SafeLipo™ -is a technique to remove unwanted fat from specific areas of the body, including the chin, neck, and cheeks; the upper arms and above the breasts; the abdomen, buttocks, hips, and thighs; and the knees, calves, and ankles. It is a newer technique, which we have found to achieve superior results over traditional liposuction and SmartLipo™ (laser liposuction). SafeLipo™, however, is not a substitute for weight reduction, but a method of removing localized excess fat that doesn’t respond to dieting and exercise.
If you’re considering liposuction, this web page will give you a basic understanding of the procedure-when it can help, how it’s performed, and what results you may expect. It won’t answer all of your questions, since a lot depends on the individual patient and the surgeon. Please ask Dr. Jensen about anything you don’t understand.
The best candidates for liposuction
Liposuction may enhance your appearance and your self-confidence, but it won’t necessarily change your looks to match your ideal, or cause other people to treat you differently. Before you decide to have surgery, think carefully about your expectations and discuss them with Dr. Jensen.
The best candidates for liposuction are of relatively normal weight but have pockets of excess fat in certain areas. You should be physically healthy, psychologically stable, and realistic in your expectations. Most important, having firm, elastic skin will result in a better final contour (Hanging or damaged skin won’t reshape to your body’s new contours, and may require an additional procedure to surgically remove the excess skin. This procedure will leave visible scars.)
Liposuction is not recommended if you’ve had recent surgery on the spot to be sculpted, if you have poor blood circulation in that area, or if you have heart or lung disease. You should also understand that liposuction by itself will not improve skin dimpling known as cellulite, though some plastic surgeons offer other techniques that may improve this condition.
All surgery carries some uncertainty and risk
Liposuction is normally safe, as long as patients are carefully selected, the operating facility is properly equipped, and the physician is adequately trained in body contouring as well as general surgery. Nevertheless, in rare instances, the procedure may cause severe trauma, particularly when multiple or very extensive areas are suctioned at one time. Other rare, but possible, complications include fluid accumulation (which must be drained) and injury to the skin. Although serious complications are infrequent, infection or excessive fluid loss can lead to severe illness.
You can reduce your risks by choosing a qualified plastic surgeon, like Dr. Jensen, who has been granted privileges to perform liposuction at an accredited hospital, and by closely following his advice. The scars from liposuction are small and strategically placed to be hidden from view, even in a bikini. However, other cosmetic problems may occur, even if your surgeon is very skilled. They may include rippling or bagginess of the skin over the treated area, and pigmentation changes (such as brown spots) that may become permanent if exposed to the sun. Asymmetry (uneven contour or shape) sometimes requires a second procedure.
Planning your surgery
During your initial consultation, Dr. Jensen will evaluate your health, determine where your fat deposits lie, and carefully assess your skin tone. You will learn about any alternative body-contouring methods that may be appropriate-such as abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck-and discuss the options or the combination of procedures that would be best for you.
Be frank in discussing your expectations with Dr. Jensen. He will be equally frank with you, describing the procedure in detail and explaining its risks and limitations. Dr. Jensen will also explain the anesthesia he will use, the type of facility where the surgery will be performed, and the costs involved. During this consultation, be sure to tell Dr. Jensen about any large weight losses or gains you’ve had at any time. You should also inform us if you smoke, and if you’re taking any medications, vitamins, or other drugs. Don’t hesitate to ask any questions you may have, especially those regarding your expectations and concerns about the results.
Preparing for your surgery
Dr. Jensen will give you specific written instructions on how to prepare for surgery, including guidelines on eating and drinking, smoking, and taking or avoiding vitamins, iron tablets, and certain medications. If you develop a cold or an infection of any kind, especially a skin infection, your procedure may have to be postponed.
While you’re making preparations, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home after your surgery and, if needed, to help you out for a day or two.
Where your surgery will be performed
Most commonly the surgery is performed in our accredited office-based facility. It’s usually done on an outpatient basis, for cost containment and convenience. Extensive procedures rarely require a hospital stay of two or three days.
Types of anesthesia
If your procedure is not too extensive-that is, the amount of fat and fluid removed does not exceed an amount we will define based on your health, body size, and surgical procedure-liposuction can be performed under local anesthesia, which numbs the area, combined with sedation to make you sleep during the procedure. You’ll feel minimal discomfort.
SafeLipo™ usually takes one to two hours, but the time required may vary considerably-from thirty minutes to several hours, depending on the area and amount being suctioned. To begin the procedure, Dr. Jensen makes a small incision, the fat is then broken up with a basket cannulae. This helps to redrape the skin and keep it smooth. Next, a thin, hollow tube called a suction cannula is inserted. The opposite end of the cannula is attached to a machine that creates a strong vacuum. Dr. Jensen manipulates the cannula deep within the fat layers under the skin, breaking up the fat and suctioning it out. Sometimes additional incisions are needed to remove all areas of fat.
If you’ve had local anesthesia, you may feel some vibration and friction during the procedure. You may also feel a stinging sensation as the cannula moves closer to the muscle.
You’ll lose fluid along with the fat during liposuction, and it’s crucial that this fluid be replaced to keep your body from going into shock. You’ll be given adequate fluids intravenously.
