Does Fat Return After Liposuction?

Many women and men may have read with dismay the current study from the University of Colorado indicating that fat removed via liposuction returns to another area of the body. The study published in Obesity,by the University of Colorado, appears to have valid controls in terms of measurements, however, the directive to “not change lifestyle ” may be problematic.

Having performed liposuction for over twenty years, including many of the newer, less invasive forms of liposuction in the last five years, I have had a different experience with my patients than the study would suggest. Liposuction has never been described as, nor should it be considered, a weight loss procedure. As I tell my patients, the procedure is best for people who are basically in good shape with isolated areas of fat that they wish to reduce. Often these areas of fat are dictated by genetics and will not reduce on their own regardless of the patient’s efforts. Once fat cells are removed via liposuction, they do not return. They are permanently destroyed. If the patient does not gain weight, they usually are extremely happy with their results and the area of fat does not automatically show up in some other area of the body as the study suggested. The Colorado study does not state the height of the patients, specific weight, or what is meant by “not changing their lifestyle.”

On the other hand, if the patient is basically overweight, and believes liposuction is a magic bullet to help them reduce, they may be disappointed. In such a case, the study would be correct in that the fat cells do not return to the area they were removed from, but may show up in other areas. In other words, the fat cells were there for a reason in the first place. If diet is not altered, it is likely that fat will return, but not to the treatment area.

Liposuction is not, and never has been, a weight loss solution. Proper diet and exercise are still the only way to remain fit and healthy. On the other hand, I have seen many people over the years who have felt that reshaping their problem areas of fat through liposuction, has given them the impetus to lose some weight, exercise more, and in general, feel better about their body. The notion that “you can’t fool mother nature” and that no matter what you do, the fat will return to other areas of the body flies in the face reality. Proper patient selection and communication about what liposuction can and cannot accomplish are the best tools to ensure patients are satisfied with their results.

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