How long is the typical recovery time for a modern, minimally invasive liposuction?
You’ve mentioned that patients return to work after 3 days or so. How about strenuous exercise? When are most patients cleared for full activity? Are there any lingering side effects?
Dr. Giraldo: Let’s see. Bruising and swelling are usually gone completely in less than 10 days, as long as they’re wearing their compression garment. After abdominal liposuction males and females both tend to get some genital bruising and swelling. I always make sure they understand that this is completely normal. It can look bad but is completely harmless, it’s just the effects of gravity on the collected fluid. I’ve never seen this go on longer than 2 weeks.
Side effects? Not really. I’d say the biggest side effect is post-lipo weight gain, but this is really about educating the patient properly. Liposuction is amazing but it’s not a miracle. Without lifestyle changes like a proper diet and exercise program weight gain is certainly possible. Liposuction, no matter how well it’s done, won’t make you “fat proof.” Most of my patients are pretty motivated, though, so this usually isn’t a problem.
Things like walking, elliptical machines, stationary bikes, and water aerobics. As for running, weight training, swimming, and things like construction work the times vary between patients. It’s on a case by case basis. It depends on how quickly the patient is healing, what they want to do, and what their overall health is like. I’ve had patients who were able to go back to lifting in as little as 3 weeks.
It takes longer for things to return completely back to normal. No pain, discomfort, soreness, bruising, or anything else. Maybe 6 to 12 weeks after an abdominal liposuction. Maybe 8 to 16 for the flanks or thighs. Necks and arms are quick, usually about 6 weeks.
There really aren’t “side effects” if it’s done right. I’ve seen liposuctions which don’t look right but that’s just because of over-suctioning. They took too much out. That’s the fault of the surgeon and is completely avoidable.
That’s a reasonable timetable, and recovery is pretty uneventful. Patients usually don’t want to hit the beach for a few weeks because of swelling and bruising. For vigorous twisting sports such as golf and basketball I usually have patients wait the full 8 weeks. It does vary, though. I’ve seen guys able to strength train after 4 weeks, no problem.
These procedures are excellent and there really aren’t any side effects. We’ll always err on the side of caution, though. When in doubt I tell my patients to wait longer. I tell them “look, this is an investment in yourself. You paid good money for this, so let’s wait a couple more weeks just to be absolutely, 100% sure.” They get the picture. In 12 years of practice I’ve never seen anyone get into trouble by trying to exercise too soon.
That being said we’ll always keep our eyes out for the big stuff, the very, very rare complications. Things like blood clot formation. This almost never happens, but it’s still something you look out for during follow-up appointments. It’s safety first, always.