Does Fat Come Back or Redistribute After Liposuction?

A common question patients have regarding Smartlipo or laser assisted liposuction is: “will the fat come back somewhere else after the surgery?”

Unfortunately there is not a straight-forward answer to this question. While the Smartlipo procedure successfully removes fat cells that will never regenerate, weight gain after laser lipolysis surgery is still possible without maintaining a healthy lifestyle of diet and exercise.

Understanding the Role of Lipolysis

By definition, lipolysis is the destruction of fat cells. Laser liposuction is a body contouring procedure ideal for patients who are healthy, within 20-25 pounds of their ideal body weight, who have isolated areas of the body where diet and exercise has not made a difference. It is NOT a weight loss procedure.

The Nature of Fat Cells and Weight Loss

Number of Fat Cells Remains Consistent in Adults

Studies have shown that the number of fat cells (adipocytes) adult patients have remains consistent throughout their lives, regardless of weight gain or weight loss.

Weight Loss Doesn’t Equal Fat Cell Loss

When an individual loses weight, the fat cells (adipocytes) are not actually going away. In reality, weight loss is decreasing the amount of lipid fatty acids that are contained within the cells. When the lipid fatty acids decrease, the fat cells shrink in size1.

When fat cells are destroyed, as they are during laser liposuction, they do not regenerate. However, it is possible for the remaining fat cells to produce higher amounts of the lipid fatty acids, resulting in the appearance that the fat has come back after undergoing liposuction.

Weight Gain After Liposuction is Possible

If patients do re-gain weight post-liposuction surgery, the initial weight gain will appear to “redistribute” to other areas of the body before it is noticeable in the area where liposuction was performed.

That said, results can be maintained so long as patients do their part to avoid weight gain post-liposuction by consistently adhering to healthy lifestyle that includes diet and exercise.

1. MacLean P., Higgins J., Giles E., Sherk V., Jackman M., (2015). The role for adipose tissue in weight regain after weight loss. Obesity Reviews. 2015 Feb;16 Suppl 1:45-54. doi: 10.1111/obr.12255.

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