Christopher Chung, M.D.
American Board of Plastic Surgery
Chief Medical Officer
Being prepared for the post-operative period after a liposuction procedure and knowing what to expect are important. Your surgeon and the nurse should give you prescriptions for postoperative use and instructions for how they want you to use them. Most liposuction procedures utilize tumescent fluid – this is an IV solution to which lidocaine for anesthesia and epinephrine, a vasoconstrictor, to minimize blood loss, has been added. This tumescent fluid is injected into the area to be suctioned at the start of the case.
At the end of the case, some surgeons suture the small skin openings closed, but many leave the openings open to allow any excess tumescent fluid to run out. The fluid that comes out will contain a small amount of blood in the excess IV fluid, so this drainage fluid has the appearance of red or maroon water. Your surgeon and nurse should recommend dressings to absorb this fluid and protective barriers to be placed on any upholstery or bedding. The drainage can last one to two days.
Patients are placed in a compressive garment or binder immediately following the surgery and instructions will be given when to take the first shower, usually one to two days after, and how to progress their activity. Patients are generally instructed to rest the first 24 hours and then start moving around more on the second or third day. Walking is a good physical activity and patients should advance to this as soon as they are able. However, they should avoid bending, twisting, heavy lifting, and other strenuous activities for 4-6 weeks or until cleared by their surgeon or nurse.
Most people will swell 2-3 days after their liposuction procedure and then it gradually goes down over time. The area suctioned may be bruised as well. The area can remain firm or even lumpy as the swelling recedes. You will be told when to start massaging the suctioned areas.
Individual healing varies, but most end up using their compression devices at least 2-6 months. Most will start to see results in the first days to weeks with a final result seen by 6 months postoperatively.
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