Liposuction is typically a minor outpatient procedure. While everyone has a different experience of liposuction and the recovery, most people find that healing takes between two and four weeks.
Preparing for Liposuction and Recovery
Prior to your liposuction procedure, you’ll have one or more consultation sessions with your plastic surgeon. Part of the time will focus on minimizing risks and complications during and after the procedure.
The preparation for liposuction influences your recovery. For instance, if you’re a smoker, your surgeon will ask you to stop smoking for at least four weeks before the procedure. This is important because smoking reduces your blood oxygen levels, which delays healing and increases your infection risk. If you can stop smoking before and during your recovery period, you’ll be less likely to experience recovery complications.
If you take certain medications—such as blood thinners—your plastic surgeon may also ask you to modify your medication regimen. Again, this is to minimize risks during surgery and afterwards.
Items to Have on Hand During Recovery
Before your surgery it can be helpful to gather items you might need for your recovery. Keep them together in a place that’s easy to access, so you won’t need to go hunting for anything during your rest period.
Some items to have on hand include:
- Loose, comfortable, breathable clothing
- Absorbant pads (like Poise® pads) to absorb fluids
- Comfortable pillows and blankets
- Bottled water
- Plain crackers or other bland foods to help with post-anesthesia nausea
- Pain medication prescribed by your plastic surgeon
- Books and other quiet activities, like knitting or watching your favorite binge-worthy TV show
What Does Normal Liposuction Recovery Look Like?
Once you get home from the hospital or clinic, you’ll likely feel like lying down for a while. Don’t fight this feeling—your body needs time to rest and recover! Your body will feel bruised and tender for at least a couple of days, so take it easy.
Right After Surgery
Immediately following surgery, you’ll be fitted with a compression garment. This is a garment that you wear during recovery to reduce swelling. It’s important to wear it for as long as your surgeon recommends, even if it feels a little uncomfortable.
Most people who have liposuction will go home the same day of the procedure. There are some exceptions to this. For instance, if you have liposuction in multiple areas or if you have other cosmetic surgery procedures in addition to liposuction, you might need to stay overnight at the hospital or surgery center.
In the First Few Days
Over the first day or two after you arrive home, there will be some fluid discharge at the liposuction sites. This is normal and not something to worry about. Sit or lie down on an old towel or absorbent pad to absorb the fluid.
Other recovery tips:
- For the first few days, wear your compression garment all the time.
- Drink plenty of water, and eat as you feel like it.
- Move regularly while you’re resting – Every couple of hours, get up to walk around for a few minutes. This is important to prevent blood clots from forming.
- Five to seven days after the procedure, you’ll visit your plastic surgeon for a post-op appointment – If you have any questions or concerns at this time, be sure to speak up!
How Long Does Recovery from Liposuction Take?
Liposuction is generally an outpatient procedure that people recover from quickly. We advocate an “active recovery” process, where most people return to light activity the first day after the procedure and to work on the second day. Most patients should start light cardiovascular exercise on the second day after surgery. Generally, patients only need ibuprofen for pain control.
The healing process may be longer if you have more extensive liposuction in multiple areas of your body.
If you decide to combine liposuction with another procedure—such as a breast augmentation with fat transfer or a butt lift—your recovery experience will be different. You’ll be dealing not only with liposuction recovery, but also with the aftereffects of any other procedures you have.
In all cases, follow your plastic surgeon’s instructions for your recovery. This will minimize the risks and make your recovery as comfortable as it can be.
Common Liposuction Recovery Side Effects
These liposuction side effects are temporary. They should last only a few days to a few weeks. If one or more of these side effects persists, talk to your plastic surgeon:
- Swelling and bruising, and discomfort at incision sites – This usually fades after a few weeks.
- Changes in skin sensitivity at or near incision sites
- Build-up of fluid underneath the skin at and near incision sites
- Fluid leakage at incision sites
- Discoloration at incision sites – This should be minimal and should fade over the course of a few months.
- Irregular skin contouring – For instance, skin may look wavy, bumpy, loose, or rippling.
Pain Medication for Recovery
In the first day or two of recovery time, you’ll have some pain and tenderness at the incision sites. The pain is similar in intensity to the kind you might feel after a tough workout.
Even though you’re uncomfortable, avoid non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These include aspirin and ibuprofen. All these medications can increase bruising and fluid drainage.
Talk to your plastic surgeon before your procedure for recommendations for over-the-counter or prescription medications. Most people can manage their pain with over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol®). Some people do experience higher-intensity pain, so it may be a good idea to ask your surgeon about a prescription pain reliever, just in case.
Warning Signs of Liposuction Complications
Although this cosmetic procedure is minor and minimally invasive, it does have some risks. While recovering from liposuction, if you experience any of these warning signs, seek emergency medical attention:
- Pus or foul-smelling liquid draining from one or more incision sites – This may indicate an abscess or infection.
- Leg swelling, pain, tenderness, and redness – These symptoms may indicate deep vein thrombosis.
- Difficulty breathing, rapid or irregular pulse, dizziness, or coughing up blood – These symptoms may warn of a pulmonary embolism.
- Numbness or weakness, especially on one side of your body; confusion; difficulty speaking; vision problems; dizziness; trouble walking; severe headache – These are signs of stroke, which is a possible consequence of deep vein thrombosis.
How Long Does It Take to See the Results of Liposuction?
Once you have had liposuction, it takes only a week or two to see the initial results. At this stage, you’ll be able to easily see that your body’s silhouette has improved. Because it takes time for the swelling to completely disappear, it may be several months before you see your full results.
Even a minor surgical procedure like liposuction can cause some anxious feelings. If you have any questions or concerns about your procedure or recovery, bring them up at your initial consult. A Board-certified, experienced plastic surgeon like Dr. Ver Halen should be ready to help you set your fears to rest and make your recovery a more pleasant experience!