Liposuction: preparation and recovery

Understanding what’s involved in preparing for and recovering from liposuction surgery is essential for a successful procedure.

Preparing for liposuction

Educating yourself about the basics of a liposuction procedure, the different techniques and the recovery period will help ease any anxieties you may have about the procedural process.

To prepare for liposuction surgery, your doctor will schedule an in-depth planning session, during which they will discuss with you the procedure, the type of anaesthesia to be used, the risks and limitations, costs involved, required medications, your expectations and goals, as well as the steps to take prior to the operation.

You will also need to provide a full medical history and disclose any health problems you may have had, as some may interfere with surgery, anaesthesia and aftercare.

Your overall weight, skin and muscle tone and the distribution of fat deposits will be evaluated by your doctor to determine which techniques will be employed, where incisions will be made and what results can be achieved. Skin type, thickness and texture as well as your age can all affect the final result.

Two weeks prior to liposuction surgery, your doctor will advise you to stop taking all forms of aspirin, as well as any medication and vitamins that could increase the risk of blood clotting complications. Your surgeon may also prescribe medication such as antibiotics and small doses of blood-thinning agents to be administered prior to the surgery.

If you are a smoker, it is important you stop smoking for at least two weeks before the surgery. Smoking increases surgical and anaesthetic complications and impairs healing.

Prepare for surgery the day before by packing loose and comfortable clothing to wear after the procedure, getting adequate sleep the night before, and arranging a ride home. If you are undergoing general anaesthesia, you will be required to abstain from eating or drinking for at least six hours before surgery (this helps prevent an upset stomach while under anaesthesia).

Recovery: what to expect

There are many things that can affect how you recover from surgery. Every person’s body has different tendencies toward healing, however there are some things can help to speed the process along.

The nature of the recovery period will depend on the surgical technique and anaesthetic administered, and the extent of the surgery. When liposuction is performed under local anaesthesia, you can usually depart from the hospital or clinic within 30 minutes of the completion of surgery.

If general anaesthesia is used, you will be transferred to a recovery room where you will stay until you wake. Nursing staff will observe your recovery and monitor your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing, and you should normally be able to go home after one to three hours.

When you return home, ensure you have an emergency telephone number for your doctor and the clinic in case you need to contact them. A responsible adult should stay with you for at least 24 hours on arriving home.

Most people report that pain, discomfort or stiffness for the first few days after surgery are mild, however this can vary from day to night. Paracetamol is usually sufficient to relieve pain, although your doctor can prescribe stronger pain relief if required. Aspirin may not be recommended for pain relief due to the risk of increased bleeding during healing.

Your doctor will advise you to take it easy for the first few days after surgery, although you’ll also be advised to regularly get out of bed and walk around to improve your circulation and gradually increase your activity. Swelling and bruising are common, and it may be several weeks before bruising completely disappears. Wearing a tight-fitting compression garment will reduce swelling in the treated area and allow your body to heal into its new contours better. You may need to wear the garment for several weeks. Regular lymphatic drainage massages are also recommended to help reduce swelling. It may be several months before the treatment areas completely heal and acquire their final shape and contour.

Most people can return to office-based work anywhere between a few days and two weeks after surgery. Light activities can usually be resumed after two to three weeks. Over-exertion will lead to increased swelling and soreness, so be sure to consult your doctor about any plans which require light to medium exercise. Normal activity can usually be resumed after six weeks. It all depends on how well you feel – no two patients are alike and working with your doctor will help you gauge what steps to take.

Preparing for surgery

• Don’t take aspirin or anti-inflammatories.

• If you smoke, quit smoking at least two weeks before surgery (smoking greatly increases your risk of complications).

• Make arrangements to have someone drive you to and from the surgery and to care for you the first 24 to 48 hours after surgery.

• Fill any prescriptions you require before surgery.

• Discuss with your doctor the best way to reduce swelling and bruising.

• Set up a home recovery area: lots of pillows, books, magazines, stationery, TV.

• Leave a telephone near your bed.

• Consider a hand-held shower head and bathroom chair for the initial few days.

• Consider scheduling appointments with an experienced lymphatic massage therapist to help relieve swelling, bruising and possible itching.

• Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully regarding medications, eating and drinking.