Table of contents:
Part I: Are You a Good Liposuction Candidate?
Part II: How to Prepare for Liposuction
Part III: How to Recover from Liposuction Quickly and Safely
People want to be beautiful. You want to be beautiful.
That’s why you work out, and watch what you eat.
But sometimes, the diets just don’t work. Sometimes, no matter how many miles you run, those thighs never seem to get any thinner.
Don’t be sad. That’s what liposuction is for — to remove fat from areas that don’t respond to diet or exercise.
As of 2017, almost 250,000 liposuction procedures¹ are performed each year in the U.S. alone, according to the American Association of Plastic Surgeons.
Caption: The overall number of cosmetic procedures has doubled since year 2000.
These numbers reflect not only the demand for cosmetic adjustments, but also the fact that it’s becoming more and more socially acceptable to undergo the knife for a better appearance.
Lipo — as it’s often called — is also one of the simpler cosmetic procedures available. Only a small incision is made to remove the fat from target body parts.
Nevertheless, a surgery is a surgery.
This guide will show you what you can do today to protect yourself throughout your liposuction journey.
How Safe Is Liposuction, Really?
When done by an experienced Board-certified surgeon, liposuction is really, really safe.
In fact, post-op liposuction complications that do occur mostly happen for one of three reasons:
- Patients try to save money and go to surgeons with shady reputations
- Patients try to save money by combining several procedures at once
- Patients withhold important medical information
The first scenario — patients going to questionable surgeons to save a few bucks — is a recipe for disaster.
See, liposuction is not a procedure for everyone. There are certain criteria that a person needs to match in order to be a “good liposuction candidate.”
Cheaper, uncertified surgeons will often take on whoever comes into the office for the procedure. They simply cannot afford not to take on a client.
These surgeons do not care if you’re a good liposuction candidate. They do not care if you’re going to leave unsatisfied and injured — because they have no reputation to protect.
Best surgeons cannot allow even the slightest misstep to occur, because they know how much it will damage their reputation. That’s why they reject so many liposuction prospects.
It sounds selfish, but it works in the patient’s best interests.
Overall, you’d be amazed to the lengths people will go to save the extra buck. From plastic surgery tourism in South Korea to underground cosmetic surgery rings, there are plenty of ways to risk your health permanently.
The second scenario — combining several cosmetic procedures into one session — is also motivated by saving money.
During your consultation, your surgeon may offer you an option to perform several cosmetic procedures in one session.
For example, you might want to get a tummy tuck with your liposuction surgery.
The benefits of this are lower cost and “quicker” recovery times.
You’ll be homebound for at least a few days after each procedure anyway, why not get it over with in one sitting?
The problem is that the longer the surgery, the higher the chances of a complication⁴.
Long surgeries require a stronger dose of anaesthetics, which can cause a complication in itself.
And, if you still think it’s worth the risk, keep in mind that the recovery will be more painful and slower after a combined surgery.
The third scenario — people withholding important medical information — is just as common and just as dangerous.
In a recent study of over 3,000 patients, 50% of them said they deliberately lie and mislead their physicians.
Mostly, they lie about things like drug, tobacco, alcohol consumption and medications.
These things have a direct impact on how well your procedure goes.
For example, certain medications can interfere with the anaesthetics, causing complications.
Habits like smoking and alcohol can significantly slow down your recovery process and increase the risk of an infection.
As you can see, how safe you will be during your liposuction procedure ultimately comes down to your very own choices.
Want to save an extra thousand or two on your procedure and risk your health permanently? Be our guest. But read this guide first, and make sure you know what you’re getting into.
The internet will give you a long list of side-effects and complications that can occur during a liposuction procedure. It might seem like you’re not in control.
But you are. From the moment you start considering surgeons to the day you take off your bandages, you’re in charge.
The couple of hours of blackness on the surgeon’s table are nothing but a blip in the grand scheme of things.
In Part I of this guide, we’ll help you figure out whether you’re a good liposuction candidate.
In Part II, we’ll show you exactly what to do to prepare for liposuction. These guidelines are based on decades of medical research and practice.
