Does Fat Removed Via Liposuction Come Back Elsewhere?

  • Posted on: May 4 2011
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There is a fascinating liposuction study recently reported about in the New York Times.  This new study, from the University of Colorado, focused on whether fat removed via liposuction can come back in a different area.  From the NY Times:

In the study, the researchers randomly assigned nonobese women to have liposuction on their protuberant thighs and lower abdomen or to refrain from having the procedure, serving as controls. As compensation, the women who were control subjects were told that when the study was over, after they learned the results, they could get liposuction if they still wanted it. For them, the price would also be reduced from the going rate.

The result, published in the latest issue of Obesity, was that fat came back after it was suctioned out. It took a year, but it all returned. But it did not reappear in the women’s thighs. Instead, Dr. Eckel said, “it was redistributed upstairs,” mostly in the upper abdomen, but also around the shoulders and triceps of the arms.

Is this really possible?  I do a lot of liposuction surgery (probably over 150 a year) and have never had a patient come back and claim that, while their weight remained stable, fat returned to a different body part.  I’ve always believed, as many plastic surgeons, that the fat removed from liposuction is gone forever.  As long as the patient keeps his or her lifestyle the same, the fat should not return.   Dr. Ramona Bates, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Arkansas, and author of the excellent Suture For a Living Blog, explains her theory about this in a recent post, which can be found here.

When I did my fellowship in Beverly Hills, one of our employees underwent liposuction twice.  She would laugh that she could gain weight and every year just have it liposuctioned back out.  Joking, I’d reply that eventually she’d have a tiny little body but chubby fingers and toes.  Maybe there is actually some truth to that!

In Stitches News: I will be doing a book signing and reading at Schuler Books in Okemos, Michigan at 7pm Thursday, May 5th.  Hope you can make it!  For more, click here.  Please be sure to buy a copy of my book, In Stitches, on sale via or today to read all about the shocking, secret life of a plastic surgeon!

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