Is Tumescent Liposuction Right for You?

BY: Stephanie McDaniel |Jul 10, 2015
Is Tumescent Liposuction Right for You?

In Southern California, beach season never really ends. Nobody’s complaining about this, but it does make looking great a more pressing issue year-round. Fortunately for the sunbathers and surfers who dot the coast of San Diego, liposuction has become a realistic option that can erase unwanted fat from thighs and hips. 

But not all types of liposuction are the same. When most people hear that word, the first thing they picture is an invasive procedure that sucks up fat with a vacuum tube. In fact, one of the most common forms of liposuction is tumescent liposuction, a minimally invasive treatment that targets fat locally and might not be exactly what you imagine. Read on to find out if this type of liposuction may be right for you.

What is Tumescent Liposuction?

Tumescent liposuction is a process that removes localized areas of unwanted fat from the body. It was developed in Italy and France during the early 1980s as an alternative to earlier, potentially more dangerous forms of liposuction. 

During this minimally invasive procedure, a medical technician injects a diluted anaesthetic under the skin. This briefly makes the skin appear swollen (thus earning the name “tumescent,” which means swollen or firm). The technician then carefully removes any excess fat cells, clearing out much of the anaesthetic in the process. This reduces the area to its normal size, sans fat.


Because this technique uses a localized anaesthetic, patients should feel minimal pain and discomfort. The presence of the anaesthetic also prevents excessive bleeding and bruising, giving those who go under the knife a quicker recovery time than would be possible with traditional liposuction. Recovery takes less than two weeks in most cases.

Possible Downsides

It’s worth noting that, for all of its many benefits, tumescent liposuction is a relatively slow procedure. While you're undergoing treatment, you're likely to be in the medical center anywhere from three to four hours. In that time, the process removes up to five liters of fat from under the skin—as much as can be safely extracted at once. 

Extracting that amount of fat does make a difference, though it’s not a hugely dramatic one. In any case, it should be enough to give you a small boost of confidence the next time you’re riding the waves at Black’s Beach or paddleboarding out on Mission Bay. 

For more information about other types of liposuction, see our guide to traditional and noninvasive procedures.