One of the first questions asked by most people considering having liposuction is, “How much fat can I lose with liposuction?”  Since that’s a reasonable question to have before undergoing this common surgical procedure, the reality is, it differs between which state you have your procedure performed in as well as the physical location of the surgery.

Some plastic surgeon doctors decide how much fat to remove on a patient-by-patient basis.  Some doctors decide the maximum amount according to whether the surgical procedure is performed in an office, surgical center or in a hospital setting. Some doctors are willing to take greater risks with patient safety where they are in a hospital.    Additionally, some states have set regulations on doctors on how much fat can be removed with liposuction in an out-patient setting (an ambulatory surgical center) or a hospital.  But there are still additional factors to consider.

From the medical literature, the accepted amount of fat that can safely be removed from any one patient during a single surgical procedure is 5000cc–approximately 11 pounds of fat and fluid or about the quantity of 2 ½  2 liter coke bottles. One must remember that liposuction causes significant fluid shifts in the body. Fluid containing salt water, lidocaine (a numbing medicine), epinephrine (a constrictor of blood vessels), and bicarbonate which buffers the solutions pH is injected through a small incision. The fat is then removed through thin hollow tubes called cannula. The surgery results in swelling of the tissues which comes from the water component of the blood itself and results in the blood losing its water and becoming thicker.

In Pennsylvania, as the medical director of The Kole Plastic Surgery Center, a licensed ambulatory surgical center in Southampton Bucks County, we abide by the 5 liter law in the interest of patient safety. By most medical standards, excessive liposuction of over the 5 liters is considered dangerous with documented deaths occurring with high volume liposuction, though rare.  Thus, while there is no clear medical consensus of how much fat removal is too much, it’s generally agreed upon that the more fat removed by liposuction,  the greater the risk to the patient’s health.

Liposuction procedures removing more than the recommended amount of fat and fluid have been shown to increase patients risks including anesthesia reactions, infections, shock, and heart failure and death. Other significant risks include developing blood clots, seroma (collections of fluid under the skin), shock and lidocaine toxicity (due to the large doses of the lidocaine anesthesia used).

Liposuction is not intended to be a quick weight-loss procedure, but a procedure for contouring excess fat deposits. Being obese is better treated with diet and exercise programs or by surgery procedures like gastric banding or by gastric bypass- not by liposuction.

To learn more about liposuction and whether you are a good candidate for this procedure, call our office at 215-315-7655 to schedule a private complimentary consultation with Dr. Kole.