Definition & Overview

A suction-assisted lipectomy is a medical procedure used to remove fat deposits from the body. It is also known as liposuction or simply suction lipectomy, as opposed to a traditional lipectomy. The procedure works by removing fat cells through incisions made on the patient’s body. It is performed on specific body parts, such as the head and neck area.

Some people undergo the surgery to improve the shape of their neck, while others do so for medical reasons. The procedure can help treat medical problems such as obstructive sleep apnoea or neck cancer.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

A suction-assisted lipectomy for the head and neck is good for patients who want to have a better-looking neck. Also known as submental liposuction, it is popular for those whose necks are droopy and saggy. It is also helpful for patients with a “double chin.” These problems are usually caused by:

  • Natural skin ageing
  • Having a lot of extra fat in the neck
  • Diet-resistant cervicofacial deposits
  • Losing a lot of weight
  • Bariatric surgery


Head and neck liposuction is also used to treat some medical conditions. Some examples include sleep apnoea, head and neck cancer, neck tumours, blood clots, and many others. Some of these conditions make it hard for the patient to breathe.

A suction-assisted lipectomy is known as a traditional liposuction. This is because the fat is sucked out manually. The surgery is different from laser liposuction.

A lipectomy of the head and neck does two things:

  • Lessen the amount of fat in the neck area
  • Tighten the skin


A droopy neck can make people look older than they really are. Fatty necks also make people look overweight. A suction-assisted lipectomy can make them look younger and thinner.

How is the Procedure Performed?

The following are the steps taken to perform a head and neck lipectomy:

  • The surgeon first injects the patient with either mild or general anaesthesia. The patient will not feel any pain during the surgery.
  • Specific areas of the head and neck where incisions are made are then marked.
  • Small cuts in the skin are then made. The cuts are usually made in areas that are not easily visible.
  • A liposuction cannula, or a narrow metal tube, is then inserted through the cut in the skin. The cannula is only 2.4-mm wide, so it does not usually leave any scars. The doctor then sucks out all unwanted fats through the cannula.
  • Once all the fats have been removed, the surgeon will close the incisions with sutures.
  • The patient’s head and neck area will be wrapped with a soft dressing material. This protects the surgical area and helps speed up healing. The patient has to keep it on for at least 24 hours.


The main advantage of a suction-assisted lipectomy is that it is minimally invasive. Since the unwanted fats are suctioned out using cannulas, the procedure does not require large skin incisions. As a result, it also does not leave large, visible scars. However, it has limitations. For one thing, it cannot be performed on sensitive areas of the face.

The surgery usually takes around an hour. Afterwards, the patient’s head and neck are wrapped with compression dressing. Recovery may take up to 2 weeks, but it may take longer before the full and final effects of the procedure become noticeable.

The patient’s skin may be swollen and bruised after the surgery. Patients may also feel some sharp and tingling sensations in the skin. These do not need any treatment, and can be expected to just disappear as the skin continues to heal.

Recovering from a head and neck lipectomy is not a difficult experience. But patients have to go on a soft diet during the first few weeks. They also need to avoid strenuous exercises and activities.

Possible Risks and Complications

Patients who undergo a head and neck lipectomy are at risk of:

  • Allergic reaction to the anaesthesia
  • Infection
  • Damaged nerves
  • Stiffness
  • Numbness
  • Delayed healing
  • Loss of body fluid
  • Shrinkage
  • Shock
  • Scarring
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Wavy or bumpy skin near the affected area


Patients who face a high risk of suffering from complications include those who:

  • Have had prior trauma or surgery in the same body part
  • Are smokers
  • Have fibrosis or scar tissue
  • Are diabetic


By simply suctioning out the unwanted fats in the facial area, patients will have an improved neck contour. Unfortunately, the procedure cannot improve the appearance of sagging skin. The procedure can also not restore the elasticity of the skin. Thus, patients may need more surgery following the procedure depending on their aesthetic goals.

References:

  • Fedok FG, Houck JR, Manders EK. “Suction-assisted lipectomy in the management of obstructive sleep apnea.” Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1990; 116(8):968-970. http://archotol.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=619024

  • Apesos J, Chami R. “Functional applications of suction-assisted lipectomy: A new treatment for old disorders.” Aesth Plast Surg. 1991; 15(1): 73-79. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02273837

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