If you’re self-conscious about your weight, liposuction is an option to immediately remove fat. However, you’ve probably only heard of regular liposuction, not the “tumescent” kind. If you’re curious about what this type of procedure is, how it works, and how effective the results are, this article will explain everything you need to know about tumescent liposuction.
What is Tumescent Liposuction?
The word “tumescent” means swollen and firm, which is what happens to the fat during this type of liposuction. Regular liposuction involves an anesthesiologist rendering you unconscious under the effects of general anesthesia, but in tumescent liposuction, you remain awake the whole time.
Certain compounds are injected into the fat removal area. After these injections, the fat becomes swollen and firm, making it easier to remove without the complications of traditional liposuction.
How Tumescent Liposuction Works
You’ll have consultations with your surgeon so they can mark the areas where the fat will be removed. They might take photos of the area so you can compare how you look before and after the procedure.
On the day of the surgery, the nurses will clean and prep the area for liposuction. An anesthesiologist or the plastic surgeon will inject a diluted form of the local anesthetic lidocaine in large amounts, along with a saline solution and epinephrine to shrink the capillaries into your subcutaneous fat.
The lidocaine is so complete of an anesthetic that you will feel nothing during the procedure, eliminating the need for costly general anesthesia. The epinephrine, also called adrenaline, reduces the likelihood of bleeding during liposuction.
Once the area becomes swollen and firm, the plastic surgeon will use a thin tube called the cannula, attached to a vacuum to suck the fat from your body. Overall, the procedure reduces blood loss and pain during and after the surgery.
What Areas Can Be Treated With Tumescent Liposuction?
Nearly any region of the body can be treated with tumescent liposuction, but there are trends between the genders.
Women tend to get tumescent liposuction in the breasts, hips, abdomen, thighs, buttocks, arms, cheeks, and neck, while men get this procedure in the chin, neck, chest, hips, and abdomen.
Benefits of Tumescent Liposuction
Because of the lidocaine and epinephrine used during the procedure, tumescent liposuction eliminates the need for general anesthesia and intravenous sedatives, along with narcotic painkillers. The drugs used during the surgery reduces bleeding during and after liposuction, and dramatically reduces pain since the lidocaine tends to last after the procedure concludes.
Before tumescent liposuction, blood loss was normal in traditional liposuction. Many plastic surgeons performing traditional liposuction required the patient donated blood weeks before the procedure — the patient would get it back through transfusions mid-surgery. Even then, increased pain and medical complications frequently plagued those who underwent traditional liposuction. Thankfully, tumescent liposuction reduces pain, bleeding, and complications for those seeking to quickly lose fat.
In addition to improved surgical outcomes, tumescent liposuction also benefits patients seeking targeted fat removal. Some of us can’t lose fat in a certain area, no matter how hard we diet and exercise, such as under the chin or in the cheeks. Tumescent liposuction allows plastic surgeons to effectively remove pesky fat from anywhere on the body.
Recovery from tumescent liposuction is also much faster than traditional liposuction. Whereas the traditional method puts the patients out of commission for at least a week, tumescent liposuction gets people back to their normal lives in a few days.
Overall, tumescent liposuction is safer, more effective, and less invasive than traditional liposuction. There’s a reduced chance of unsightly scarring, and an overall trend toward feeling more confident in your body.
Risks of Tumescent Liposuction
Despite its improved safety, tumescent liposuction is not free from risk. The two most common complications for tumescent liposuction is fluid accumulation and lidocaine toxicity.
Depending on where the drugs are injected, such as in the chest or abdomen, copious amounts of fluid can concentrate in the lungs.
Lidocaine toxicity is when an excessive amount of anesthetic is injected into the body, hindering the body’s ability to metabolize the drug and potentially causing slurred speech, vertigo, tinnitus, and seizures.
More common complications include:
- Fat embolism, where small pieces of fat block blood flow
- Asymmetrical fat removal
- Negative reactions to lidocaine
- Skin numbness
- Nerve, blood vessel, muscle, lung, or organ damage.
Note that the fat can shift around during the procedures in ways that cause a dimpled or uneven appearance. This could require further liposuction interventions to correct. Be sure to get liposuction when your skin is still elastic, as the skin can sag and not bounce back once the fat has been removed.
While not necessarily a physical risk, a mental risk of liposuction is further dissatisfaction of your body where the fat was removed. The procedure is supposed to fix your insecurity, but if you find that area still faulty, you may be more dissatisfied with your appearance than before. Most people are happy with the results of their tumescent liposuction, but be sure to consider the mental risks as well as the physical ones.
Find a board-certified surgeon from a respectable hospital to reduce the risk of these outcomes. Surgeons with years of experience can perform liposuction procedure without adverse effects, so be sure to do research and choose your surgeon wisely.
Is Tumescent Liposuction Safe?
According to the U.S. National Institute of Health, tumescent liposuctions are generally considered safe and effective surgeries when performed by competent, licensed plastic surgeons.
Tumescent liposuction is one of the most common forms of cosmetic surgery in the United States. While complications do occur, the excellent medical professionals in that country reduce the likelihood of those outcomes, rendering a tumescent liposuction procedure reliably harmless.
Is Tumescent Liposuction Painful?
