There will always be a skin mark at the site where the surface incision is made. This varies in length from ¼ inch to ½ inch, but surgeons try to place it in an area where it is least noticeable.

Bruising of the treated area

Bruising must be expected and although it is variable in degree, it's sometimes quite extensive. There is no way of avoiding this. A compression garment, rather like a girdle with zippers and Velcro, is used according to individual requirements. This compression dressing is a very important part of the procedure. Provision is made for urinating and defecating, so that the garment need not be removed during the first few days after surgery.

Bruising usually lasts from 7 to 10 days and sometimes even longer. Some surgical clinics now add an adhesive-backed foam product to the dressing for the first few days to help reduce the bruising.

Drainage from the surgical site

Since most of the fat cells are removed and some are simply disrupted, a fair amount of drainage from the surgical site should be expected.

Visual imperfections and other problems

Some irregularity or "waviness" of the surface may occur. This depends on factors such as the location of the fat tissue removed, pre-operative skin tone, and the amount of fat tissue removed. Since the final surface contour of the skin depends on the gradual collapse of the fat tissue after the "tunnels" of fat are removed, it is surprising that surface irregularity is not a more notable condition afterwards. When there is good skin tension and the removal of fat tissue is quite regular, the surface remains remarkably smooth.

There is a relatively narrow margin between removal of sufficient tissue and removal of too much tissue. Therefore, it is better to remove a conservative amount of tissue, since it is easier to remove more later, during a second, smaller operation than to try to replace fat for a significant contour deformity.

Other potential problems include skin surface pigmentation, dimpling at the places where the underside of the skin may adhere to the tissues, extensive bruising, and some permanent sensory loss, which is usually limited.

Occasionally, there will be discomfort and localized burning sensations during the healing period.

Changes take months to finalize

The final contour of the area and shrinkage of the tissue are generally not reached for at least 6 to 9 months. However, significant change is usually obvious only days after surgery, as the initial swelling begins to resolve. Occasionally, the post-operative appearance does not look much different than it did before the surgery. This is the result of swelling within the tissue, which may take several weeks or months to resolve. Premature conclusions are therefore unwarranted. Patience is required and rewarded.

Benjamin Gelfant, MD, 
in association with the MediResource Clinical Team