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

One of the common side effects of suction lipectomy (liposuction) is bruising. Although it is variable in degree, sometimes bruising can be quite extensive. There is no way of avoiding this. A compression garment, rather like a girdle with zippers and Velcro, is used to control swelling and bruising. This compression garment is a very important part of the procedure. It is designed so that you can still use the washroom while wearing it, so that it need not be removed during the first few days after surgery.

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 may be expected. Sometimes temporary drains are placed to remove excess fluid or blood.

Visual imperfections

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, technique, 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.

Other risks and potential complications

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
  • extensive bruising
  • permanent sensory change or loss
  • anesthesia risks
  • deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism
  • cardiac and pulmonary complications
  • infection and sepsis
  • persistent swelling
  • worsening of cellulite
  • thermal burn or heat injury

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. Be patient and try to avoid making premature conclusions.

Benjamin Gelfant, MD, 
with updates by the MediResource Clinical Team