Liposuction is the gold standard when it comes to body contouring. Most of us carry excess fat in certain areas of our body such as the abdomen or outer thighs. Sometimes, this fat can be reduced by adopting a more healthful diet and regular exercise routine. But what if your weight is stable, your muscles are toned and you still have unwanted lumps and bumps? This is known as “fit fat”. Liposuction is a surgical procedure to remove these stubborn pockets of fat for good. And while there are some very effective non-surgical body contouring procedures on the market these days, none are as powerful or precise as liposuction.
But liposuction is surgery. And, for many patients, one of the downsides of surgery is that it often needs to be performed under general anesthesia. This can result in a longer recovery time, nausea and sometimes, a sore, bruised throat. Thankfully, however, board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Sean Doherty offers his patients the option of liposuction under local anesthesia where appropriate.
Are You a Candidate for Liposuction Under Local Anesthesia?
Determining whether or not you are a candidate for liposuction under local anesthesia will require an in person exam. During your initial consultation, Dr. Doherty will listen to what bothers you about your body contour. He will perform a complete physical exam and together, you will come up with the best treatment plan for your anatomy, needs and goals.
Liposuction under local anesthesia really depends on the amount of fat that needs to be removed. If you have a lot of fat in multiple areas of your body then the procedure will take longer. And, in order to make this safe, you will need to be under general anesthesia. However, if your fat is more localized or you just have a few small pockets of excess fat then it is typically perfectly safe and acceptable to perform your liposuction procedure under local anesthesia.
General Anesthesia vs. Local Anesthesia
General anesthesia involves a mask being placed over your face and inhaling a drug that puts you into a deep sleep. With local anesthesia, there is no deep sleep. Dr. Doherty will prescribe a pain pill as well as something to help you relax. You will take these in the office, an hour before your procedure. Then, once you get to the operating room, he will inject a numbing medicine directly into the treatment area. Referred to as tumescent fluid, this numbing medicine is comprised of lidocaine and epinephrine. The first numbs the area so that you feel minimal discomfort while the second helps to decrease both bruising and swelling.
Benefits of Liposuction Under Local Anesthesia
There are quite a few benefits to having your liposuction procedure performed under local anesthesia such as:
- risk of complications is greater with the use of general anesthesia
- shorter recovery time
- less chance of post op nausea
- often less expensive
- can be done in the office or surgery center, no hospital
More and more of Dr. Doherty’s Boston area patients are electing to have their liposuction procedures done under local anesthesia. They appreciate the fact that since they stay awake, they are more aware of their surroundings which allows them to more quickly return to their normal activities.
Liposuction Under Local Anesthesia
Dr. Doherty offers his patients a wide variety of different liposuction techniques such as tumescent liposuction, laser liposuction and syringe liposuction. The right one for you is going to depend on your anatomy, goals and needs. He performs all of his liposuction under local anesthesia procedures in an accredited surgical center.
After taking a prescription pain med and something to help you relax an hour before surgery, Dr. Doherty will inject the treatment area with a numbing medicine. Then, he makes a series of tiny incisions in the targeted area. He will then insert a hollow tube called a cannula. Your unwanted fat cells are sucked through the cannula by means of an attached pump. The end result is a smoother, slimmer you.
To find out more about liposuction under local anesthesia with Dr. Sean Doherty at his Boston or Brookline office, contact us today or call (617) 450-0070 to schedule a consultation.
I have a low tolerance for pain. Is it going to hurt if I’m not asleep?
No. When the numbing medicine is initially injected, you may feel a temporary achey feeling or burning sensation. But this is very short lived. Furthermore, Dr. Doherty gives his liposuction under local anesthesia patients both pain and relaxing pills to help make this initial phase more tolerable. Once the local anesthesia takes effect, you will not feel anything in the treatment area other than a slight bit of pressure. Most patients are completely comfortable enough to carry on a conversation. Some are so relaxed that they take a brief nap.
Will my plastic surgeon be able to fully treat the area under just local anesthesia?
The downside to liposuction under local anesthesia is that there is a limit to the amount of numbing medicine that can be used as well as the amount of fat that can be removed. These limitations are designed to ensure patient safety. For Dr. Doherty, safety is of the utmost importance. He will spend a considerable amount of time during your initial consultation determining whether or not your liposuction goals are achievable under local anesthesia. Assuming that you are indeed a good candidate then yes, you can definitely achieve your desired results under local anesthesia.
How do I get numb?
Dr. Doherty will inject your treatment area or areas with a numbing medicine. This medicine, called tumescent fluid, is made up of a mixture of saline, lidocaine and epinephrine. The lidocaine will completely numb the area so that you won’t feel anything other than a slight bit of pressure. The epinephrine helps the lidocaine to take effect quickly and deeply. It also reduces the incidence of significant post operative bruising and swelling.
Will I need to take pain medication?
Dr. Doherty will prescribe both a pain medication as well as something to help you relax. These will need to be taken an hour before your procedure. In terms of pain after the procedure, you may take more of the prescription pain meds, but many patients do fine with an over the counter medication such as Tylenol or Motrin. Patients describe the post operative recovery as more uncomfortable than painful – like a muscle ache after a tough day at the gym.
Is the recovery any different with liposuction under local anesthesia?
Since your body does not have to recover from the general anesthesia, your overall recovery time is slightly faster when you have liposuction under local anesthesia. Also, most patients don’t find that they need post op pain meds which allows them to return to normal activities such as driving much faster.
Is liposuction under local anesthesia always a better choice?
It depends on the patient and the patient’s needs. Some patients feel anxious at the thought of being awake during a procedure. While others have a lot of excess fat in multiple treatment areas that will require general anesthesia. For most, however, liposuction under local anesthesia is very desirable. It has a lower risk of complications than general anesthesia as well as a much easier and faster post-procedure recovery.
Do I still need to wear a compression garment?
Yes. The compression garment helps to reduce swelling which is your body’s natural response to trauma. And any kind of body contouring procedure, whether surgical or non-surgical, inflicts some degree of trauma. The garment will help you to heal faster.
How many areas can be treated at a time?
Multiple body areas are typically safe to treat at one time under local anesthesia assuming that there is not a large amount of fat to be removed. Dr. Doherty always takes into account a patient’s body type, BMI, overall health and surgical expectations when planning any surgery.
Will I need to wear drains?
No. Dr. Doherty does not use drains in his liposuction procedures whether they are performed under local or general anesthesia.
What kind of scars can I expect?
Dr. Doherty will make a few, very small incisions in the treatment area. They need to be large enough to fit the cannula through which the fat is extracted. But since the cannula is very small, these incisions typically heal without a trace. However, if you are treating multiple areas, you will have multiple incisions.
What will happen to my skin after the fat is removed?
Once the fat is removed in the treatment areas, one of the potential downsides of liposuction can be some sagging skin post operatively. Assuming that your skin has good elasticity, it should bounce back in no time. However, in older patients or patients with a significant amount of excess fat where the skin has stretched, you may need to combine your liposuction procedure with some sort of skin tightening procedure. This will all be discussed in detail during your initial consultation.