Tumescent liposuction is considered the safest form of liposuction because it minimizes blood loss and generally does not require much in the way of pain medications after it has been performed. In many cases, tumescent liposuction is done on conscious patients using local anesthesia. This means the overall risk of surgery is reduced, since using general anesthesia is one of the highest risk factors associated with any surgical procedure.
In tumescent liposuction, the areas of fat tissue that will be removed are injected with a lidocaine and epinephrine solution. This causes the fat areas to swell and harden, or essentially to become tumescent. Because the areas are now firm, they are easily removed, and easily separated from the other tissues in the body. The tumescent liposuction areas don’t tend to harm other tissues as they are removed, resulting in far less blood loss, and generally a more desirable end result.
Another reason that tumescent liposuction minimizes blood loss is due to the presence of injected epinephrine. Blood vessels surrounding the fat areas due to be evacuated shrink, reducing the likelihood of bleeding. The procedure is virtually bloodless.
The hardened fat areas can also be removed with much smaller cannulas, called microcannulas. This can mean the overall areas that have been treated with tumescent liposuction are smoother. The smaller cannulas give surgeons the ability to better shape the areas on which they are working and to address small irregular features in the skin like dips or dimples.
It is not always the case that tumescent liposuction is done under local anesthetic only. It’s common for people having liposuction to combine this with other procedures, which may not be feasibly performed without general anesthesia. The use of general anesthesia tends to translate to greater recovery time, and greater surgical risk. Yet the many people who now undergo plastic surgery procedures suggest that most feel benefits are worth the risk.
After the tumescent liposuction has been performed, many surgeons opt to do what is called a rapid drainage procedure. Small cuts in the skin can be made, and the injected local anesthetic is then soaked up with special sterile pads. This often reduces healing time. Alternately, if rapid drainage is not used, the injected anesthetics will be absorbed by the body and gradually removed via the bloodstream.
Tumescent liposuction is considered the gold standard method for performing liposuction. There have been no deaths reported with tumescent liposuction, but there is risk if a surgeon tries to remove too large an area of fat in any single procedure. Generally the procedure works best to remove a small amount of fat, but not an amount exceeding ten pounds (4.54 kg). If a person wants more fat removed, this should be done in several procedures to minimize risk.