Flabby underarms, stubborn love handles, and back fat that just won't budge. If any of this sounds familiar, you're in good company. Millions of Americans are frustrated by excess fat they can't seem to shed, no matter how hard they try. For this reason, liposuction is one of the most commonly performed plastic surgeries in the country. 

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, more than 400,000 liposuction procedures were performed in 2006. But despite its prevalence, many potential patients are confused about what the surgery entails and how it can benefit them. Read on to learn more.

Understanding the Procedure

Liposuction, commonly referred to as lipo, is an elective health-care procedure designed to permanently remove excess fat from specific areas of the body, such as the stomach, chest, arms, hips, or thighs. However, it is not a weight-loss technique or solution for overweight people who are looking to slim down.

Liposuction is most commonly-and successfully-performed on people who've tried traditional methods of weight loss but have yet to achieve desired results in a specific body area. By getting rid of stubborn fat, liposuction can help to contour the body in ways that cardiovascular or weight bearing activities can't.

Liposuction is usually performed under general anesthesia. During the procedure, the surgeon injects a saltwater solution into the area, then makes small incisions so excess fat can be vacuumed out through a long tubelike instrument. Depending on the area being treated, liposuction surgery may last anywhere from one to four hours. 

Recovery and Costs

It can take two weeks to six months to see the full results of liposuction, as swelling can mask the sculpting and fat removal that has taken place. Recovery time depends on the body part being treated and the patient's fitness level and tolerance to pain. 

The most common side effects of liposuction include pain, bruising, swelling, temporary numbness, and restricted movement. Medications can be prescribed to manage pain and discomfort. Most individuals who are in good health are able to return to work within two to four weeks, but your physician will be able to advise you on how safe and realistic these timeframes are. 

Liposuction is a costly procedure-ranging anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000, depending on the area treated. Although most insurance companies will not cover the cost of these elective procedures, companies such as Capital One offer financing options specifically designed for liposuction patients.