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
Q: I am a 35 year-old female and I exercise but not as much as I could because I just don’t seem to be able to lose weight. For years I would exercise for months, 5 days a week for 2 to 3 months and not lose weight that people can see, then I’d stop for lack of results. I start up again for a couple of months then the same results occur. With my history, is liposuction or SmartLipo not right for me? I thank you for your response.
A: As a general concept, any form of liposuction should not be viewed or undergone if the primary objective is weight loss. Liposuction is a body shaping or spot reduction method, not a weight loss technique. There is no doubt that many patients do lose weight after liposuction which is usually in the range of double (at 6 to 8 weeks after surgery) of the fat weight that is taken off surgery. This is the result of a combination of immediate fat removal followed by a metabolic weight loss due to a negative caloric balance from healing and reduced intake. Liposuction’s primary objective, which it can do very successfully, is to remove fat areas that are resistant to diet and exercise efforts. Any weight loss is a secondary benefit. This surgically-induced weight loss can be just short-term, however, if lifestyle changes do not support the new weight. It doesn’t take very long (at 3500 extra calories = a lb of weight gain) to regain the weight removed after liposuction if one is not vigilant over the long-term.
Dr. Barry Eppley
Q: Hi. I’m a male 34 years of age and am interested in getting liposuction done. I’m not obese, but am seriously overweight. I am around 250lbs at 6′ tall. I’m wanting to have a procedure done to have about 50 to 60 lbs removed. I’m not a professional, so I don’t even know if that’s possible. Looking forward to hearing back from you.
A: Liposuction is not a weight loss method but a body contouring procedure. While most patients do lose weight after liposuction, it is not in the order of magnitude to which you refer. For a man your size, abdominal and flank liposuction (the typical areas for male liposuction) will probably result in 10 to maybe 15 lbs of weight loss. This weight loss usually takes about 3 to 4 weeks to fully see once all the retained fluids from surgery are eliminated. Once can continue the weight loss further through their own efforts if they desire. While a weight loss of 50lbs may ultimately be achieveable, lipouction in this outome will have been the ‘kick start’ to the process. Much of the achieved weight loss will have been not from the actual procedure but from the efforts to protect and harvest the best results from their surgical investment afterwards.
In short, perceiving liposuction as a weight loss method is ill-conceived. It is better thought of as part of an overall body transformation program. Where in this process liposuction should be done requires a thoughtful discussion with a plastic surgeon.
Dr. Barry Eppley