Lipoplasty, also known as liposuction, is a surgical procedure in which pockets of excess fat are removed from the body using a cannula. There are several different lipoplasty methods in use, including versions with patented cannulas which vibrate the fat to liquefy it before removal. This procedure is among a family of procedures known as cosmetic surgeries. Because cosmetic surgery is typically elective, many insurance companies will not cover lipoplasty and related procedures.
While lipoplasty does involve taking fat out of the body, it is not a quick weight loss tool. Rather, it is designed to remove pockets of fat which resist diet and exercise, remaining out of proportion to the patient's body no matter what he or she does. Lipoplasty is designed to smooth the contours of the body, not to reshape them, and it is most effective in patients with good skin elasticity who are of normal weight, or who are a little bit overweight. Classically, fat can be removed from sites like the chin, abdomen, and thighs.
A surgeon may opt to combine lipoplasty with another procedure, such as a tummy tuck or facelift. These procedures may provide the opportunity to remove excess skin; for example, a patient who had lost a great deal of weight might ask for liposuction to smooth out stubborn fat at the same time that he or she undergoes surgery to remove folds of skin left behind after the weight loss.
Some techniques sometimes used include ultrasound-assisted lipoplasty, in which the fat is liquefied by ultrasound before being pulled out of the body, and tumescent lipoplasty, in which a saline solution is injected before surgery. All of these techniques are designed to give the surgeon greater control, and to shorten healing times and make patients more comfortable. After the surgery, the patient typically needs to take a few days of rest, and it may be necessary to wear compression garments.
Something which sometimes surprises patients to learn is that the results of lipoplasty are not immediate. Right after the surgery, the body is often swollen and puffy because of the surgical trauma, and even after the swelling goes down, it can take three months or more for the contours of the body to smooth and even out. Patients should be aware of this so that they do not look for results immediately after surgery. Patients should also talk with their surgeons about their expectations, and ask if their expectations are realistic.