Liposuction is among the top five cosmetic surgical procedures in demand amongst Australians. It is a procedure by which excess fat is sucked out from under the skin. Liposuction has been used for many years to remove excess fat from the neck, stomach, back, hips, breasts, knees, thighs, upper arms and buttocks. If you have realistic expectations about sculpting and shaping your body while getting rid of those last few extra kilograms, it can be a wonderfully successful procedure.

But how effective is it? And are the results long lasting? Well, there is good news and bad news: The good news is that you can indeed lose those extra inches and keep them off. The bad news? The way to keep the fat from returning is the recommendation we hear all the time: Watch your diet, lead an active life and exercise regularly.

A recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity showed that fat often returns within one year of liposuction surgery but is distributed in areas that were not subjected to liposuction. Liposuction removes the fat cells from under the skin in designated areas. When we eat fatty foods and do not burn off the calories with sufficient exercise, other parts of the body fill up with new fat deposits. Also, according to Dr Philip Rome, a spokesman for the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons, it is normal to see “Fat re-accumulated preferentially in the abdominal region whether suctioned or not, and more slowly in the hip and thigh region.” Because the abdomen shelters essential organs, fat accumulation helps protect the organs. This protective role does not exist for the arms or thighs.

A 2005 US Food and Drug Administration consumer information review on liposuction says that the fat may not return, “If you eat a healthy diet and exercise”. If, however, “you eat more or exercise less than you should, your fat cells will become large again. You may gain fat in areas of the body where you didn’t have it before.”

Also, over time, new fat cells can form even in the area that was suctioned. No surgeon, however experienced and qualified, can prevent this. It is entirely up to you to do the hard yards necessary to retain your post-liposuction figure. Most surgeons warn their patients that liposuction offers no guarantee; especially if patients continue the same bad eating habits they had before the surgery.

Liposuction is not suitable for obese people who are trying to lose weight. Furthermore, you should not proceed with liposuction if you have a disease or illness that could impede the healing process, or if you are on medication that would delay healing. Despite these limitations, liposuction took second spot on the list of most sought after procedures in the US in 2010, and was the most popular cosmetic procedure in the 35 to 50 age group for both men and women.

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