Expert Q&A

Liposuction: A substitute for dieting?

Why can’t I just have liposuction instead of dieting?

-Madelyn from Arizona

Wouldn’t it be great if your excess fat could just be sucked out? No dieting, no exercise, just pay a visit to an outpatient surgery center for a couple hours and return home trim and fit. It would be nice if it was possible, but it’s not that simple.

During liposuction, the area to be treated is anesthetized (i.e. put to sleep so it won’t hurt). This requires injecting the area with a local anesthetic. If you wanted to lose 25 pounds, however, the volume of the anesthetic would probably be a toxic dose. To avoid this problem, general anesthesia (in which you’re completely put to sleep) might work. Unfortunately, it would increase the riskiness of the procedure and require a hospital stay.

Even if the anesthesia could be administered without killing the patient, removing a large amount of fat causes a major fluid loss. It’s a shock to the system to lose that much tissue all at once. Managing this shock would be an unnecessary risk and would require a hospital stay because of the significant risk of infection, heart and kidney damage, and even death.

If all those issues could be overcome, surgical removal of the fat would not fix obesity-related medical issues like diabetes. The body’s physiology changes only when fat goes away slowly through dietary changes and exercise. Simply removing the fat does not fix the disease. Moreover, continued overeating would cause the fat deposits left behind to grow.

Liposuction is best reserved for removal of small amounts of fat that cause cosmetic problems. It’s not a substitute for good diet and exercise habits.

For further information on surgery options for obesity see the following article from TheDietChannel: Overview of Drugs & Surgeries For Treating Obesity.

John Messmer, MD
Contributing Expert

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