One of the most popular plastic surgery operations in the world, liposuction removes excess pockets of fat from specific spots in a person’s frame in order to give the patient better body image or better quality of life. A process that dates back some fifty years, today plastic surgeons perform liposuction operations over one million times per year in the United States alone. Why has it become such a popular plastic surgery operation, one that is a focal point for many plastic surgery marketing advertisements, and what is the science and medicine behind the operation?
While magazines and television commercials offer diets and exercises that promise to reduce fat at “problem areas”, it’s not possible to specifically reduce the amount of fat on a specific body part by diet and exercise alone. Fat is similar to a tub full of water — it drains by keeping a consistent level. As such, patients frustrated by diet and exercise that does not help target specific body parts turn to liposuction in order to remove fat from high-concentration areas like bellies, thighs, and arms. Since liposuction drains the fat on a specific location, rather than uniformly, it can affect a person’s self-image far more rapidly than normal diet and exercise.
Most plastic surgeons recommend liposuction as a means of eliminating small pockets of fat rather than larger quantities. Very few persons who are quite overweight or obese should consider liposuction as a healthy option due to the complexity and health risks of removing large amounts of fat quickly; heart attacks and strokes can occur when the body believes it still needs to pump enough blood for a heavier frame when it is no longer needed. Sometimes liposuction is a practical rather than aesthetic treatment: some women choose liposuction as a means of breast reduction, along with some men suffering from gynocomastia.
The principle of most liposuctions is similar to two different styles, ultrasound and suction. In both cases, a patch of skin is cut open where the desired fat is set to be removed. A standard suction operation — the original and most popular method — drains the fat through a small tube with a vacuum device. An ultrasound liposuction operation will use a high-frequency machine to liquidate the fat cells and then sucks out the liquidized fat. In both cases, the operation ends with the patient being sewn back up and sometimes with a quantity of skin removed in order to avoid loose flaps of skin.