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Are Results from Liposuction Permanent?

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This is a popular question asked by many liposuction patients here at Boynton Plastic Surgery. When the topic comes up, I like to explain that the human body is continually changing – we are not marble statues, so the effects of treatment can fluctuate over time. As opposed to “permanent,” it’s important to think of one’s liposuction outcome as more of a “maintained” result. Liposuction (sometimes referred to as “lipo-contouring”) is and has always been designed for individuals who have disproportionate areas of fullness that are exercise- and diet-resistant. It is incumbent on patients to keep their cardiovascular fitness and diet/nutrition in check to not only maintain results surgically achieved with lipo-contouring, but to also improve those results. Some studies suggest that additional improvements in diet/nutrition and fitness only help to further augment body shaping/liposuction results even 18 months after treatment.

During liposuction, excess pockets of fat tissue are removed using blunt-ended tubes called cannulas. Inserted under the skin through very small “puncture” incisions placed in discrete locations, these cannulas loosen unwanted fat cells, emulsify them, and finally remove them via suction. Every individual is born with a defined number of fat cells, and once those cells are removed, they are permanently gone. Although the remaining fat cells left in the treatment area cannot be increased in number, they can grow in size and “store” more fat, which is why some patients who are not committed to eating a proper diet and keeping a steady exercise plan may see their body contour change.

For these reasons, it is ideal if prospective liposuction patients have made good efforts and strides in diet and exercise prior to considering surgery. I always remind my patients that liposuction is not a weight loss treatment, but rather a shaping treatment. That said, there are instances in which lipo-contouring can be a great “kick starter” for certain individuals who are a bit overweight yet attempting to lose weight. Achieving shaping improvements – as well as the motivation that goes along with aesthetic enhancement – can really propel these patients toward attaining their goals. They are often better able to push forward with their diet and exercise endeavors when they see the “progress” enacted by surgery. Ultimately, I’ve had success in treating both types of patients (those who are relatively fit and those who are slightly overweight), and no matter the case, I advise eating healthily and exercising regularly long into the future for optimal results.

James F. Boynton, MD, FACS