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Tumescent Liposuction describes a type of local anesthesia done while awake.

The word tumescent means firm and reflects the feel of the fat layer after anesthesia is infused.  The anesthesia consists of a saline (salt-water) solution that contains lidocaine, epinephrine and bicarbonate.  Lidocaine is a local anesthetic that you commonly get at the dentist.  It blocks the nerve fibers that sense pain.  Epinephrine is a drug that causes blood vessels to constrict.  It is used to prevent bleeding during the procedure as well as prolong the effect of the lidocaine.  Bicarbonate is similar to baking soda and is used to adjust the pH of the fluid to reduce its acidity.

The tumescent fluid is mixed prior to the liposuction procedure.  It is infused through small incisions into the fat layer through a hollow tube (cannula).  As the fluid is pumped into the fat layer, it causes it to expand and get firm.  This provides working space for the liposuction procedure and minimizes trauma to important structures.  Commonly a waiting period of 15-30 minutes then follows.  This allows the lidocaine and epinephrine to settle in, numbing the area and constricting the blood vessels.

Once the waiting period is over, the liposuction procedure then can begin.  The area to be treated is totally numb by now and the patient may feel some vague sense of movement.    At this point, the tumescent anesthesia has another important function.  The fat is solid and the tumescent liquid provides a way for it to be suctioned from the area.  At the end of tumescent liposuction, the remaining anesthetic  provides continuing numbness as the patient returns home.  The residual tumescent fluid is usually allowed to drain from the liposuction area.  By doing this, healing is sped up and infection prevented as any bacteria will also drain from the area.  Massage, exercise and compression garments are used to help drain the tumescent fluid and resolve the swelling.  Final results can take 3-6 months.

tumescent liposuction

Tumescent Liposuction Advantages:

  • provides anesthesia during and after procedure without risk of general anesthesia.
  • important structures retain sensitivity and cannot be harmed without you feeling it.
  • blood loss minimized due to effect of epinephrine.
  • provides working space for liposuction as well as protecting surrounding tissues from trauma.
  • allows solid fat to be suctioned.
  • prevents infection by allowing fluid to drain.
  • virtually no recovery and the postoperative risks of surgery due to bed rest are avoided.
  • no anesthesia fees
  • decreased risk of nausea and vomiting.
  • you are awake!


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