Liposuction recovery is shorter than the recovery period for many other plastic surgery procedures such as breast augmentations or tummy tucks. However, there is still a lot of healing your body needs to undergo in the days and weeks after the operation. Here’s an overview of what to expect:

Immediately After Surgery

If you were given general anesthesia, you can expect to wake up feeling disoriented and somewhat nauseous. You will be monitored for a while before release to make sure your blood pressure and other vital signs remain stable. With IV or oral sedation (that leaves you partly awake during surgery), you may feel woozy and sick to your stomach as well. Keep a bucket or tub handy for when you are being driven home. It isn’t unusual for patents to vomit as the effects of sedation wear off. You may also feel lightheaded if you stand up suddenly. Take your time and move slowly. Don’t have your friend drive you home from the clinic until you are able to get up and walk without feeling like you will faint.

Your First Days of Liposuction Recovery

Your caregiver should drive you home and stay by your side for at least 24 hours (preferably 48 hours). After you are feeling better and able to shower and dress on your own, you can be left alone with someone checking in on you occasionally. Within a couple of days, you should be able to take care of yourself — if you have set up your home properly to make everyday tasks like food preparation easy.

While you should spend most of the first two days resting, you should not remain lying down all the time. Get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour (except when you need to sleep). Gentle movement keeps your blood circulating to reduce the risk of blood clots and bruising. It also helps the remaining fluids injected during the liposuction procedure to drain, minimizing swelling and promoting faster healing. Remember that fluid draining from your incision sites may stain garments, upholstery and bedding. Lay down old towels to protect your bed and couch and wear loose, comfortable clothing you don’t mind getting rid of after your recovery.

Your First Weeks of Liposuction Recovery

You will need to continue wearing the compression garment provided by your surgeon for several weeks after your procedure. This garment helps minimize swelling and may assist your skin in bouncing back to conform to your new, slimmer contours. Other ways to reduce swelling are:

  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Elevating the affected body part (if you had liposuction on your arms or legs)
  • Avoiding salty foods

Symptoms to Expect during Liposuction Recovery

Besides swelling, which may be severe and last several weeks, most patients develop bruising within a few days of surgery. Discomfort, tenderness and redness are also common. These symptoms should fade and can usually be managed with cold compresses and Tylenol (just remember to check with your surgeon before taking any pain medications). After the first week, you may also try warm compresses and massage to decrease discomfort around the incisions. If your post-op symptoms start getting worse, or if you have signs of infections such as a fever or foul smelling pus draining from your incisions, call your surgeon immediately.

Results after Liposuction Recovery

Depending on the location of your liposuction surgery and the amount of fat removed, it may take as long as six months for the final results to settle in. Leading up to this time, you may see lots of changes such as uneven skin contours. This may initially make the treated area look less attractive than it did before surgery. However, if your skin thickness and elasticity is good, it should smooth out significantly as the treated area heals. There will still be small scars that should fade to a less noticeable color and texture over a period of about a year.