Virtually every woman has a part of her body she feels she could do without. Right or wrong, many of us face a daily struggle with that pesky inner thigh fat, pudgy tummy or bootylicious behind we so desperately wish to get rid of. Add in all the media pressure encouraging women to achieve that "perfect body", and it is no surprise that each year some 1.7 million women (and men) seek out permanent solutions to their body woes in the form of plastic surgery. For women, that most commonly comes in the form of liposuction – with about 320,000 being performed each year.
What is Liposuction?
Liposuction is a surgery performed to remove excess fat from specific areas of the body through the use of cannulas or probes – specialized hollow instruments that use vacuum suction to extract the fat into a canister. They are inserted into the body through a small hole or incision.
While liposuction can be a treatment option for those wishing to remove fat tumors, as well as for men with gynecomastia (large breasts), it is most commonly performed as a cosmetic surgery for the purpose of reshaping the body. However, liposuction is not a weight loss surgery, and should not be substituted for a healthy lifestyle.
Criteria for Having Liposuction
Because liposuction is an invasive surgical procedure with some serious risks, there are several necessary criteria that must be met in order to become a candidate. Here is a general list of the general pre-surgery procedure:
- Initial consultation with the surgeon. This will include a briefing of your medical history, as well as both a physical and psychological health examination. A second consultation will also be arranged to ensure you have had enough time to fully consider the surgery.
- The presence of your spouse may be requested during the visit
- During these consultations, you should feel free to share with the doctor the reasons why you are requesting the surgery and ask any questions you may have. You should be well-informed of all the possible risks and complications
- You must have a complete understanding of all the procedures involved both before, during and after the surgery
- Your doctor will be looking to make sure you have realistic expectations about the goals of the procedure
While these are criteria the doctor will likely have for you, be sure to have your own list of expectations not only about the surgery itself but also about the facilities provided and the doctor himself. Do your research and don’t be afraid to change your mind either about the surgeon or the procedure itself.
Although most people who have liposuction performed are happy with the results, as with many other surgical procedures, there is the potential for complication. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of such possibilities well before you decide to go through with the procedure, so that you are able to assess these risks on your own – in the absence of outside pressure from friends or doctors.
Possible complications as a result of liposuction include:
- Infection: As with any surgery, liposuction carries the risk of infection, which is why an antibiotics are commonly prescribed as a part of the post-surgery treatment. While it is important to keep the area of incision clean after surgery, it is possible for the site to become infected even with proper hygiene. Infections can become serious or life threatening, as is the case with necrotizing fasciitis and toxic shock syndrome.
- Embolism: Embolism occurs when pieces of fat get stuck in blood vessels, accumulate in the lungs, or travel to the brain. During liposuction it is possible that some blood vessels may be broken, allowing loosened fat to be released into the blood stream. If you experience any of the symptoms associated with fat emboli, such as difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, you should seek immediate medical attention. Left untreated it could lead to permanent disability or death.
- Internal Organ Damage: Once the canulla, or probe, has been inserted, the physician is unable to see where it is. Therefore, it is possible that he may unwittingly damage internal organs during the operation. If this occurs, surgery may be required to repair the damage.
- Change in Sensation: After the surgery, you may experience a change in sensation at the site of the incision, in the form of either heightened or decreased sensitivity. If these changes endure for a period of weeks or months you should let your doctor know. In some cases, these changes may be permanent.
- Burns or Skin Necrosis (skin death): If you are having ultrasound-assisted liposuction, it is possible that the ultrasound probe may become overheated and cause the skin to burn. Additionally, the skin above the site of surgery may become necrotic (or "die"), resulting in discoloration or flaking skin. If large areas are affected, infection could result.
- Death: The rate of fatality associated with liposuction varies, ranging from 3 to 100 deaths for every 100,000 procedures. One study puts the risk of death at about 16 in every 100,000 – roughly the same risk of death by car accident. In any case, the risk of death is a very definite possibility and should be considered before making any final decisions.