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Cosmetic Surgery



Liposuction at UCLA


LiposuctionLiposuction is a cosmetic surgery operation that helps sculpt the body by removing fat from specific areas like the abdomen, hips, buttocks, thighs, knees, upper arms, chin, and neck. The fat is removed using a cannula (a hollow tube) and an aspirator (a suction device). Liposuction is not a substitute for dieting and exercise, but it can remove stubborn areas of fat that do not respond to traditional weight loss methods.

Best candidates for liposuction:

The best candidates for liposuction are people of relatively normal weight and with elastic skin, who have pockets of excess fat in certain areas. The patient should be physically healthy, and have realistic expectations. Individuals who have lots of loose skin (for instance, after significant weight loss) may be better candidates for ‘body contouring’ surgeries, such as tummy tucks or body lifts, that remove loose skin as well as excess fat.

Anesthesia for liposuction:

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Your surgeon will select the type of anesthesia that is most suitable and safe for your surgery. If only small amount of fat and a limited number of body sites are involved, liposuction may be performed under local anesthesia, which numbs only the affected areas. General anesthesia is a good choice for more extensive procedures. In such cases the anesthetist makes sure you are completely asleep and pain-free during the procedure.

Preparing for surgery:

Patient should stop taking medications that can increase bleeding and bruising two weeks prior to surgery, such as aspirin and Advil/Motrin (a list of medications to avoid will be provided at that time surgery is scheduled). Smoking should be avoided for about three weeks before and after surgery, as it can interfere with circulation and healing.

The surgery:

The time required to perform liposuction varies considerably, depending on the size of the area treated, the amount of fat being removed, the type of anesthesia used and the liposuction techniques which are selected. A small area, such as the chin/neck, may be treated in under 30 minutes, while a more extensive procedure might last several hours. During the procedure, a medicated fluid (termed ‘wetting solution’) is first injected into the treatment areas before the fat is removed. This fluid is a mixture of intravenous salt solution, lidocaine (a local anesthetic), and epinephrine (a drug that constricts blood vessels). This fluid allows for easy removal of fat, reduces blood loss, and assists in pain relief both during and after surgery. Next, a small incision is made, and a hollow tube is inserted into the fat layer under the skin. This tube, or ‘cannula’ is used to vacuum out excess fatty tissue. Several incision sites (‘ports’) may be required for larger treatment areas, in order to ensure a smooth result after surgery. Once the desired contour is obtained, a compressive garment is placed; this helps to minimize bruising and assists in patient comfort.

Techniques used in liposuction:

While the basic technique of liposuction, as described above, is used in all patients undergoing this procedure, there are a variety of other techniques that may also be used.

Tumescent technique:

In this technique, larger amounts of fluid (‘wetting solution’) are injected prior to liposuction -- up to five times the amount of fat which the surgeon plans to remove. This technique is best suited to the removal of smaller volumes of fat in localized areas, such as the lower abdomen. When properly performed, tumescent liposuction minimizes bleeding and patient discomfort after surgery. Usually, no other anesthetic is required, with the fluid injections acting as a local anesthetic. When lesser volumes of fluid are injected, the terms ‘super-wet’ or ‘wet’ technique liposuction are used. ‘Dry’ liposuction is performed with no prior fluid injection, and has limited application.

Ultrasound-assisted liposuction (UAL):

This technique uses a special cannula that produces ultrasound energy. As the cannula passes through the tissue, the energy liquefies the fat, which is removed by a suction pump. While effective, the ultrasound probe also generates heat, and caution must be used to avoid tissue burns.

Power-assisted Liposuction (PAL):

This technique uses an electric motor to rapidly vibrate the hollow cannula used for suctioning. This vibration breaks up fatty tissue, allowing for a more effective removal of fat in a shorter time. This technique is particularly well-suited for the treatment of body areas where the fat is ‘fibrous’ (gristly and tough to suction); these include the upper back and breasts in males. PAL is also useful for the treatment of fatty areas where there is scarring from prior liposuction, and for more extensive liposuction surgeries, as it diminishes operating time and surgeon fatigue.  


After surgery, there will be fluid drainage from the incisions; this is entirely normal, and will resolve in a few days. Compression garments are typically worn for two or more weeks after surgery, in order to control swelling and to assist in shaping the body. While pain is usually mild, the patient will experience some discomfort, as well as swelling, bruising, and temporary numbness. These subside with time. Sutures, if used, are removed or dissolve on their own within the first week. Most activities can be resumed within a few days, though your doctor may suggest that you refrain from sporting activities for several weeks.

Los Angeles plastic surgeons from UCLA Plastic Surgery offer all aspects of body contouring surgery including liposuction, tummy tuck surgery, and body lift - Surgery after massive weight loss. View before and after photos of these plastic surgery procedures, learn more about cosmetic surgery and schedule a consultation today. Contact these Los Angeles plastic surgeons for liposuction today

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UCLA Cosmetic Surgery
200 UCLA Medical Plaza, Suite 465
Los Angeles, CA 90095-6960

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