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Liposuction (Thighs and Buttocks)

Liposuction can help get rid of localized fat in the thighs and buttocks. The liposuction procedure involves inserting a suction device into fatty areas between skin and muscle -- resulting in a smoother, improved body contour.

The best candidate for liposuction is a person of average or only slightly above average weight, in good health, with a localized area of fat that just won't go away. Ultrasound-assisted liposuction is another possible technique. This involves using high-frequency sound waves to liquefy fat beneath the skin's surface before it is removed with gentle suction.

The Procedure: Liposuction typically is done as an outpatient procedure; however, if a large volume of fat is being removed, hospitalization may be necessary.

Before the procedure begins you will be given an anesthetic. Depending on the degree of fat being removed and the type of liposuction being performed, anesthesia varies. It may only be locally applied or you may require a general application, in which case the surgery will be done while you are sleeping.

The surgeon will then inject a solution of saline, a mild painkiller, and epinephrine, a drug that contracts blood vessels, into the liposuction area. It helps the surgeon remove the fat more easily, helps reduce blood loss, and provides pain relief during and after surgery.

After small incisions are made, the suction device is inserted into fatty areas between skin and muscle and fat is gently removed. The length of the procedure will vary with the amount of fat removed.

In ultrasound-assisted liposuction, you get an injection that contains a local anesthetic as well as a solution that causes the fatty area to swell slightly. A thin tube-like ultrasonic probe is inserted beneath the skin through a small incision. The probe is maneuvered under the skin, emitting sound waves that cause fat cells to collapse and liquefy. The liquefied fat and anesthetic fluid are removed using gentle suction.

Common Side Effects: You should expect bruising, swelling, and soreness for a least a few weeks. However, every person's outcome will vary based on factors such as volume of fat cells removed and area of removal.

Complications: Although rare, risks include infection and skin discoloration. As with any major surgery, there is a low risk of death.

Recovery: Under most circumstances, recovery is usually quick. Most people can return to work within a few days and to normal activities within about two weeks.

Results: If you gain weight after the procedure, fat can build up in the area again. To keep your new shape and new weight after liposuction, you must follow a proper diet and exercise plan.

Find out more about liposuction.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael J. Wheatley, MD, December 10, 2007.

SOURCES: Christopher Livingston, MD, assistant professor of plastic surgery, University of Texas Medical School, Houston. WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: "Liposuction."

Thigh Lift

One cosmetic option for thighs that have excess skin and fat is a thigh lift. Plastic surgeons now have newer procedures for inner thigh lifts. Often, liposuction is performed along with the thigh lift to improve the thigh's overall appearance.

The Procedure: The incision is made on the upper and inner region of the thigh, and excess fat and skin is removed. This is done on an outpatient basis, and can last up to four hours.

Common Side Effects: Bruising, swelling, numbness may last several weeks to months.

Complications: Although rare, infection, bleeding, fluid collection, and open wounds can occur.

Recovery: Most patients are back to their normal activities in about two to three weeks, and back to full activity in four to six weeks. The incision will take one year to fully heal. Vitamin E and scar-healing products can help the scar fade.

Results: In combination with diet and exercise, results are lifelong. However, touch-up procedures may be required.

Find out more about thigh lifts.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael J. Wheatley, MD, December 10, 2007.

SOURCES: Christopher K. Livingston, MD, assistant professor of plastic surgery, University of Texas Medical Center, Houston. WebMD Medical Reference: "Arms, Thigh, Buttock Lifts."

Varicose Veins/Spider Veins Treatment (Sclerotherapy)

For decades, sclerotherapy has helped eliminate varicose veins and spider veins. The procedure involves an injection of a solution (usually salt solution) directly into veins. This eventually causes the blood to clot in the vein. Scar tissue forms over the vein, and it gradually disappears.

Varicose veins are large, raised, swollen blood vessels that twist and turn. Spider veins are smaller, red, purple and blue vessels that are also twisted and turning. Spider veins are easily visible and are found just under the skin. Both varicose and spider veins occur most commonly in the legs.

Sclerotherapy is considered a tried-and-true procedure. Up to 80% of injected veins can be eliminated with sclerotherapy. For larger veins, there are various vein-stripping procedures that can be used. For smaller spider veins, laser therapy is also a successful treatment option.

The Procedure: A very fine needle is used to inject the salt solution. During the injection, you may feel mild discomfort and cramping for a minute or two. The number of veins injected in one session varies, depending on the size and location of the veins. Depending on how many veins are being treated, sclerotherapy generally takes 30 minutes or less.

Common Side Effects: Itching can last for one or two days after the procedure. You may have raised, red areas at the injection site. These should disappear within a few days. Bruising can last several days or weeks. Skin discoloration is also possible.

Some people have an allergic reaction to the sclerosing agent used in the procedure, but this is rarely serious. If you have a history of allergies, tell your doctor.

Complications: In rare cases, inflammation can occur in the groin area -- or there may be a sudden swelling of the leg -- or small ulcers might form at the injection site. Contact your doctor immediately if this occurs.

Recovery: After the treatment you will be able to drive yourself home and resume your regular daily activities. Walking is encouraged. You will be instructed to wear support hosiery to "compress" the treated vessels. For the first 48 hours, you must avoid hot water, including baths and compresses, and direct exposure to sunlight.

Results: In general, spider veins respond in three to six weeks, and larger veins respond in three to four months. If the veins respond to the treatment, they will not reappear. However, new veins may appear at the same rate as before.

Find out more about sclerotherapy.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael J. Wheatley, MD, December 10, 2007.

SOURCES: Jeffrey R. Marcus MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine. WebMD Medical Reference in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: "Sclerotherapy."

Wound Repair

Burns, traumatic injuries, and any serious wound can benefit from reconstructive surgery. A skilled plastic surgeon can offer several procedures to improve your mobility, function, and the appearance of your wounds.

The Procedure: Depending on your injury, the surgeon will suggest various treatments. Among them:

  • Skin grafts: This is most often used for burn patients, when skin is removed from one area of the body and transplanted to another. Skin grafts are also used for breast or nose reconstruction procedures.
  • Microsurgery: This surgery involves sewing tiny blood vessels or nerves to reattach a severed finger, toe, ear, or lip. Microsurgery is also used to treat facial paralysis or reconstruct breasts.
  • Free flap procedure: Muscle, skin, or bone is transferred from one part of the body to another. The flap procedure is used for breast reconstruction or head-and-neck cancer surgery. This also involves microsurgery.
  • Tissue expansion: This procedure prompts your body to "grow" extra skin for use in breast reconstruction, scalp repair, or other procedures. A balloon expander inserted under the skin helps skin to stretch and grow, similar to a woman's skin during pregnancy.

Common Side Effects: The side effects will depend on the procedure used. Your doctor can discuss side effects in detail.

Complications: There is risk of infection at the surgical site.

Recovery: Healing from these procedures generally takes several months. Once you are released from the hospital, you will recuperate at home. It is important to follow your doctors' instructions regarding wound care and infection prevention.

Results: The results of reconstructive surgery will last your entire life. They will be affected by the changes of aging, but the basic structural changes will remain intact.

Find out more about plastic surgery for burns, traumatic injuries, and other wounds.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael J. Wheatley, MD, December 10, 2007.

SOURCES: Jeffrey R. Marcus MD, assistant professor of surgery and pediatrics, Duke University School of Medicine. WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: "Plastic Surgery for Burns, Traumatic Injuries and Other Wounds."

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