Liposuction, also known as liposculpture or suction-assisted lipectomy, is a treatment to remove excess body fat. It is carried out on areas of the body where deposits of fat tend to collect, such as the buttocks, hips, thighs and abdomen. Other popular areas for liposuction are under the chin, neck, upper arms, breasts, knees, calves or ankles.

Liposuction permanently removes fat cells and can alter body shape. But the remaining fat cells can grow bigger, so weight loss is not necessarily permanent if a person does not lead a healthy lifestyle after the operation.

Liposuction is not a treatment for obesity, and it will not remove cellulite or stretch marks. There is a limit to the amount of fat that can be safely removed, and the surgery carries a number of risks, such as infection, scarring and numbness.

Liposuction may also be used in the treatment of some medical conditions, such as:

  • lipomas: non-cancerous tumours of fat,
  • gynaecomastia: fatty breast tissue development in men, and
  • lipodystrophy syndrome: where fat is gained in one area of the body and lost from another as a side effect of some medicines that are used to treat HIV.

Liposuction on the NHS

Because liposuction is usually used to improve your appearance rather than your health, it is not normally available on the NHS. It may be available if used as part of reconstructive surgery or to treat certain conditions.

The NHS will not pay for surgery for cosmetic reasons alone. To receive cosmetic surgery from the NHS, you will normally need a referral from your GP. You will have to have a consultation with a plastic surgeon and an assessment by a psychiatrist or psychologist. They will decide whether there is enough social, psychological or physical benefit to justify surgery.


Last updated: 04 October 2011

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