In just ten years, liposuction has become popular in the war against aging. Its use is directed against fat that refuses to budge and skin that is beginning to sag. When diet and exercise have not been able to send saddlebags packing or to deliver slim hips, a flat tummy, or taut underarms, the prospect of surgically eliminating recalcitrant pockets of fat is appealing. More than 40,000 women each year are resorting to liposuction.
Liposuction is just what the name implies - a procedure that eliminates fat (lipos is the Greek word for fat) by sucking it away. The technique has been used for two decades in Europe, but has been embraced in the U.S. by plastic surgeons only since 1982.
The principal advantage of liposuction is that it not only eliminates fat from certain parts of the body, but it also offers assurance that the fat will stay off those spots. This is because once fat cells are gone, they will not be replaced.
Fat distribution is determined by heredity and diet, and deposition is completed by puberty. From then on, the number of cells remains constant. When we lose weight through diet or exercise, we merely deplete the fat content of these cells; the cells themselves lie in wait, to be refilled by the next dietary indulgence. Thus, even after weight loss, the areas of the body with the greatest concentration of fat cells will still be proportionately heavier. The only way to remedy this situation is to eliminate the excess fat cells permanently.
Although liposuction can do this, it is not a panacea for figure problems. It is not recommended for people who are generally overweight, but is reserved for those of normal weight who have small areas of stubborn fat. It is also suggested only for people whose skin is elastic enough to contract after the underlying fat has been removed - a factor that can eliminate women over age 50 and younger women whose skin is damaged by the sun.