Liposuction is not a weight-loss method and not a treatment for obesity. Dr Terence Goh, Consultant, Department of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery, Singapore General Hospital shares common misconceptions and risks of the procedure.
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Liposuction provides no direct health benefits; the procedure is mainly applied to areas that need improvement in their appearance. Most people would achieve the same or better results with a healthy lifestyle of regular exercise, a balance diet, and adequate sleep.
Liposuction: What it is not
When a person gains weight, each fat cell increases in size. During liposuction, the fat cells in a specific area are permanently removed and this alters the shape of the body. However, if the patient does not maintain a healthy lifestyle after the surgery, the remaining fat cells will grow bigger.
Not a weight-loss solution
For patients who are overweight (BMI between 25 and 29), liposuction may be of use, if they understand that it is not mainly for weight loss but as an adjunctive procedure during tummy tuck or body contouring surgery.
For patients who are obese (BMI more than 30) or morbidly obese (BMI more than 35), there is a limit to how much fat can be removed, and liposuction will not make a difference at all when compared to a person’s overall size.
Not for sagging skin removal
Liposuction does not tighten loose skin and it cannot help individuals who want to remove sagging skin. It can however, be combined with procedures such as arm lift or thigh lift, which addresses the loose skin during body contouring procedures. It is intended for patients within 30 per cent of their ideal weight.
Not a license to eat what you want
Whilst liposuction can permanently remove fat from the body, it is unable to prevent future weight gain. Getting liposuction done does not mean you can eat whatever you want thereafter. The only way to maintain the results is to adopt a healthy lifestyle, eat a balanced diet and have enough rest.
Risks of liposuction
Whilst liposuction is largely a safe procedure, it has to be done by a well-trained doctor in the right facility with adequate monitoring. Severe complications have arisen from liposuction performed in sub-optimal facilities without proper anaesthesia support. Nonetheless, like all surgical procedures, there are risks associated with liposuction.
The common complications include:
- asymmetry (of the area where liposuction was performed)
More serious complications, which are rare but deserve mention due to its severity, include:
- pulmonary embolism (blockage of pulmonary artery in the lungs)
- deep vein thrombosis
- fat embolism (the blockage of a blood vessel by a fat particle)
- skin necrosis (death of skin tissue)
- excess fluid loss leading to shock
Sometimes, follow-up surgery might be required, although liposuction aims to improve most of the contour irregularities in one session.