After your surgery
After surgery, a snug elastic dressing, girdle, or body stocking must be worn over the treated area to control swelling and bleeding, and to help your skin shrink to fit your new contour You will need to wear this garment continuously for three weeks, then just in the day-time for a couple weeks. We will also prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection. Don’t expect to look or feel great right after surgery. You may even be heavier for a while, because of the extra fluids you’ve been given. The suctioned areas will be swollen and bruised, and you may feel a burning sensation. The pain is controlled with medications prescribed by Dr. Jensen, though you may still feel stiff and sore for a few days to weeks. You may temporarily lose all feeling in the suctioned area; don’t worry-it will return. It’s not unusual to feel depressed in the days or weeks following surgery. Try to keep in mind that this is normal and will subside as you begin to look and feel better.
Dr. Jensen will discuss how long it will be before you can return to your normal level of activity and work. After surgery, you and your caregiver will receive written detailed instructions about your postsurgical care, including information about:
- Drains, if they have been placed
- Normal symptoms you will experience
- Any potential signs of complications
Immediately after your liposuction
The incisions where Dr. Jensen inserted the cannula may be leaky or drain fluids for several hours. In some cases, rarely will we insert a drainage tube to drain fluid away from the wound.
You will wear special tight garment to keep your swelling down. Typically these garments are worn for at least three weeks. The garments will be provided at the time of your surgery.
When the anesthesia wears off, you may have some discomfort. If the pain is extreme or long lasting, contact your Dr. Jensen. You will also have some redness and swelling after the surgery. In some cases, the swelling will remain for weeks or even months. Contact your Dr. Jensen if your pain starts to increase, or you see an increase in redness and swelling.
Recovery time frame after liposuction
It is vitally important that you follow all patient care instructions provided by Dr. Jensen. This will include information about wearing compression garments, taking an antibiotic, if prescribed, and the level of activity that is safe. Dr. Jensen will also provide detailed instructions about the normal symptoms you will experience and any potential signs of complications. It is important to realize that the amount of time it takes for recovery varies greatly among individuals.
The first two weeks
- The first few days after your surgery, you should rest quietly. Elevate the affected body part as much as possible. Remember, you must not take aspirin or certain anti-inflammatory medications. You will most likely wear a postsurgical garment; if it is too tight, notify our office.
- The first 48 hours after surgery, you will experience varying degrees of swelling, tenderness and bruising. The swelling is maximal at 48 hours after surgery and mostly disappears within two to three weeks, but there may be slight residual swelling for up to six months. Bruising is normal and typically disappears within seven to fourteen days.
- Sutures, if placed, are usually removed seven to ten days after liposuction.
- Do not smoke after your liposuction surgery. Do not drink alcohol for five days after surgery or while you are taking pain medication.
- Avoid straining, bending, twisting and lifting during the early postoperative period. In many cases, you will be able to resume most of your normal activities within ten days or less.
- Discomfort after liposuction is generally limited to tenderness rather than pain. Pain medications are prescribed to lessen any discomfort during the first few days.
- Patients usually return to work within a few days following a liposuction procedure.
Weeks two to six
- It is important to ambulate (walk) as soon as possible after liposuction to discourage swelling and prevent blood clots in the legs. However, avoid strenuous exercise for four to six weeks because it can cause shearing and trigger unnecessary fluid retention in the treated areas.
- You should wait a minimum of six weeks before exposure to sun and heat, including sunbathing, because of the possibility of hyperpigmentation.
- You will wear a compression garment over the treated areas for four to six weeks to control swelling and promote skin contraction.
Long-term recovery Since the healing process is gradual; you should expect to wait at least several months to get an accurate picture of the results of your surgery. The small incisions used for access will fade over a number of months, usually becoming barely visible. For six to twelve months, you may experience a fluctuating return of ten to 15 percent swelling with exercise or excessive activity. It is important to see Dr. Jensen as scheduled. Follow-up visits will continue for several weeks and then after several months at prescribed intervals.
Getting back to normal
Healing is a gradual process. You will be instructed to start walking around as soon as possible (to help prevent blood clots from forming in your legs), but to avoid more strenuous activity for three weeks. Any stitches will be removed in five to ten days, and you should be back at work in 2 – 3 days, or as much as two weeks after your surgery. When you resume activity depends on the extent of your procedure, how you feel and what your doctor recommends.
While most of the swelling and discoloration will be gone a month or two after surgery, some swelling can remain for six months or more. Dr. Jensen will schedule follow-up visits to monitor your progress and to see if any additional procedures are needed. If you have any unusual symptoms between visits-for example, heavy bleeding or a sudden increase in pain-or any questions about what you can and can’t do, don’t hesitate to call us.
Your new look
Liposuction is a highly effective technique for giving you a new body contour with very little scarring. The results are usually permanent, providing you eat sensibly and exercise regularly. If you do gain weight, you’ll probably gain it more uniformly throughout your body, not just in the former “bulges.”
Most patients are very satisfied with the results of their liposuction-they feel more comfortable in a wide variety of clothes, and more at ease with their bodies. As long as your expectations are realistic, you should be happy with your new shape.