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Recovery After Liposuction: What to Expect

The benefits of liposuction don’t happen overnight. Here's what to plan for after surgery.
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What can I expect after my liposuction?

Knowing what to expect can help make your road to recovery after liposuction as smooth as possible. 

How long will it take to recover?

Most people stay in the surgeon’s office, surgical center, or hospital for an hour or two after a liposuction. Some people may stay in the hospital overnight. Your care team will discharge you when you are alert, breathing normally, and your vital signs, such as blood pressure and pulse, are stable. You may still be drowsy from sedation or anesthesia, so you will need a friend or family member to give you a ride home from your surgery. 

When you wake up from surgery, you may have a sore throat if a tube was placed in your windpipe during surgery. This is usually temporary, but tell your care team if you are uncomfortable. 

You will have bandages and possibly a compression garment covering the surgical area. The compression garment will help minimize swelling and maintain the new body shape. You may also have small drains in your incisions for a few days to drain away excess fluid and blood. Your doctor will remove them when drainage has stopped. You will most likely have swelling and bruising on the surgical area. The bruises should lessen within a few weeks. 

Recovery after surgery is a gradual process. Recovery time depends on the specific type of liposuction, the amount and areas of fat removal, your general health, age, and other factors. Full recovery may take from weeks to months, and it may take up to a year for your swelling to completely subside to show your more permanent body shape. 

Will I feel pain?

Pain control is important for healing and a smooth recovery. There will be discomfort after your surgery. Your doctor and care team will treat your pain so you are comfortable and can get the rest you need. Contact your doctor if your pain gets worse or changes because it may be a sign of a complication. 

When should I call my doctor?

It is important to keep your follow-up appointments after liposuction. Call your doctor if you have any concerns or questions between appointments. Call your doctor right away or seek immediate medical care if you have:

  • Bleeding

  • Breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, labored breathing, or wheezing

  • Change in alertness, such as passing out, unresponsiveness, or confusion

  • Chest pain, chest tightness, chest pressure, or palpitations

  • Fever. A low-grade fever (lower than 101 degrees Fahrenheit) is common for a couple of days after surgery. It is not necessarily a sign of a surgical infection. However, you should follow your doctor's specific instructions about when to call for a fever.

  • Inability to urinate, pass gas, or have a bowel movement

  • Leg pain, redness or swelling, especially in the calf, which may indicate a blood clot

  • Pain that is not controlled by your pain medication

  • Unexpected drainage, pus, redness or swelling from your incisions or drains

How might liposuction affect my everyday life?

If you have liposuction for a medical disease or condition, such as a lipoma, the liposuction may cure your condition or significantly reduce your fat deposits. If you have liposuction for cosmetic reasons, the new appearance of your affected body area or areas may give you increased satisfaction with your appearance and increase your self-confidence. 

The effects of liposuction, however, may be lost if you gain excessive weight. Many surgeons caution that it is important to be realistic about how much liposuction may improve your self-image, so be aware of what cosmetic liposuction can and cannot do for your overall appearance.

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 4, 2016

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Continuous peripheral nerve blocks in acute pain management. British Journal of Anaesthesia. http://bja.oxfordjournals.org/content/105/suppl_1/i86.abstract.
  2. Laser and Ultrasound Assisted Liposuction. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. http://www.plasticsurgery.org/Cosmetic-Procedures/Laser-and-Ultrasound-Assisted-Liposuction.html.
  3. Laser-assisted liposuction (SmartLipo). American Society of Plastic Surgeons. http://www.plasticsurgery.org/news-and-resources/technology-briefs/laser-assisted-liposuction-%28sma....
  4. Lipoma. Healthgrades. http://www.healthgrades.com/conditions/lipoma.
  5. Liposuction Information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/SurgeryandLifeSupport/Liposuction/def....
  6. Liposuction Procedure. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. http://www.plasticsurgery.org/Cosmetic-Procedures/Liposuction.html.

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