Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Liposuction

Liposuction

Treatment Overview

Liposuction removes fat from your body using suction. During the procedure, small, thin, blunt-tipped tubes (cannula) are inserted through tiny cuts in the skin. Fat is suctioned out through these tubes as the doctor moves the tubes around under the skin to target specific fat deposits.

In recent years, improved techniques have made liposuction safer, easier, and less painful.

Liposuction is usually done as an outpatient procedure in a properly equipped doctor's office, ambulatory surgery center, or hospital. In general, it does not require an overnight hospital stay unless a large volume of fat is being removed. Local anesthesia is used in some cases. And you may or may not be given a sedative to help you relax. If a large area or volume of fat is being treated, general anesthesia or deep sedation with a local anesthetic may be used.

Types of liposuction

Techniques include:

Tumescent liposuction.

A local anesthetic is used to numb the area of your body where the tube will be inserted. Next, a large amount of an anesthetic solution containing lidocaine and epinephrine is injected into the fatty tissue before traditional liposuction is done. Tumescent liposuction may not require general anesthesia (which makes you sleep through the procedure).

Ultrasound-assisted liposuction.

This technique uses ultrasound to liquefy the fat, which makes it easier to remove. This technique may be particularly helpful in removing fat from the neck, upper abdomen, sides, and back.

Laser-assisted liposuction.

This technique uses low-energy waves to liquefy the fat, which is removed through a small cannula.

What To Expect

What To Expect

After the procedure, the area of the body that was treated will be covered with a compression garment or elastic bandages. This helps to reduce swelling, bruising, and pain. Wear them all the time, except when taking a shower, for as long as your doctor says. Expect a lot of bruising and swelling for at least the first 7 to 10 days.

Fluid may drain from the incision sites for several days. You may be given antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection.

Most people are able to get up and move around as soon as the treatment is finished and after the effects of the anesthesia and any sedation have worn off. You can return to your normal activities as soon as you feel comfortable. This may take several days to a few weeks. Most people can return to work within a few days. Recovery may take longer if large areas were treated.

Why It Is Done

Why It Is Done

The main purpose of liposuction is to reshape one or more areas of your body, not to reduce body weight. Liposuction is typically used on "problem" areas that have not responded well to diet and exercise. These areas are often on the outer thighs and hips on women and the waist and back on men. The face, neck, abdomen, back, buttocks, legs, and upper arms are all commonly treated areas.

Liposuction is sometimes used in combination with other cosmetic surgery procedures, such as a "tummy tuck" (abdominoplasty), breast reduction, or face-lift.

Liposuction may also be used to treat certain medical conditions, including:

  • Benign fatty tumors (lipomas).
  • Abnormal enlargement of the male breasts (gynecomastia or pseudogynecomastia).
  • Problems with metabolism of fat in the body (lipodystrophy).
  • Excessive sweating in the armpit area (axillary hyperhidrosis).

Liposuction is not used to treat obesity. It will not get rid of cellulite or stretch marks.

How Well It Works

How Well It Works

Liposuction is usually very effective at removing fat deposits in small areas. But if you regain weight after having liposuction, the fatty bulges that were removed are likely to return or may appear in a different place.

Some improvement in body contour is usually noticeable right after surgery. And improvement may continue for several weeks or even months as the swelling goes away. The full effects of having liposuction may not be visible for several months to a year.

Liposuction (except for laser liposuction) generally does not tighten the skin over the treated area. After fat has been removed, the skin around the area may be somewhat loose. It may take up to 6 months for the skin to tighten around the treated area. Some people's skin is very elastic and retracts more quickly than other people's skin. Younger skin tends to have greater elasticity than older skin.

People who expect liposuction to help them lose weight are usually disappointed.

Risks

Risks

Liposuction done by an experienced doctor in a properly equipped facility is usually safe. Having more than one area treated, or having a very large area treated, may increase the risk of complications during or after the procedure.

Common side effects of liposuction include:

  • Temporary swelling, bruising, soreness, and numbness in and around the treated areas.
  • Irritation and minor scarring around the incision sites where the cannulas were inserted.
  • Baggy or rippling skin. The skin will usually tighten and retract after a few months. But in some people the skin may remain somewhat loose.

Less common side effects include:

  • Permanent color changes in the skin.
  • Uneven skin surface over the treated area.
  • Damage to the nerves and skin. The heat generated during ultrasound-assisted liposuction may burn the skin or damage the tissue under the skin.

If you gain weight after having liposuction, your body may store the new fat in a different place than where you had fat cells removed. New fat can grow deep inside your body, around your organs, such as your heart or liver. This type of fat can be more harmful to your body than fat that is stored near the surface of your body, such as on your hips or thighs. So people who have liposuction need to be careful not to gain extra weight.

Dangerous complications

Although death is very rare with liposuction, it can happen. If you are having a large amount of fat removed, are obese, or have health problems, your risks go up. Possible complications include:

  • Excessive blood and fluid loss, leading to shock. But this is extremely unlikely.
  • Fat clots or blood clots, which may travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism) and become life-threatening.
  • Buildup of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema). This is most likely to occur when a large volume of fluid is injected into the body.
  • Infection. In some cases, antibiotics may be given before or after liposuction to help prevent infection.
  • Toxic reaction to the injected solution (lidocaine toxicity), especially if large areas or many areas are treated at one time.
  • A puncture into the cavity containing the abdominal organs or damage to an organ such as the spleen.

Liposuction should not be done in people who have severe heart problems, who have blood-clotting disorders (such as thrombophilia, a disorder in which the blood clots easily or excessively), or during pregnancy.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna

Audiences

Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

Cigna Company Information

About Cigna Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice [PDF] Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap

Disclaimer

Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities  that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from Cigna.com to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details