How much fat can be liposuctioned?
Liposuction, the removal of fat from under the skin, is one of the most common cosmetic surgical procedures performed by plastic surgeons.
Liposuction can be performed in the office under local anesthesia when small amounts of fat are to be suctioned from specific areas, and under general anesthesia in a surgery center when larger amounts of fat need to be removed.
But how much fat to remove?
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Types of liposuction
Plastic surgeons divide major lipo into two main types based on the volume of fat removed.
Large volume liposuction
This surgery involves removing more than seven liters of fat. Some plastic surgeons have removed as much as 10 or even 15 liters of fat in one setting. It requires general anesthesia AND a hospital stay overnight. The volume of fat that is removed is so great that patients need to be monitored overnight in a hospital setting. Large fluid shifts will occur with the removal of so much fat and the patient can become severely dehydrated if aggressive intravenous fluid replacement is not performed.
How often do I do this type of liposuction? Never. As a board-certified plastic surgeon, patient safety is my first concern, and removing so much fat, even in the controlled environment of a hospital, is just not worth it when compared to the risks the patient will face. People who die from liposuction have invariably undergone large-volume liposuction.
Regular liposuction volume
This cosmetic surgery is the one we commonly hear about when someone has a liposuction. Two or three areas of the body are suctioned at one time, with about five to seven liters of fat removed by the plastic surgeon. The surgery is performed under general anesthesia but is an outpatient procedure, with the patient going home the same day. The risks from fluid shifts are much lower, and as long as the patient drinks a few extra glasses of water a day, recovery from this type of liposuction is smooth.
Although significant amounts of fat can be removed, it is better to remove fat in two sittings, at two different times, rather than risk disaster trying to suck out every ounce of fat at one time.