Patients often ask whether liposuction for weight loss is effective.  Liposuction is a surgical technique that removes fatty tissue, which leads many to believe that it could be performed for generalized weight reduction.  The short answer is unfortunately not.  Liposuction is a body contouring technique, most effective for targeting focal fatty deposits that are unresponsive to diet and exercise.  It is not effective or recommended for addressing generalized obesity.

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Is liposuction for weight loss effective?

While some studies have found lower insulin resistance, blood pressure, and cardiovascular risk following liposuction, liposuction is not recommended for patients seeking generalized weight loss for the following reasons:

– Visceral fat is not addressed by liposuction

Excess fatty tissue is located both deep and superficial to the abdominal wall.  Visceral fat, also called intra-abdominal fat, is located deep to the abdominal wall and surrounds body organs.  Liposuction does not address fat within this compartment and may only address fat superficial to the abdominal muscles.  Following superficial fat removal, the abdomen may still demonstrate a rounded appearance given that this deeper fat remains.  Visceral fat is also associated with higher risk of many chronic diseases, including diabetes type 2, heart disease, and stroke.  Visceral fat may be reduced through diet and exercise.  Maintaining a healthy body weight is important for overall medical health, in addition to improving body contour.  If any residual fatty regions persist upon reaching a healthy body weight, these focal areas may often be improved through liposuction.

– High volume liposuction has greater risks

High volume liposuction generally refers to removal of greater than 4 litres of fat during one procedure.  It has been associated with greater risk of major and even life-threatening complications.  There may be increased risk of fat emboli, venous thromboembolism (blood clots in the lower extremity or lung), and major fluid shifts, including pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs).  A litre of fat weighs approximately 2 pounds.  Liposuction for weight loss is not effective since only a few pounds may safely be removed during a liposuction procedure.

– Inadequate skin retraction may result following high volume liposuction

In addition to greater medical risks associated with high volume liposuction, the aesthetic outcome depends on the skin’s ability to retract post-operatively and is often limited for high volume cases.  For patients greater than 10% of ideal body weight, the skin has already been placed under stretch.  Once fat is removed, the skin may have exceeded its ability to fully retract.  Excess skin may result and be as bothersome aesthetically to patients as the excess fatty tissue.

Liposuction may be an effective technique for body contouring in appropriate candidates.  To discuss body contouring surgery in more detail, please contact us to schedule your consultation.