Very often a patient will ask me:
“How much fat is taken out during Liposuction?”
The answer is dependent on two things: (1) the liposuction area and (2) the patient’s height and weight.
Therefore, to answer the question here in my blog, I will give my answers for a body frame type that I see most frequently. We’ll use, as an example, a woman of average height (5’3″-5’6″) who weighs about 150 pounds.
How to count the amount of liposuction fat extracted
Liposuction is performed by using a long thin cannula to remove the fat. However, before the fat is removed, surgeons using the ‘tumescent liposuction technique’, will inject a numbing solution in the area to be liposuctioned. When surgeons extract the fat, not everything removed via the cannula will be ‘fat.’ It will be a combination of fat and tumescent fluid.
The upper back can store more fat than you think
I inject a lot of fluid (tumescent solution) to diminish blood loss. Diminished blood loss during liposuction is good because losing too much blood can be dangerous. Therefore what gets taken out is not pure fat, but a mixture of the tumescent fluid and fat. After the procedure, if your surgeon shows you a picture of a cannister full of liposuction stuff, or quotes you an amount of fat taken off, it is usually about half tumescent fluid and half fat.
Using the tumescent liposuction technique, how much fat is taken out?
Common areas of liposuction include the love handles (flanks), tummy, upper back, inner thighs, outer thighs and arms. Most patients have more than one area of liposuction performed at the same time. The totals I’m going to quote you are of the fat after the fluid has been drained off. Therefore, the weight estimate represents more closely the actual amount of fat taken.
- Love handle area: I usually take about 1.5 to 2 pounds of fat from this area. It is also referred to as the flanks. This is a really high impact area as it makes you look heavy from the front or the back views so I tend to be very thorough in this area. In addition it helps give your butt better definition. So this amount may not seem like much but it makes a big impression. It is the most underestimated area for liposuction.
- Tummy area: I usually take about the same amount of liposuction fluid as in the flanks, maybe a little more in some cases. So here we’re talking about 2 pounds of fat. If the person does have a lot of fat in the tummy you have to be very careful so the skin below the belly button does not create a fold. Whenever I do the tummy area I also recommend doing the love handles because the love handles is what makes your waist appear narrow.
- Inner thighs: I am a little more conservative in the inner thighs, as taking too much may cause sagging of the skin. So here we might take maximum about 1 pound of fat. If I’m doing it together with a Tummy Tuck where the skin of the inner thighs is getting pulled up, my level of comfort is higher so I will take out more fat.
- Upper back: This is an area that many surgeons neglect because the fat in this area is really tough. I use a specialized grating cannula for this area, and I find myself recommending it more and more. Many women have a broad appearing back, and liposuctioning here makes a huge difference. Here I usually can get up to a 1.5 pounds. It seems like a lot, but the back is such a large area that it can store more fat than you think.
- Outer Thighs: Although a lot of women focus on this area, commonly referred to as saddlebags, I find myself taking less and less from this area. The reason is that if you take out too much from this area the butt can sag and look long and droopy. If you take too much out, the patient’s legs may look boyish instead of sensuous. Now I take no more than 2 pounds total, even in a woman with big saddlebags.
- Upper arms: This area always surprises me because I almost always tell my patients that their skin my sag a little and that they may need a little skin tuck later on. Amazingly, the skin always snaps back, unless the patient has a history of massive weight loss. Here a little goes a long way and I rarely take out more than 1 pound.
You might think that this is not a lot of weight taken off and you would be right because liposuction is not a weight reduction technique. But, the changes in your figure can be dramatic, because liposuction is a great contouring technique.
Interested in learning more about liposuction, consider these other blog posts: Liposuction cannulas: Video Journal with Dr. Rodriguez and Liposuction Cannula Size Affects Surgical Results.
Ricardo Rodriguez, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon
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