by Dr. Kaycee Reyes
If you can change any body part, what would you choose? It is common to hear both men and women say that they would love to have a smaller waist, thinner thighs, or slender arms, stat! It is no wonder then, that when liposuction came into the picture not so long ago (in the ’80s!), it became very popular and controversial because a slimmer body—without diet or exercise—suddenly became possible! And in this age of selfies, likes, and followers, liposuction procedures may be on the rise now more than ever. Not everyone, however, is sold on liposuction for various reasons, and that is okay. Every surgery has its own risks, so it is every patient’s right to be informed of these do’s and don’ts before doing anything to their bodies.
Liposuction has had vast improvements in procedure, safety, and results from when it was first introduced. It now offers more than just fat reduction, such as body contouring or reshaping. It has also evolved into many forms through the years, like ultrasound-assisted liposuction (UAL), power-assisted liposuction (PAL), laser-assisted liposuction (LAL), and vaser-assisted liposuction (VAL). The precautions discussed in this article are mostly for suction-assisted lipoplasty (SAL) or liposuction.
DON’T: Think that liposuction is for weight loss. Wait, what? Contrary to popular belief, liposuction is not a weight loss procedure. Its aim is to remove unwanted or stubborn fat in target areas for a better, firmer shape. If you are overweight or obese, you should still exercise and eat right until you achieve a healthy weight. If then there are still a few areas where undesirable fat is prominent, then you can go for lipo.
DO: Know your doctor. The patient should be comfortable with the physician who will perform the procedure. It is of utmost importance that you know the clinic and the physician that you will entrust this procedure to. The clinic or hospital must hold a license and certification to operate, and the physician is a board-certified and trained plastic or cosmetic surgeon.
DON’T: Keep your allergies a secret. The physician must perform a detailed physical examination on the patient during the initial consultation, and a detailed medical history will also be required. During this time, full cooperation of the patient is needed to address any concern/s, such as tobacco use, allergies, history of diabetes, heart and/or lung problems, considerable weight loss, surgery, list of medications (including herbal and over-the-counter medications), among others. If the patient is at risk with any of these, a medical clearance from a cardiologist or internist is needed to continue. Medications taken must be stopped at least two weeks prior to surgery, and smoking must be discontinued a full month before. For patients who just gave birth, it is advised to wait a full year after giving birth before undergoing liposuction. Furthermore, six major areas are to be checked for possible liposuction patients: Assymetry, contour deformities, skin tone and quality, cellulite, myofascial support, and zones of adherence (Farkas et al, 2011, p. 2753). Height, weight, and Body Mass Index (BMI) are also recorded, and complete full body photos are taken to file.
DO: Ask. Ask a LOT. During consultation, the one thing you can do is ask and ask some more. It is at this time that all the questions and expectations of the patient must be addressed by the physician. The procedure must also be discussed fully, including all the possible risks and complications involved, duration of procedure, as well as post-operative care, including downtime and side effects such as bleeding, pain, contour irregularities, and infection, among others, so that the patient can make a proper assessment if he or she will go on with the procedure, by which a consent between the patient and physician is signed.
DON’T: Assume multiple surgeries at a time are okay. They’re not. This is where the limitations of liposuction are. According to Narins (2003), the majority of deaths related to liposuction are due to too much liposuction done at a time or combining liposuction with other procedures. Though rare, the major cause of death with liposuction is pulmonary thromboembolism (when there is blood clot in the lungs) that happens usually with the use of general anesthesia or IV sedation and performing multiple surgeries with it. There are other types of anesthesia that are safer than general anesthesia, but your physician should know which is better for your needs and discuss these with you. Furthermore, the gap between procedures must be between three to four weeks or more, depending on the patient and the procedure done.
DO: Maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep the shape. Liposuction will not keep the weight off, only exercise and the right diet will. Swelling and other side effects may occur post-surgery, so you may only start exercising with the advice of your physician. The full effect of liposuction will not appear until months after, so it is also important to maintain your doctor’s appointments so they can monitor your progress.
Through the years, liposuction has helped thousands reshape their bodies and boost their self-confidence in the process, but always take note of the risks that come with it. Sometimes we get so caught up with media and society’s standards that we will do whatever we can to get what we want, and sometimes, at the expense of our health. It is indeed hard to maintain a positive body image in a world full of Photoshop and Instagram filters, but remember that above it all, a good support system and a healthier lifestyle can make you appreciate your flaws and love your body, fats and all!