It's not unusual, on the other hand, for liposuction to take up to 10 pounds of fat from a person, says Scott Spear, M.D., professor and chief of plastic surgery at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Experts tend to agree it's best to be at a "normal" weight when getting liposuction, and to rely on the procedure to get rid of stubborn fat pouches that have resisted dieting attempts. But Spear, for one, doesn't get preachy on his patients:
"The better the person's condition, the better the surgery will look. But I don't tell people they have to get in great shape first. If they come to me, they want to know what I can do for them, not what they should be doing."
Spear acknowledges the limits of liposuction's power, however. Liposuction "can make a fat person less fat, but if you're 50 pounds overweight, it probably won't have that much of an effect."
Down Sides of Liposuction in Perspective
With a properly trained surgeon and an adequately equipped operating facility — be it a hospital, outpatient surgery center, or a surgeon's accredited office-based facility — liposuction is generally safe, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
But complications, though rare, can occur with any of the liposuction techniques and should be explained by the plastic surgeon. Risks include infection, excessive bleeding, formation of blood clots, nerve damage, and excessive fluid loss.
Death from liposuction is extremely rare. Liposuction is not recommended for those with complicated diabetes, poor circulation, significant heart or lung disease, or those with recent surgery in the region to be suctioned.
Even without such complications, Spear says, "As a rule, the bigger the procedure, the more risk there's going to be."
For one thing, when a large amount of fat is being removed, patients typically get general anesthesia, which can carry greater risks than local numbing types of anesthesia often used for more limited liposuction.