Skip links

What is Tumescent Liposuction?

Even though liposuction has been around a long time and is probably the most commonly performed cosmetic procedure in the world, most of us know very little about how it is actually done, and what it is for. It is not, as most people think, a method of weight loss, but rather a procedure designed to shape, or contour the body — one that is best suited for removing small deposits of fatty tissue from problem areas.

The standard technique used today, which has been in use since the 1980s, is tumescent liposuction. In this procedure, a small incision is made in the skin over the area where fat is to be removed. Through this incision, the surgeon inserts a very small tube called a micro-cannula. This tube is used to inject the tumescent solution under the skin.

The solution injected is a mixture of saline, lidocaine, and epinephrine. Saline is a sterile, saltwater solution which is used primarily to carry the lidocaine and epinephrine. Lidocaine is a local anesthetic, and its use makes general anesthetic, which was previously required for liposuction, unnecessary. Epinephrine works to constrict capillaries, which helps to reduce bleeding, and thereby also reduces swelling and bruising.

Once the solution has been injected, the micro-cannula is used to help break up the fatty tissue to be removed. The resulting mixture of fat cells and tumescent solution is then suctioned out of the patient’s body through the micro-cannula.

The entire procedure usually takes anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to perform, although if there are many areas to be treated it may take longer. Because it uses local anesthetic, as opposed to general anesthetic, it can be performed as an outpatient surgery, although you will need somebody to drive you home afterwards.

Most patients experience bruising and swelling for one to two weeks after the procedure. Your incisions will probably continue to drain fluid for several days afterwards, and you will likely be required to wear compression wraps for several weeks to help reduce bruising and swelling, and to help keep pain to a minimum. You can generally resume your normal schedule of activities, including going back to work, as soon as you feel comfortable doing so. That can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on the activity in question and your individual rate of healing. If you work in an office, a few days is common. If you work as a skydiving instructor it may take a little longer.

If you have unsightly fat deposits that just don’t respond to diet and exercise, liposuction may be the solution. Book a consultation with Dr. Liu today, to find out what your options are.