Most people struggle with areas of unwanted body fat, even if they eat healthily and exercise. As the widespread use of the phrase “skinny fat” indicates, being a normal weight (or even fairly slim) and still having a protruding belly or chubby thighs is actually quite common. Why? It’s not anything we’re doing “wrong,” most of the time. Instead, the simple reality is that human body was designed to store fat in order to protect itself in times of famine. As such, the kind of bodies we see on magazine covers—thin and sculpted to the point of having visible stomach muscles—seldom occur naturally. They’re usually created, either by extreme dieting (which is, of course, not recommended for health reasons) or through plastic surgery.
In addition to the body’s natural tendency to store fat, a number of other physiological factors can contribute to the creation of stubborn fat deposits, such as:
Age is the number one cause of diet-resistant belly fat in both men and women. As we get older, the fat cells within our bodies gradually migrate from the extremities (i.e., the hands, feet, and face) to the midsection. This means that even if you adjust your caloric consumption to reflect your changing metabolism and remain the same weight you were at 20, you’ll probably still notice a pot belly forming by age 40. Unfortunately, it’s usually impossible to get rid of this fat through diet or exercise. Liposuction is the only viable solution to age-related fat deposits that are not caused by being overweight.
Hormones can wreak havoc on fat distribution, whether you’re male or female. Guys who experience a drop in testosterone levels often gain weight and lose muscle mass, for instance. They may also store more fat on the chest, leading to the emergence of male breasts. For women, high estrogen levels and the hormonal fluctuations that occur during pregnancy can make it impossible to lose weight in certain areas. Some women store stubborn fat on their hips, thighs, and flanks, regardless of how slim they are.
Genetics have a great deal of sway when it comes to how much subcutaneous fat we have and where it’s located. This is why some people cannot get a visible “six pack” regardless of how much they exercise, or have a slight double chin even when they’re quite skinny. Their bodies are programmed to retain fat in certain areas, creating anomalous features that aren’t congruous with the rest of their shape. Sometimes this condition is related to one’s ancestry (people who traditionally lived at very high latitudes tend to store more abdominal fat because centralized fat helps the body retain heat, for example) and sometimes the causes are unknown.
If you’re dealing with unwanted fat that will not respond to diet and exercise, liposuction can help. Liposuction is a relatively quick, low-risk procedure that immediately and permanently removes excess subcutaneous fatty tissue (fat located below the skin). In doing so, it reshapes the contours of the patient’s body, creating more balanced proportions and eliminating distracting bulges.
How Does Liposuction Work?
During the most widely used type of liposuction procedure (tumescent liposuction), a very thin tube-like surgical instrument called a cannula is inserted below the skin via a tiny incision. A liquid solution that contains a local anesthetic and a vasoconstrictor (to reduce pain and bleeding) is then injected into the area of unwanted fat that is about to removed. This solution causes the fatty deposits in that area to liquefy, making them easy to remove. The unwanted fat is then simply sucked out. The whole procedure is relatively painless, and the administration of large amounts of local anesthetic below the skin often causes a profound numbing that helps to prevent post-surgical soreness.
In addition to tumescent liposuction, we also offer several other state-of-the-art liposuction techniques at our fully accredited facility in Northern Virginia:
Ultrasonic assisted lipectomy:
During ultrasonic assisted lipectomy (UAL), a wand instrument administers ultrasound energy to fatty deposits, liquefying them. The liquefied fat is then removed through a cannula. UAL is considered less invasive than conventional liposuction and may result in a shorter healing time. Additionally, the ultrasound energy used during UAL has been shown to tighten the skin in treated areas. As such, this procedure is considered ideal for patients who are struggling with skin laxity as well as stubborn fat deposits.
Power assisted lipectomy:
During power assisted lipectomy (PAL), a special type of cannula is used to maximize fat breakdown. The cannula employed during PAL oscillates in order to dissolve fatty deposits, making them easier to remove. This technique is somewhat less invasive than conventional liposuction. It’s also ideal for use on those patients (usually male patients) who have dense fatty tissue.
SmartLipo™ is akin to a cross between nonsurgical laser fat removal and conventional liposuction. During SmartLipo™, a laser device is used to heat fat cells below the skin until they’re liquefied. (The device will keep your skin comfortably cool during this process.) The liquefied fat cells are then removed from the body using a cannula. The cannula used during this procedure is very fine and the use of laser technology makes this procedure extremely precise, so SmartLipo™ boasts a much shorter recovery time than conventional liposuction. Patients can usually resume all of their usual activities (except for strenuous exercise) one to four days after having SmartLipo™. Furthermore, SmartLipo™ can be performed as a standalone procedure or as a complement to traditional liposuction. You can read more about SmartLipo™ here.