Because local anesthetics are used during the procedure, tumescent liposuction is much less painful than traditional liposuction using general anesthesia. You’d have to use painkillers to numb the strong pain after such a surgery, but you don’t feel nearly as much pain after tumescent liposuction.
The local anesthetics persist for about a day or two after the surgery, so you won’t feel the deep, cutting pain from the surgery. But after the anesthetics subside, the pain is comparable to muscle soreness after vigorous exercise. You won’t need intense painkillers to cope — Tylenol should do. But again, the plastic surgeon’s experience and skills will impact the level of pain you feel from this surgery.
Most of the pain occurs two to four days after liposuction, but it involves tenderness of the fat removal sites. In total, the pain won’t feel much worse than a bad bruise, and the soreness should go away after four days. After four to eight weeks, the pain will subside completely.
Recovery From Tumescent Liposuction
Recovery from tumescent liposuction depends on the intensity of the procedure. For example, liposuction from under the chin will heal much quicker than larger quantities of fat removed from the abdomen, thighs, or buttocks.
What to Do the Night of Your Surgery
You will most likely feel drowsy after the liposuction, so have the means to rest deeply and comfortably the night of your surgery. Accommodate your sleep environment to the type of surgery you received. If you got liposuction from your stomach, be able to sleep in a sitting position.
Plan to eat a large, healthy meal after your tumescent liposuction, as more nutrients in your body to facilitate the healing process. Ensure you’re hydrating properly too, as more water boosts the lymphatic system, which will help stave off infections. Some surgeons recommend taking pain medication like acetaminophen before bed to avoid waking up in the middle of the night.
Within the Week After Surgery
Move around your home or neighborhood the days following the surgery. The lymphatic system and is a part of your immune system and also one of the two circulatory systems in your body. Walking around or even lightly jogging can help expedite the healing process.
The region in which you removed fat will be swollen and sore the days after surgery. You can ice the area to reduce swelling and discomfort. Bruising is another common side effect, which mostly occurs during thigh tumescent liposuction. If your thighs bruise, lay down with your legs elevated to reduce swelling and discomfort. You can ice the area as well.
Returning to Normal
You can return to work after a few days, though swelling will persist for about three to four weeks after tumescent liposuction. Be sure to follow your surgeon’s instructions as to the specific recovery process for your procedure.
The surgeon will ask you to come in for return visits at one week, three months, and six months after liposuction to monitor the liposuction site and address any issues. If you are dissatisfied with your results, you can request a touch-up job.
How Long Does It Take to Recover From Tumescent Liposuction?
Tumescent liposuction is such a minimally invasive procedure that you should be fully able to return to your daily activities within a week of the surgery. The swelling will persist for about two to four weeks, and you should be completely healed within eight weeks.
Tumescent Liposuction vs. Traditional Liposuction
Tumescent liposuction, essentially, is the updated version of traditional liposuction. Under traditional liposuction, patients undergo general anesthesia to make them fully unconscious. The surgeon still sucks up the fat with the cannula instrument, but they must put more force and effort into the procedure as the fat is softer and moves around more.
The chances of bleeding are much higher during traditional liposuction over the tumescent procedure. People who receive traditional liposuction must take strong narcotic analgesics (e.g., opioid painkillers) to stave off the intense pain they’ll feel after the surgery.
Tumescent liposuction is by far the better surgery over traditional liposuction. You’ll be conscious throughout the surgery, which will end quicker since the surgeon has an easier time suctioning the fat. There will be less bleeding and other chances of complications, and the recovery time is much faster. That’s why traditional liposuction is rare these days since tumescent liposuction is far more efficient for everyone involved.
Tumescent Liposuction vs. SmartLipo
Both tumescent liposuction and SmartLipo remove fat. Tumescent liposuction does so through lidocaine and epinephrine to plump up the surgical area before a doctor suctions the fat with a cannula.
SmartLipo also involves a cannula, but it uses laser heat to soften the fat before it’s sucked up with the tool. The additional liquefication of fat means less bruising during the recovery period.
It also means tighter skin after liposuction. Tumescent liposuction won’t do anything to affect your skin, so your skin is prone to sagging or dimpling after the surgery, especially if your skin has lost some elasticity.
The recovery time for a patient who underwent SmartLipo and tumescent liposuction are comparable. You’ll still be able to return to daily functioning after about four days, but you’ll have to wear a compression garment during the SmartLipo recovery period for at least one week, which you might not have to do for tumescent liposuction.
Tumescent Liposuction vs. VASER
VASER stands for Vibration Amplification of Sound Energy at Resonance, which is essentially an ultrasound. The ultrasound liquefies the fat underneath the skin so that it’s easier to remove during liposuction.
While both offer relatively quick recovery times, VASER results in less injury to surrounding tissue. Also, VASER facilitates better skin contraction after the surgery, reducing the chance of sagging or dimply skin.
VASER is an offshoot of tumescent liposuction. You will still be injected with numbing and adrenaline agents during the procedure, but there’s an extra step of melting the fat before suctioning it with a cannula.
Cost of Tumescent Liposuction
The cost of tumescent liposuction depends on the experience level of the plastic surgeon, as well as the geographic location in which you undergo this surgery. In general, the cost averages around $5,000, but can run between $1,500 and $9,500.