Hate Your Love Handles? Flank Liposuction Could Help

flank liposuction
  • Flank liposuction targets the area between the bottom of the rib cage and the top of the waist.
  • The procedure is best suited for those trying to lose stubborn body fat that cannot be eliminated through dieting and regular physical exercise.
  • Eligible patients need to be in good overall health and close to their target weight.
  • Patients can get back to work after just a few days, though they may feel sore in the weeks following the procedure.

If you have trouble losing fat around your flanks — commonly referred to as love handles — you’re not alone. Body fat tends to linger around the body’s lower midsection.

Losing this weight through dieting and regular exercise can be a struggle, which is why many people turn to flank liposuction to sculpt their waistline and eliminate these fat deposits.

What is flank liposuction?

Flank liposuction is a routine, minimally invasive outpatient procedure that removes fat around the sides and back of the waistline while leaving few scars on the patient’s body.

Men use the procedure to create a V-shape from shoulders to waist that makes them appear slimmer and more fit. For women, it helps achieve the coveted S-shape, narrowing the waist at the sides.

The procedure requires general anesthesia. Once you are unconscious, the doctor will make a few small incisions along the sides of your waist and then insert a small tube, called a cannula, that will be used to suck the fat cells out of your body.

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What are the potential risks and side effects?

The risks associated with flank liposuction are the same as any liposuction procedure. After you’ve recovered from the procedure, it’s encouraged that you walk around and stay active to keep the blood flowing and prevent clotting in the treated areas.

Some patients may experience numbness or a loss of feeling. Infection is also possible but extremely uncommon. Following the procedure, you should be on the lookout for any signs of infection, such as a high fever. If an infection occurs, the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic.

If you neglect to follow the doctor’s orders, you may also develop scars where incisions were made. To help the body heal naturally, some patients may be asked to wear a compression garment for six to eight weeks. Smoking and lack of physical activity can increase your risk of scarring and other complications. Contact your doctor immediately if you notice anything out of the ordinary.

Though systemic risks are rare, they include significant blood loss, hypothermia, visceral perforation (also known as a ruptured bowl), fulminant infection or inflammation of the lungs, and pulmonary edema or fluid in the lungs.

What does the recovery process involve?

Depending on the success of the procedure and your overall health, you can expect to recover in just a few days after undergoing flank liposuction. In fact, some patients go in for the procedure on Friday and return to work the following Monday. However, you may feel sore for several weeks or months following the procedure.

Regarding the recovery process, Indianapolis-based plastic surgeon Dr. Joseph Fata says that “Most patients feel sore in the flanks and lower back for about one week. Bruising in the treatment area might not subside for two to three weeks. Swelling may not subside for one to two months, sometimes more, which is why final results are not immediately apparent.”

What results can you expect?

This procedure tends to be extremely effective for trimming the waistline and eliminating love handles, but results vary based on the age and overall health of the patient. If you undergo flank liposuction to refine your waistline after dramatic weight loss, your skin may be slow to adjust to your body’s new shape.

“As with any liposuction procedure, much depends on the elasticity of the skin,” confirms Long Island plastic surgeon Dr. Brian A. Pinsky. “Results may be unpredictable in patients with poor skin elasticity or significant skin excess.” This can be especially true for patients who, having undergone bariatric surgery, have already lost large amounts of weight.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons recommends removing no more than eight to 10 pounds of body fat at one time; otherwise, complications are likely. If you’re still dissatisfied with your figure after the first procedure, you may need to undergo a second procedure to remove additional fat cells.

What is the cost?

Depending on your location, the cost of flank liposuction should be around $3,000-$5,000.

Who is a good candidate?

Anyone who’s been struggling to eliminate their love handles may be a good candidate for this procedure, so long as they are healthy and close to their target weight.

The procedure is not meant to replace diet and exercise. If you’re interested in flank liposuction, you should maintain a healthy diet, have an active lifestyle, and be a nonsmoker.

Is flank liposuction the only way to get rid of love handles?

In addition to liposuction of the flanks, you can also try CoolSculpting, an FDA-approved, non-surgical procedure that removes stubborn body fat by freezing fat cells so the body can process and get rid of them naturally. CoolSculpting works on all areas of the body where stubborn body fat is commonly found.

Laser liposuction is another noninvasive procedure that uses a laser to get rid of fat cells. It usually involves less recovery time and is best for removing smaller sections of body fat than targeted by traditional liposuction.

Lutherville-Timonium, MD plastic surgeon Dr. Adam L. Basner has some advice for choosing between these procedures: “Laser lipo and CoolSculpting are appropriate for small areas when only a minor change is desired. Traditional liposuction is much more effective, with much greater results in all areas.”

Is flank liposuction right for me?

Overall, flank liposuction is an excellent choice when it comes to removing love handles and fat cells around the waist. You’ll need to be near your target weight and in good health. The risks are minimal, and the recovery process is relatively short.

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