Liposuction is a procedure to remove ‘pockets’ of unwanted fat from areas of your body that are difficult to shift through dieting and exercise alone.
Liposuction is a procedure to remove ‘pockets’ of unwanted fat from areas of your body that are difficult to shift through dieting and exercise alone. These might include your hips, tummy, back, sides, arms, legs (thigh, calf, knee or ankle) and buttocks. Men can also have fat removed from underneath nipples, which can give the appearance of breasts. You can also have neck and chin liposuction on your face.
Liposuction isn’t a weight loss procedure. Ideally, you should already be a healthy weight before having liposuction. It’s also better to have firm, rather than loose skin.
How to get liposuction
If you’re having liposuction for cosmetic reasons, you’ll need to pay to have it done privately. It wouldn’t be covered under insurance as a cosmetic procedure. You can find a private consultant using the search function on our website.
The NHS may occasionally cover liposuction for certain health problems, such as lymphoedema and lipoedema. Your doctor will tell you if this is an option. Even though you’ll usually need to have it done privately, it’s still important to let your GP know you’re thinking about having liposuction.
Deciding on liposuction
You’ll have an initial consultation with a surgeon to talk about what you’re aiming for, and which liposuction techniques may be suitable for you. They’ll go through the benefits and possible risks, as well as discussing any alternatives to liposuction. For instance, if you have very loose skin, a tummy tuck might be a better option. You can have a tummy tuck in combination with liposuction too.
There are also many private clinics offering non-surgical procedures as liposuction alternatives. If you’re considering these, you may want to discuss this with your GP first and be sure to look for a registered and suitably qualified health professional.
Preparing for liposuction
It’s important that you’re as healthy as possible before having liposuction, and your weight is stable. If you smoke or use other forms of nicotine, you’ll be asked to stop, usually at least six weeks beforehand. Nicotine has a negative effect on wound healing, and smoking significantly increases the risk of other complications too.
You usually have liposuction under general anaesthesia (meaning you’ll be asleep); but sometimes you may have a local anaesthetic (where the area being treated is numbed) or an epidural (meaning the whole of your lower body is numbed). Which type of anaesthesia you have will depend on how big an area you’re having treated.
You’ll usually be able to go home on the day of your procedure, but sometimes you may need to stay overnight. If you do go home the same day, you’ll need someone to stay with you overnight. You won’t be able to drive after the procedure, so arrange for someone to take you home.
What happens during liposuction?
Your surgeon will insert a thin tube (cannula), through small cuts in your skin. In traditional liposuction, the surgeon manually uses the cannula to loosen the fat and reshape the part of your body being treated. They’ll then use a vacuum device attached to the cannula to suck the fat from your body.
There are various different techniques your surgeon may use. These may include the following.
- Tumescent liposuction involves injecting solutions into the area being treated.
- Power-assisted liposuction uses a motorised cannula, which makes the fat easier to remove.
- Ultrasound-assisted liposuction (or ultrasonic liposuction) and laser-assisted liposuction use ultrasound or laser to help break down the fat and make it easier to remove. This includes Vaser liposuction.
- Water assisted liposuction (including Body Jet liposuction) uses a jet of water to help dislodge fat cells before they’re removed.
Recovery and what to expect after liposuction
You should be out of bed and mobile on the day of your procedure. Make sure you rest for a few days afterwards to let your body settle down. You’ll probably be back to normal activities within around three to four weeks, but may need to avoid strenuous activities for longer. Don’t drive until you feel safe to do so and you’re comfortable wearing a seatbelt.
You’re likely to have swelling and bruising after liposuction – how much and how painful it is will depend on the size of the area you’ve had treated. You’ll need to wear tight bandages or compression garments for several weeks afterwards, to reduce swelling and so your body can adapt to its new shape.
It can take between one and six months for bruising and swelling to go down and the full benefits of your liposuction to be revealed. You’ll also have small scars from the procedure, which should become paler within 12 to 18 months.
Complications of liposuction
All surgical procedures carry some risk of complications. Here are some of the most common complications associated with liposuction.
- Fluid collecting in the area where you had liposuction.
- Changes to sensation or colour of your skin.
- Problems with scars - they may get red and lumpy rather than fading over time.
There’s also a risk that you might not be happy with the end result. You also need to bear in mind that the appearance of the areas you had treated will change over time as a natural result of ageing. Pregnancy or changes in weight may also change the appearance.
More serious complications include bleeding during or after the procedure, allergic reactions to the anaesthetic and blood clots developing in your legs or lungs.
You’ll be given information on what to look out for and what to do if you develop any complications. Your doctor can also tell you how likely they are to affect you.
Liposuction costs and fees
As a cosmetic procedure, you’ll usually need to self-fund a liposuction. Liposuction prices in the UK vary.
Typically, an initial consultation with the surgeon will cost between £100 and £250, depending on where you live. If you move forwards with the procedure, you’ll be offered one of the following.
- An all-inclusive ‘package price’, where you know the full costs before undergoing treatment. Not all consultants and hospitals offer this.
- A ‘fee-per-service’ deal, where you receive different invoices from the surgeon, the anaesthetist and the hospital. You often won’t know the full costs until you receive the invoices.
For more information, you can read our guide on self-pay.
- Liposuction. British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS). baaps.org.uk (accessed 31 March 2021).
- Liposuction. British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS). www.bapras.org.uk (accessed 31 March 2021).
- Bartow MJ & Raggio BS. Liposuction. StatPearls. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, last updated 25 September 2020.
- Body sculpting. British College of Aesthetic Medicine. bcam.ac.uk (accessed 31 March 2021).
- Bellini E, Grieco MP, Raposio E. A journey through liposuction and liposculture: Review. Ann Med Surg. 2017; 24:53-60. doi:10.1016/j.amsu.2017.10.024
- Liposuction for chronic lymphoedema. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). www.nice.org.uk, published 23 August 2017.
- Summary document on liposuction safety & recommendations. British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) and British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS). www.bapras.org.uk, July 2020.
- Tummy tuck (abdominoplasty). British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS). baaps.org.uk (accessed 10 March 2021).
- Overview of liposuction techniques. British Association of Body Sculpting. www.babs.org.uk (accessed 31 March 2021).