Lastly, in Part III, will be about best liposuction recovery practices. Post-op recovery is never fun, but there are proven ways on how you can make it go quicker and less painfully.
Let’s get into it.
Part I: Are You a Good Liposuction Candidate?
Liposuction as we know it has been around for about 45 years now. During this time, we’ve learned a thing or two about how it affects your health and who has the highest chance of running into complications.
There are two main considerations when deciding whether you are good liposuction candidate:
- Is your body type right for liposuction?
- Are you healthy enough for liposuction?
1. Is Your Body Type Right for Liposuction?
First and foremost, let’s establish the fact that liposuction is not a weight loss procedure.
Patients whose primary goal is to reduce weight are not good liposuction candidates.
Liposuction is a good procedure for dealing with “unruly” body parts that don’t respond to exercise or diet, such as:
- Love handles
- Belly fat
Patients who are within 30% of their ideal weight⁸ are much less likely to run into complications
(You can learn your ideal weight here.⁹)
During the procedure, not more than 6–8% of your bodyweight in fat⁴ must be removed. Otherwise, the risk of complications rises.
As Dr. Tehrani put it,
The surgeon explains in more detail:
To sum it up, a good liposuction candidate is someone who’s “fit with unwanted bulges.”
According to the doctor, a bad liposuction candidate is someone who’s “obese, looking for instance of weight loss.”
Besides, obesity in itself is a risk factor for liposuction complications.
2. Are You Healthy Enough for Liposuction?
Even though liposuction is a minimally invasive procedure, it can still be stressful on your body.
To make sure you don’t run into complications and are happy with the results, here are some of the most common risk factors for liposuction complications:
Stable Weight Is Important Before Surgery
We’ve already talked about how liposuction is not an effective way to lose weight.
However, research shows that obesity in itself can become a big risk factor during surgery.
Lastly, obesity can cause a number of challenges for your anaesthesiologist, each of which could cause a complication.
As mentioned previously, you should be within a 30% range of your ideal weight before the procedure.
NOTE: Keep in mind that losing a lot of weight right before the procedure is not recommended. A stable weight will need to be achieved before the surgery.
Patients With Inelastic Skin May Prefer Other Procedures
Skin laxity is another factor surgeons look closely when assessing a liposuction prospect.
As liposuction trims the fat in a certain body part, it creates an excess of skin.
If your skin is not elastic enough, it might make the area look worse than before the procedure.
Not only folds of loose skin can completely ruin your results, it can also collect dirt and sweat, which can lead to sores, rashes and inflammations.
There are techniques to deal with loose skin after an operation, such as radiofrequency (RF) therapy. However, they are not always successful.
Is your skin elastic enough? Only your surgeon can answer that after an examination.
However, if you feel like your surgeon is looking through their fingers on this, do not risk your well-being.
There are other alternatives (like tummy tuck) that are much more effective in achieving a better overall look for patients with inelastic skin.
Other Health Conditions
Certain health conditions that you’ve experienced recently can increase your chances of a complication.
According to Dr. Tehrani, patients with a history of the following conditions are at increased risk:
- Immunodeficiency disorders. These make you more prone to infections and other complications.
- Blood clots. These are most common with smokers, diabetes patients, people with high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
- Pulmonary embolisms. A condition when a lung artery is blocked, often as a result of a formed blood clot.
Tehrani also mentions that if patients take the following medications consistently, they are not allowed for liposuction:
- Anticoagulants, like Coumadin
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
If any of these medications and conditions sound like something you’ve been dealing with, make sure to have your surgeon conduct all the tests needed before liposuction.
Part II: Preparing for Liposuction (To-do List, 6 Steps)
Now we get to the most important part, the preparation.
Not only proper preparation will reduce the chance of complication during your surgery, it will also help you make the entire journey as smooth as possible.
Here’s a cheat sheet to help you remember what you need to do to stay safe:
Caption: Feel free to print this
To Do #1: Maintain a Stable Weight
After all this talk about how obesity is dangerous for liposuction, you might want to jump on a hardcore dieting and exercise spree to fit the ‘good candidate’ criteria.
