Recovery After Liposuction: What to Expect

By

Sarah Lewis, PharmD

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Liposuction is one of the most common cosmetic surgical procedures in the world. It removes excess body fat deposits that are resistant to diet and exercise. This helps reshape and contour problem body areas. While liposuction is usually an outpatient procedure, recovery can take some time. It may be several weeks before you’re feeling back to normal, depending on the type and extent of the procedure. Follow these tips to speed your recovery.  

Set Realistic Recovery Goals

Your goals during recovery are to manage your pain, ensure wound healing, and control swelling. In fact, it may take several months for the swelling to completely resolve. Recovery requires patience and realistic expectations for how soon you will see your new body shape. Don’t get discouraged by your appearance right after liposuction. Talk to your doctor from the beginning about the best strategies to reach your recovery goals and what you can expect.

Take Your Pain Meds

Some amount of pain is common for several days following liposuction. Controlling pain is important because it helps you rest, recover, and increase your activities. Most people can control the pain with acetaminophen (Tylenol). Your doctor may recommend stronger pain relievers, depending on the type and extent of your liposuction. If your pain medication becomes ineffective, it may be a warning sign that something needs attention. Do not hesitate to call the doctor with any issues—it may prevent serious complications. Ask your doctor before taking other pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve). 

Wear Your Compression Garments and Bandages 

You will have swelling after liposuction. You will need to wear a compression garment or elastic bandages to help reduce swelling and bruising. The gentle support from the compression can also relieve your pain. Most people need to wear the compression garment for several weeks after surgery. Your doctor will give you specific instructions for wearing it. Keep in mind that there will still be swelling even after you are done wearing the compression garment. It can take several months for the swelling to fully resolve.

Return to Your Normal Schedule Slowly

Returning to normal activities can take several days to weeks. Doctors encourage walking right after liposuction to help the body start healing. Most people return to work within a few days and exercise within a week or two. Follow your doctor’s instructions because doing too much too fast can cause problems. Ask your doctor when it’s safe to return to daily activities, driving, work, sex, and sports or other leisure activities.

Baby Your Incisions

Wound healing takes about two weeks after liposuction. You may have drains in your wounds for a few days to drain fluids. Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to prevent infections. Follow all instructions for covering and dressing the wounds, keeping them dry, and showering. Avoid bathtubs, pools, or soaking the wounds until your doctor clears it. Your doctor will need to remove the drains and any stitches you have. Be sure to call your doctor if your wounds are red, swollen, warm, draining excess fluid, bleeding, or starting to open.

Watch for Complications

It’s important to be aware of possible complications while you recover so you can tell your doctor. Call your doctor right away if you have fever, worsening pain, or more swelling than expected. These could be signs of a complication. Other warning signs include shortness of breath, chest pain, or leg pain, redness or swelling. Call your doctor or seek medical attention if you experience any of these problems.

Be Patient as You See Your New Look Unfold

An ideal liposuction recovery is one that returns you to your active life being satisfied with your appearance. It’s important to have realistic expectations for your appearance. It’s also important to maintain a healthy weight afterwards for long-lasting results. It can take several months to realize the full effects of liposuction. And you may see scars and changes in your skin’s texture. Your doctor will check your progress as you heal. Follow your doctor’s recommendations and be sure to call your doctor with any concerns.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jul 24, 2016

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Medical References

  1. Liposuction Recovery. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. http://www.plasticsurgery.org/cosmetic-procedures/liposuction?sub=Liposuction+recovery
  2. Liposuction. National Health Service UK. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/cosmetic-treatments-guide/Pages/liposuction.aspx
  3. Tumescent Liposuction. University of California San Francisco Medical Center. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/treatments/tumescent_liposuction/
  4. What Can I Expect Before, During, and After Liposuction? U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/SurgeryandLifeSupport/Liposuction/ucm256146.htm

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