Lipoplasty or liposuction -- the removal of fat using suction -- was first introduced in the United States in the early 1980s. Since then, many refinements have been added to make the procedure safer and to provide more precise results with quicker recovery times. More than 478,000 liposuctions were performed in 2004, an increase of 24 percent since 2003, keeping liposuction the number one surgical cosmetic procedure in the United States, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. The main purpose of liposuction is to reshape a body area or areas, not to reduce weight. It is most often used on areas that do not respond well to diet and exercise, such as outer thighs and hips on women ("saddlebags"), the waist and backs of men ("love handles"), as well as the face, neck, abdomen, buttocks, legs, and upper arms. Liposuction may used in combination with other procedures, including abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), facelift, and breast reduction (reduction mammoplasty).
In addition, the results of liposuction are considered permanent, but only if you're careful about your diet and health afterward. "If you want liposuction, but you don't incorporate diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes into your regimen, liposuction won't be successful long-term," says Rod Rohrich, MD, President of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Liposuction is generally performed as an outpatient procedure in an accredited doctor's surgical suite or surgical center. Unless a large volume of fat is removed, a hospital stay is generally not required. Depending on the procedure, general or local anesthesia may be used. In the traditional procedure, a doctor inserts a small, thin tube called a cannula through tiny incisions in the skin. Fat is vacuumed through the cannula while the surgeon moves the instruments around under the skin to target various fat deposits. If many sites are being treated, the surgeon tries to make the incision sites as inconspicuous as possible.
Because of recent improvements to make liposuction safer, easier, and less painful, a variety of techniques are now available. Your doctor will assess which option is best for you.
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