However, surgeons advise heavily against losing large amounts of weight before liposuction.
One reason why is simply because you’ll most likely gain the weight back after the procedure.
See, during recovery, you’ll spend a lot of time laying around, eating and watching Netflix. Exercise can be resumed only weeks after liposuction.
Gaining all that weight back during your recovery can be very disappointing.
In fact, most reputable surgeons will refuse to perform liposuction after a massive weight loss.
To Do #2: Eat Healthy
Sure, everyone knows to eat healthy.
Except when they accidentally find themselves at the drive through at 10 PM, on a Tuesday.
No, this time, eating clean is not a recommendation. It is a prescription.
Your body is about to go into a transformation, and you will need all the healing power to get back on your legs.
The general prescription is to go for a “cleaner” diet:
- Go for food rich with minerals and vitamins
- Go for lots of protein
- Avoid food that’s tough to digest, such as red meat
- Avoid processed foods
- Avoid sugary carbs, as they can suppress immune function
Here is a list of specific foods and supplements that can inhibit anaesthesia, immune system functions, healing and blood clotting.
Avoid these for at least 1 week before surgery:
- Omega 3c, as it increases bleeding time
- Vitamins E, C, K, B, A, D and herbal supplements (also related to bleeding time)
- Green tea
These should be avoided until you’re fully healed.
To Do #3: Cut Alcohol & Smoking
This goes without saying, but alcohol and smoking should be avoided for as long as possible before and after the procedure.
2 weeks before and after surgery is when smoking and alcohol is strictly prohibited.
Alcohol reduces blood flow in your body — including brain and liver — which increases the possibility of a blood clot forming.
Even weak alcoholic beverages — such as beer and wine — can interfere with anaesthetics during the surgery.
Smoking is even more dangerous.
Not only it can interfere with the anaesthetics, it will also significantly slow down your healing process due to nicotine’s vasoconstrictive properties.
Smoking can even interfere with how well the fat redistributes after liposuction, potentially making the final results worse.
To Do #4: Avoid Certain Supplements and Medications
Even the most innocent supplements and over-the-counter medication can cause significant complications.
As Dr. Tehrani likes to say,
Please refer to the table at the beginning of the chapter for a full list of medications and supplements to avoid.
To Do #5: Get Lab Tested
There are generally two types of tests completed before liposuction.
Blood tests will make sure the chances of a complication are minimal. These will show important metrics, for example how quickly does your blood clot.
Blood tests that may be required:
- Hemoglobin test
- Complete Blood Count (CBC)
- Prothrombin Time (PT)
- Partial Thromboplastin Time (PTT)
Depending on how detailed and recent your health records are, some of these tests may be unnecessary. Your surgeon will provide instructions here.
Another type of test frequently performed is a… pregnancy test.
Some patients are simply unaware that they’re pregnant before they undergo the knife.
Due to the the fact that liposuction is performed in the abdomen area, pregnancy tests are an absolute must.
To Do #6: Plan Ahead
This part is not about preventing complications, but rather making your recovery as uneventful as possible.
First of all, you’ll need to gather the supplies. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Bandages, gauze and dressings. Ask your surgeon whether these will be supplied or you will need to take care of it yourself.
- Antibacterial cream. Good for wound healing and scar prevention.
- Hot and cold packs. Applying cold reduces swelling, while heat improves circulation. More on how to use those later.
- Heater or electric blanket. Nothing is more comforting after a surgery than a warm blanket. It also helps with blood circulation.
- Tylenol or Panadol. Will help with pain. Ask your surgeon for a green light.
- Sleeping pills or herbal sleeping remedies. Sleep is vital for recovery, and it can be difficult to fall asleep during the first couple of days after the surgery. Again, ask your surgeon.
- Reacher grabber. Should you have any trouble picking things up from the ground or reaching the top shelf.
- Compression stockings. Will keep your blood flowing and help prevent blood clots from forming.
- Warm socks, layers and blanket. Wear something warm, as the waiting room in the surgeon’s office can be cold. These will also keep you warm during your journey home.
