Losing Weight With Liposuction?

Liposuction is a very popular body contouring surgery largely because it works. It is an immediate method to remove certain areas of unwanted fat that you just haven’t been able to budge by your best efforts. With this fat removal method, may people expect to lose weight as well. It is no wonder many people think this when you see such advertisements such as ‘Lose 10 lbs In A Few Hours’ or ‘Get The Body You Always Wanted’.  I have seen many such liposuction promotions in magazines and on the internet and it begs the question of aggressive advertising vs . medical fact.

Can you lose weight by liposuction? The simple answer is yes…in the short term. When advertisements promote how much weight is removed with liposuction, they are referring to what is suctioned out at the time of surgery. This is known as the fat aspirate and and is collected in a canister. It can be both measured in cubic centimeters or millimeters (always is) and weighed. (sometimes is) The weight of the aspirate can be closely approximated by its measured volume. Since a gallon of water weights 8 lbs and a gallon contains 2.2 liters (2200cc), then a liter (1000cc) of fat will approximately weigh 3 1/2lbs. Therefore if you have had liposuction surgery and had 2000ccs removed, for example, then you would have had a surgical weight loss of about 7lbs.

While this seems impressive, and one did have this 7lb weight loss in a hour or two, it is actually a bit misleading. The reason is that prior to the actual liposuction being done, a large amount of fluid is first put into the fat known as tumescent fluid. This is essential to liposuction to not only lessen the pain after surgery but, of equal importance, to reduce any bleeding that the procedure will cause. This fluid has both volume and weight and the actual fat aspirate will contain up to 1/3 of this by content. So the actual amount of fat removed and weight that has come off has to be toned down a bit. When you see large weight loss claims from liposuction, it is because large amounts of tumescent fluid have been initially placed….and then removed as well.

While liposuction may cause some weight loss immediately (surgical weight loss), a more significant drop may actually occur afterwards. In the healing phase for several weeks after surgery, most people are not motivated to eat normally. When combined with the increased caloric demands of healing, a metabolic weight loss often happens. This will usually equal the surgical weight loss by four to six weeks after surgery. So if 5lbs of fat aspirate has been removed during surgery, one can usually expect to be down 10lbs in another month or so. Whether one sustain this weight loss over time is affected by many factors, not the least of which is one’s lifestyle habits.

While liposuction and weight loss will be forever linked, one should view the association as incidental and a side benefit. Weight loss is not the reason to have liposuction…spot body contouring is. Some weight loss will happen for almost all patients. The amount varies on one’s body and how much fat was removed. Some view liposuction as a jump start method for their weight loss approach and, in the short term, that is what will happen.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana