Q: Dr. Eppley, I had liposuction recently on numerous areas of my body including my stomach, love handles, and thighs. My doctor told me he removed two and a half liters but couldn’t tell me exactly how much it weighed. He showed me a picture of a bag that contained the fat removed, which looked like a lot, but he said he didn’t weigh it. can you tell how much you think it weighed?
A: A question that I often receive from my Indianapolis liposuction patients is “how much does fat weight after removal?” While plastic surgeons remove and record the volume of fat in liters, this often has little meaning to most patients.
In calculating liposuction weights, one has to start with knowing that 1 US gallon equals close to 3.8 liters. While a gallon of water weighs about 8.4 lbs, fat however will weigh less because it is less dense. A gallon of fat is known to weigh about 7.4lbs. The density of fat is 0.9 grams/ml or 1000ml (1 liter) or a weight of 0.9 kg. Taking these calculations, one liter of fat equals roughly 2 lbs. Therefore 2.5 liters of liposuctioned fat will weigh close to 5 lbs.
While one liter of pure fat weighs about 2 lbs, it is actually less straightforward than that when it comes to fat removed by liposuction. What is removed in liposuction is called the aspirate and not just pure fat. Liposuction aspirate is a mixture of solid pieces of fat, free fatty acids (broken fat cell contents or oil) blood and tumescent solution. (what was injected into the area before liposuction) Thus, liposuction aspirate is not 100% fat but just a fraction of it. (a big fraction just not 100%) As a result, one liter of liposuction is really less than 2 lbs of fat removed and may be realistically closer to 1.5 lbs of actual fat. However when you factor in the number of fat cells that have remained behind inside the patient that have been damaged or destroyed and will be lost as the tissues heals, it is still fair to round up the total fat ‘removed’ to 2 lbs/liter.
Dr. Barry Eppley