- Throat lozenges. For general anaesthesia, lozenges with a numbing agent can provide relief from a sore, dry throat caused by the breathing tube.
- Dry shampoo. Since you might not be able to shower for a few days.
- Thermometer. To monitor any signs of an infection. Temperatures above 101 F / 38.3 C should be reported to your surgeon immediately.
- Compression garments and belly binder. Controls swelling and fluid accumulation. Check in with your surgeon to make sure the garment is not too tight, as it can be a risk factor for blood clot formation, too.
Then, you’ll need to take care of the logistics. Here are the arrangements you should make for at least a week after the surgery:
- Have someone to drive you from the clinic. You’ll be dizzy and weak after the surgery due to anaesthesia and shock.
- A support person. At least for 24 hours after the surgery, while you’ll still feel weakened and disoriented from the anaesthesia. If there’s no one to take care of you, hire a nurse.
- Meals. Prepare meals in advance for at least a week. Make sure they’re nutritious, as your body will need a balanced diet to heal. Food delivery is an option.
- Children, pets and errands. Make sure you have someone to take care of all this, in case you feel too weak to do this yourself.
It is also super important to create the perfect healing space:
- Declutter. Last thing you want is to trip over your children’s toys when you get back home.
- Reorganize and rearrange. Make everything as easy to reach as possible. Put tea cups near the kettle and take out that top-shelf book in advance.
- Buy some plants. That’s right. Plants are scientifically proven to increase recovery times. They even have plants in the space station.
Lastly, right before the surgery:
- Shaving. Don’t shave the area around your surgical site at least 24 hours before your liposuction procedure. Shaving could lead to ingrown hairs after surgery and a potential infection.
- Tight clothing. Don’t show up for your surgery in tight or uncomfortable clothing. You’ll want to be as comfortable as possible for your trip home afterwards.
- Driving to and from surgery. You need someone to drive you to and from your surgery, so plan ahead with a friend or family member. After surgery, you won’t be physically able to drive safely and your surgeon will not allow you to take a taxi or public transportation. Plan ahead.)
A note about important events and work projects.
Do not plan any major events, projects or activities for at least 2 weeks after the surgery.
You don’t want any stress on your shoulders during that time, and there’s always a chance your recovery will be slower than average.
Part III: How to Recover Quickly and Safely
Congratulations. The hard part is over.
Now, all you have to do is rest, eat well, avoid stress and intense activities, and let your body heal.
But you’re still probably wondering: how much time before you’ll be back on your legs?
Naturally, this depends on a number of factors, including the treated area and the scope of the procedure.
Here’s an approximate timeline of your recovery:
During your recovery, you may see some fluid come out of the surgical site. Do not be alarmed. This is a part of the process. Here’s what to do when it happens:
And here’s what you should, and shouldn’t do during your recovery:
A few very important tips and guidelines from Dr. Tehrani during your recovery:
- Get lymphatic massage. It is truly amazing how well does the post-op swelling respond to this procedure. We always recommend at least a couple of sessions for most of our patients. It speeds up recovery up to 50%.
- No smoking. Consuming tobacco products can interfere with your healing. While it’s best to quit altogether, restrain for at least 3 weeks. It’s not a recommendation—this is a prescription.
- Get rest, but don’t stay in bed all day. You might feel a little exhausted and “not feeling it” for a few days after the procedure. While it may be tempting to just stay in bed and binge-watch a series, it’s important that you do get some movement, like house chores or very light exercise. Full immobilization is not good for you.
- Stay hydrated. While this applies to most any situations in life, it’s especially important to get lots of fluids into your system a couple of weeks after the procedure while your body is healing. Make sure there’s always a glass of water somewhere nearby.
- Avoid certain medications. Consult the instructional guidelines above, or talk directly to your surgeon about medications and supplements. In some cases, patients may want to take a pain-soothing pill. Not all medications are recommended for safe recovery.
Other than that, you’re all set!
Should any other questions arise during your recovery, make sure to talk to your surgeon first. They will know what to do.
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