Able to address everything from saddlebags to a double chin to cankles, liposuction is arguably the most versatile cosmetic surgery option out there. Its head-to-toe effectiveness makes it one of the most requested procedures year after year.
Liposuction can not only treat numerous areas of the body, but also uses an array of techniques to accomplish it. It's commonly combined with other procedures — both surgical and nonsurgical — and is essential for fat transfer procedures such as the Brazilian butt lift.
In the most recent statistics published by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, liposuction came in second only to breast augmentation in the number of cosmetic surgery procedures performed in 2015. What's more interesting, however, is that the number of liposuction surgeries increased 5% from the previous year, while breast augmentation actually saw a 2% dip from 2014. Liposuction has a more universal appeal (for one thing, both men and women are candidates), which helps to explain its enduring popularity.
"Certain areas of fat can resist even the most stringent workout and diet routines," say the surgeons at Cosmetic Surgery Associates of New York, which offers liposuction in Westchester County, NY. And indeed, it's removing the most stubborn pockets of fat that can provide the most dramatic transformations.
Even as more nonsurgical fat reduction techniques come on the market — such as CoolSculpting®, SculpSure®, and KYBELLA® — the demand for liposuction continues to increase. Part of the reason is that while a treatment such as CoolSculpting can be effective, the nonsurgical procedures cannot match the dramatic results achieved by liposuction.
Another example of liposuction's versatility is its ability to pinpoint small treatment areas — such as fat below the chin or where the calf meets the ankle (cankles) — or remove larger areas of fat in areas such as the abdomen, flanks, lower back, and thighs. Liposuction isn't a weight-loss procedure, but experienced, board-certified plastic surgeons can remove large volumes of fat from multiple areas during a single operation.
The question is usually how much fat can be removed safely. According to a study published last year, there is no universal volume limit. Instead, the answer depends on the patient's existing body mass index (BMI). While existing guidelines from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons define large-volume liposuction as 5 liters, those guidelines acknowledge that there is no absolute cutoff point.
For those who want to address multiple areas, or have concerns beyond excess fat, more comprehensive improvement may involve other procedures. The most common example is the mommy makeover, which combines 2 or more treatments to address the physical changes that occur after pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. Liposuction and a tummy tuck, for example, work together to remove both unwanted fat and excess skin, while breast augmentation or a breast lift (or both) restores the pre-pregnancy volume and shape to the breasts.
Ultimately, the decision about liposuction (or any procedure) is one that requires a personal consultation with a plastic surgeon. The consultation is the opportunity to review the patient's health history, discuss cosmetic goals, and make a recommendation based on all the information available.