During your free consultation, one of our board certified plastic surgeons (Dr. Heppe, Dr. Bautista, or Board eligible plastic surgeon Dr. Aflaki), will discuss the techniques outlined above in more depth and help you choose the best liposuction method to meet your needs.
Liposuction is often incorporated into comprehensive body sculpting procedure plans. Patients who have had bariatric surgery, for example, often use liposuction to help them get rid of any fatty deposits that remain even after they have reached a healthy weight. Doing so has been shown to help formerly obese patients maintain the motivation to stay in shape and avoid regaining the weight they have lost. Liposuction is also often used during a “Mommy Makeover,” either in conjunction with tummy tuck surgery or on its own. Liposuction can even be used during facelift surgery, brachioplasty (arm lift), and breast reduction surgery for either males or females.
Because the cannulas used to perform liposuction are extremely thin, liposuction can be used virtually anywhere on the body. This is one of the key areas where liposuction differs from nonsurgical fat removal procedures, most of which are limited in their application and only cleared for use on the abdomen and back (with the notable exception of CoolSculpting, which has been approved by the FDA for use on multiple areas of the body).
Liposuction can be used to remove unwanted fat from all of the following locations on the body:
- Upper arms
For more information about the evolution of liposuction and SmartLipo, please visit the Plastic Surgery Services of Fredericksburg blog.
What to Expect During Liposuction Recovery
Liposuction recovery is typically fairly brief, unless you elect to have a large amount of fat removed from your body during one appointment. Most people will be able to return to work within seven to ten days after having liposuction. In the case of SmartLipo™, PAL, or UAL, recovery time is often even shorter, ranging from one to seven days. When you come in for a consultation, we’ll let you know how much time you will need to take off work based on the type of liposuction you wish to have and the amount of fat you plan to have removed.
After having liposuction, you can expect to experience some swelling and bruising for several weeks. Some degree of soreness and discomfort is also common during the first week of recovery, but it can be managed with pain medication or EXPAREL® (more on this below). Liposuction patients are also issued special supportive garments that help to minimize swelling and discomfort while speeding healing.
EXPAREL® Postsurgical Pain Management
If you’re unable to take opioid pain medications or you simply don’t wish to, you’ll be happy to know that here at Plastic Surgery Services of Fredericksburg, we give patients the option of using the EXPAREL® pain management system. EXPAREL® is a slow-release analgesic pain killer that is injected into the incision site upon completion of a surgical procedure. EXPAREL® can minimize post-operative pain and maximize comfort up to 72 hours. Because pain usually wanes naturally within three days after having liposuction, the duration of EXPAREL® is often sufficient to keep patients from experiencing significant discomfort.
Who Makes a Good Candidate for Liposuction?
Before having liposuction, it’s absolutely essential that patients understand both the potential and the limits of this procedure. Many people erroneously believe that liposuction is intended to act as a substitute for traditional weight loss methods, but this simply isn’t the case. Only about 11 pounds of fat can be removed from the human body at a time (removing more than this could send the patient into shock). Ergo, this procedure cannot make a heavy person thin overnight. Instead, liposuction is used to remove fat that hasn’t responded to diet, exercise, or bariatric surgery. The best candidates for this procedure are close to ideal body weight but having a greater BMI doesn’t prevent a person from pursuing liposuction.
Because liposuction is an invasive surgery, patients must also be in good overall health and ideally be nonsmokers in order to qualify for this procedure. When you come in for a consultation, we’ll review your complete medical history, including any medications you are taking and which surgeries you’ve had in the past. This will allow us to rule out any medical conditions or drug interactions that might increase your risk of complications. As long as you’re a good candidate for this procedure, you can rest assured that liposuction is a very safe surgery.
Liposuction “Before and After” Gallery
Want to get a better idea of what liposuction can do for you? View real life examples of past liposuction procedures we’ve performed by visiting our photo gallery.
Financing Help for Liposuction in Virginia
We can help make your procedure more affordable with discounted fees and financing options. Visit our fees and financing page for more information about how to manage the cost of liposuction. We serve patients from Virginia, including Fredericksburg, Richmond, Fairfax, and beyond.
Ready to Book Your Liposuction Consultation?
To find out if liposuction is right for you, call Plastic Surgery Services of Fredericksburg for a free consultation at (540) 371-7730, or contact us online today. We look forward to helping you achieve the body you’ve always dreamed of.