One of the first questions that I hear from patients interested in undergoing a liposuction procedure is about the amount of weight they can lose after the procedure is performed. This is also the case for patients with a normal weight. Many of them want to see weight loss, aside from the body remodeling that results from liposuction. There is no question why this happens when every day we see, online and offline, different ads advertising liposuction as the safest and fastest method to lose those extra pounds.
Adipose deposits in localized areas of the body are a problem that can affect people of both sexes and at different ages. Even if it is mainly associated with a sedentary lifestyle, a lack of physical exercises and an unbalanced diet, fat accumulation can be an issue even for people who eat well and get plenty of exercise, especially if they are after a certain age.
What is liposuction?
Before anything else, it is important to know that liposuction is a plastic surgery procedure, not a magic trick. It can reshape your body, reduce the dimensions in centimeters, and make you look much younger. However, it is an intervention that entails risks and complications and not something you can get instead of a diet and going to the gym.
Nowadays, probably more than 500,000 liposuction procedures are performed every year in the United States alone. Globally, it is among the top five most commonly performed procedures. It provides impressive results, it has a low-risk level of developing complications and a high satisfaction rate, so there is no wonder why many people resort to liposuction to sculpt their bodies.
To be able to understand what happens after liposuction and if weight loss is possible, we need to see how the procedure is performed.
When going for the pre-operative consultation for liposuction, the plastic surgeon will perform an assessment of the areas where you want the procedure done. The quality of the skin, the tonus of the muscles, and the thickness of the adipose layer will be evaluated.
A prerequisite condition to have a successful liposuction procedure is to have localized deposits of fat. This means the fat layer is not equally disposed all over the body, but concentrated in one or several areas. Usually, the areas targeted with the procedure are the abdomen, the flanks, and the thighs. Additionally, we can also perform liposuction on the face (chin and even cheeks), the upper body (arms and back), and the lower part of the body (knees, calves, and ankles).
Liposuction is indicated as a stand alone procedure only if the skin quality in the area allows for proper retraction. If the patient has poor skin quality (an indication of this are cellulite and stretch marks), liposuction should either be avoided or performed associated with lifting procedures that will eliminate the excess skin.
During the procedure, the plastic surgeon uses a tube called a cannula connected to a powerful suctioning device to extract the fat from the body. Small incisions are performed to insert the cannula. As the cannula is no bigger than a few mm (3-5 mm), the incisions are tiny. Once the cannula is introduced, the plastic surgeon will try to turn the fat into liquid by performing back and forth movements. Of course, nowadays we have many liposuction methods available, all with a starting point in the traditional liposuction technique. The procedure I prefer to perform is called a tumescent liposuction, and it consists of injecting a significant amount of tumescent solution into the targeted area before trying to dislodge and suction the fat. The tumescent liposuction is my method of choice as I have discovered over time that it produces the least amount of bleeding and favors a quick recovery with less swelling and bruising. It is a good method to choose when it comes to using the fat extracted for transfer to other areas that require extra volume.
After the fat is dislodged, it is suctioned into the vacuum device. The plastic surgeon has to introduce the cannula in different areas and at different depths in the adipose layer to achieve a uniform and aesthetic result. You might have thought before that any doctor can perform a liposuction and to some extent, you are right. However, a liposuction with a satisfactory post-operative result is usually performed only by a board- certified plastic surgeon. Irregularities in the area and other potential complications (such as organ punctures for example) can be avoided if you choose a plastic surgeon who performs this procedure routinely.
Since we are talking about fat extraction, here comes the question about how much weight can we lose with liposuction. For health reasons and the safety of the patient during and after surgery, the plastic surgeon should not remove more than 6 liters of fat during a liposuction session. Because of this, liposuction should not be considered as a method of losing weight or a treatment for obesity. The purpose of liposuction is just aesthetic, to remove the excess fat from certain areas and to create a more harmonious body that has beautiful proportions and a well-defined contour.
Liposuction permanently removes some of the fat cells in the body. However, if the patient does not follow a healthy lifestyle after surgery, there is still the risk of gaining weight. Patients going through such a procedure must have a good health condition, both physically and mentally, with good skin elasticity and realistic expectations from the surgery. Therefore, it is advisable for the patient to discuss the pros and cons of the intervention with the plastic surgeon before deciding to undergo the surgery.
As we have mentioned before, the procedure should only be performed on patients who are close to their normal weight and not on overweight or obese patients as the results might be disappointing. We can’t extract more than 6 liters of fat during one session, whatever the number of areas targeted might be, as it can trigger life-threatening complications. You might believe that this means that after liposuction you will weigh 6 kg less, but this is not the reality. After liposuction and due to all the swelling that will naturally occur once the procedure is performed, chances are that you will not weigh less on the scale and even gain more. What I advise my patients is to always use the mirror and their clothes as an indicator of the success of the intervention and not the scales. Liposuction is a method that will cut down centimeters from your body and not kilograms. The fat loss visible in centimeters will be visible after approximately two weeks, once the body has started to heal and the swelling has subsided. Generally speaking, the patient can lose one or two clothing sizes after a liposuction procedure, if the amount of fat extracted was considerable and depending on the areas targeted.
However, weight loss can occur after liposuction, despite our above demonstration. It is not due to the procedure performed but can come as a consequence of it. What does this mean? After a liposuction procedure, the plastic surgeon will advise the patient to follow a balanced diet and get plenty of exercise to be able to sustain the results of the procedure for longer. Many patients are so excited with the results of the intervention and so dedicated to maintaining it for as long as possible that they end up eventually losing more weight after keeping a diet and working out at the gym regularly. As you can see, weight loss can occur after liposuction but how much you will lose is entirely up to you and how committed you are to maintaining your body’s aesthetic appearance.
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Does weight loss occur naturally after liposuction? How much weight can I lose with liposuction? These are questions that come from people interested in undergoing the procedure, even if they are close to their normal weight. Liposuction is not a weight loss method, and I don’t recommend anyone to use it as the results can be disappointing, not to mention life-threatening if safety standards are not respected. During a liposuction procedure, it is not advisable to remove more than 6 liters of fat. However, the weight loss from the removal of fat is not visible immediately as the body is swollen and it takes time for the swelling to subside. The decrease in centimeters from the body’s circumference is visible after two weeks.