Liposuction Recovery

Liposuction Recovery Guide

tIn this complete guide you will learn everything you need to know about liposuction recovery. This guide applies to any type of liposuction.

In my career I have performed almost 1,000 Smartlipos, making it my favorite type of liposuction. 

Since post op regime can vary from surgeon to surgeon, you should check in with your own surgeon. If I did not perform your liposuction I sincerely hope you at least used a board certified plastic surgeon. 


Discomfort After Liposuction

The first concern on anyone’s mind, after any type of surgery, is always, how much discomfort will I be in? Please notice that I have intentionally used the word, “discomfort” rather than “pain”. What you expect, often has a huge influence on what you experience. This is true in most areas of our lives and is often true about your post op course. Everyone experiences some discomfort. I have had a large number of patients who took either no post op narcotics or just 1-2 doses.  

Although the internet can be a great educational tool, anyone can write whatever they want. I suspect that those who write alarming things about their post op course (for any and all surgeries), represent a very small percentage of patients. Also, I wonder if everything they write or talk about in their lives is negative dramatic hyperbole. 

If you have your procedure done by a board certified plastic surgeon, it would be most unusual (especially if you have had Smartlipo) to have significant pain. If you do, it should not last more than a few days. You certainly might have some occasional discomfort, even a few weeks later. However, it should not be severe and should be short lived. Any discomfort should diminish quickly.


Pain Medication

Other advice, I would offer in this area, is that everyone is different. Just because your friend did not have any discomfort and did not need any stronger medication, does not mean you will have the same experience. 

If you are more sore, then it is important that you take painkillers  regularly, usually every 4 hours. Also make sure to take a dose that makes you comfortable. The most common painkiller is called Narco. Narco is a narcotic mixed with Tylenol in the same pill, same as Vicodin. 

If you minimize the pain for 24-48 hours, your body will have a chance to sleep well and move around. Also stretching is beneficial. This will give you time to heal. You will hopefully get off the stronger medication in a day or two. This is far better than taking less medication and living with discomfort. This will mean you don’t move around and will also have trouble sleeping. Also, if you only take your narcotics for a short period of time and then stop them, you are extremely unlikely to run into any addiction problems. 

My patients are given Celebrex. Celebrex is in the same class of medication as NSAID’s, such as as Motrin, Advil, Ibuprofen and Alleve. This means you cannot take them if you are on Celebrex. You can stop the Celebrex and switch to one of the NSAID’s if you prefer them. 

I also give my patients a narcotic – usually Narco. The sooner you get off the narcotics, the faster you will bounce back. All narcotics, can cause constipation and a fuzzy head feeling. 

Another great option for many patients – is not to take narcotics at all. Instead alternate Tylenol and Motrin every 4 hours. It is important to not exceed the maximum daily dose, which will be on the pill container.


Liposuction Recovery Time

The vast majority of my patients will go back to work the next day, with no problem. Some patients, if they are larger and doing multiple areas, will have their surgery spread over 2 days. In such a case it is a good idea to take a day or two off of work. However, being at work (if not physically demanding) can be helpful, since it takes your mind off of your discomfort. Of course, you can always do your Smartlipo on a Friday, so that you have the weekend to recover. 

I strongly feel that you can shorten your recovery period by getting up and walking and gently stretching, the very next day and to do this daily. The worst thing you can do, after any surgery, is to lie in bed all day and night!


When Can You Shower?

I strongly encourage you to shower the very next morning. You will feel way better, if you shower. It does not lead to an increased infection rate. If anything, it should lead to a lower infection rate. You can return to work the next day, so you will hopefully want to shower. It is fine to get the incisions wet. Use whatever shower temperature feels good and whatever soap you want. You do not need to use Hibiclens after surgery. 


What About Heating Pads or Ice Packs After Surgery?

Heating pads should not be used. Your skin will be numb after Smartlipo and it is easy to give yourself a significant burn. Although ice packs are not necessary,  they can help with swelling. They also slow down conduction of pain receptors.


When Can You Exercise After SmartLipo?

I let all my patients exercise in any manner after 5 days. Before that I encourage walking and stretching. It is inadvisable to drive your heart rate way up. On the first few days, exercises like weight lifting will be easier to perform than bouncing exercises, like running.


When Can You Drive?

You can drive the next day and almost everyone does. The only reason that you cannot drive the same day, is because I give you an oral sedation pill. I have some patients, who are only doing one small area and they don’t take any oral sedation. They can immediately drive with no restrictions. 


When Can You Fly?

One of the great things about Smartlipo is are not put to sleep. As a result you can fly as soon as you want. I usually give an oral sedation pill (Ativan) before the procedure. After the procedure it is not uncommon to leak through the incisions. I would therefore  wait until the next morning to fly. 


Liposuction Recovery Swelling

Most patients are expecting way more swelling than they actually get. I tell my patients, that you can usually get into your snug jeans after surgery. Swelling will increase for 72 hours. Usually it swells enough to mask any improvement that I have given you, but not enough that anyone else will notice you looking abnormal. You should avoid weighing yourself for 2 weeks after Smartlipo. The reason is you will often have retained fluid due to the laser affecting the subcutaneous fat. 


What About Numbness And Hard Lumps?

Everyone experiences numbness of the skin after the procedure. It is due to the laser affecting the sensory skin nerve endings. The feeling will eventually come back. It can take weeks and rarely longer. This is important in the summer or on vacation, since you can more easily get a sunburn and not be aware of it. It is therefore important if you are out in the sun, after Smartlipo, to be extra vigilant about using sunblock. As the nerve endings are coming back to normal, some people experience, weird sensations (dysathesia). This is fine and things will return to normal. 

Hard lumps are quite common, especially in areas with more fat, that have been aggressively treated. This is from the fat reacting to the heat of the laser and the liposuction process. Gently massage these firm areas for a minute or two, a few times a day. They will decrease in size with time. It can take months for them to go away. Sometimes a small firm nodule can remain. These are not dangerous and they do not turn into cancers. They are almost never seen and only felt. 


Do I Need To Get Lymphatic Massage After Liposuction?

Some patients do get lymphatic massages after Smartlipo or other types of liposuction. Lymphatic massage may speed up the healing process and I am a big fan of all types of massage. It is certainly not necessary and it does add a significant amount of cost and time. If you want, you can massage your own treated areas for a few minutes per day. This will help speed up your recovery. You should definitely massage any firm areas that occur after Smartlipo.