of fat. You can read more about this on the page methods of liposuction ».
Large amounts of fluid disappear together with the fat and it is therefore of importance that it is replaced during surgery in order to prevent shock. Therefore the patient is monitored carefully throughout and directly after the procedure.
Once the treated fat deposit has been sucked out the probe is removed and the incision is closed, either with sutures or tape. The patient is then moved back to the patient room for recovery or rest. The patient usually leaves the clinic later the same day.
Surgical procedure for laser liposuction
A laser liposuction (SmartLipo) is a less complicated and physically trying treatment than traditional liposuction. Furthermore the surgery is performed under local anaesthesia and involves less bleeding and fluid loss which substantially decreases the risk of acute health situations. Therefore laser lipolysis is also performed at ordinary day surgery clinics.
As with traditional liposuction you arrive to the clinic after previously consulting with the attending surgeon. If you feel anxious a sedative will be offered before beginning the procedure.
First the surgeon will draw up the area of surgery. Then a local anaesthetic is administered. You are awake throughout the procedure but will not feel a thing.
Once the surgical area is drawn up and numb, one or a few 2-3mm incisions are made. Through these incisions the preparatory solution is injected into the tissue, as with traditional liposuction.
Once the fatty tissue is prepped a long, fine (1,5 mm) cannula equipped with a fibre optic laser is inserted under the skin and down into the tissue. Once the cannula is in place the laser stimulus is fired which melts the fat cells and stimulates the dermis to tighten. The practicioner can see where the laser is since the reddish light is clearly visible through the skin. The treatment takes between 1-3 hours depending on the size of the area.
The manufacturer’s recommendation is max 250 cc (2,5 dl) fat removed in each area of treatment and time. If greater amounts of fat are to be removed the alternative is to repeat the procedure several times or to use a different liposuction method.
Once the fatty layer has melted and transformed into an oily substance, it begins to trickle out of the incisions. It is then possible to either suck it out or let the body transport it away over time. If the fat is sucked out directly, which is the most common approach, the results are visible immediately after surgery. If not the patient will have to wait 3-6 months to see the results.
After the procedure the patient is supplied with a compression garment, a type of body stocking that puts pressure on the treated area, and can thereafter usually return to normal activities immediately.
Surgical procedure for radio frequency liposuction
A liposuction with radio waves (BodyTite) subjects the body to less strain than a traditional liposuction. It is however more trying than laser liposuction, this is primarily because a greater amount of fat is removed per treatment than with laser liposuction. As a result, the procedure is performed in a fully equipped plastic surgery clinics. The preparation before the procedure is therefore the same as with a traditional liposuction.
After the patient has been given a sedative and local anaesthetic, the procedure begins with a few of small incisions (approx 3 mm) placed in the area of surgery. Through these incisions the tissue is infiltrated with Klein solution. A sterile gel is placed on the skin.
Once the tissue is prepared a small probe (3mm) is inserted into the fatty layer which is to be removed, there the probe, with the help of heat generated by radio waves, breaks down (melts) the fat, coagulates (closes) the blood vessels and heat radiates the skin so that it contracts.
The latest equipment for radio frequency liposuction includes a hollow probe which makes it possible to break down and suck out the fat at the same time. Although at some clinics the procedure is done in two procedures. First the fatty tissue is worked on with radio waves which melt the fat and tightens the skin, thereafter the fat is sucked out with the traditional method.
The whole procedure takes between 30 minutes to one hour. After the procedure the patient is fitted with a compressor bandage or garment which is to be worn 24/7 during week 1-3 and thereafter during the night from week 3-6. The patient can normally return to ordinary activity after 1-2 days.