A range of weight-loss surgeries and treatments can manage difficult cases of excess weight or pockets of stubborn fat. Indicated to take on the negative health effects of obesity, bariatric surgery refers to a class of treatments that changes the digestive system to restrict your food intake.
Liposuction, a cosmetic, body-contouring procedure, involves a more targeted removal of fat content. Though both procedures may result in weight loss, it’s important to understand your options. Liposuction is better used for body contouring, while bariatric surgery is effective for weight loss.
This article breaks down the differences between bariatric surgery and liposuction. However, make sure to see a health provider, so you can receive proper treatment.
Bariatric surgery is a range of techniques focused on changing your body’s ability to digest food. This leads to rapid weight loss, which is sustained with dietary and lifestyle changes. Each bariatric surgery has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and the choice to go ahead involves careful consideration with a bariatric surgeon and your provider.
Primarily, bariatric surgeries are indicated in cases of morbid obesity, a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more, or a BMI of 35 or more alongside a related condition, such as type 2 diabetes or sleep apnea. They may also be indicated with a BMI of 30 or more if other measures to lose weight haven’t worked.
While bariatric surgery doesn’t lead to instant results, it causes rapid weight loss within three to six months of the procedure. This is caused by changes to your eating patterns and should be accompanied by lifestyle changes. After one year, researchers found those who had one type of surgery, gastric bypass, lost 31.2% of total weight. This figure was 25.2% with another common approach, gastric sleeve, and 13.7% with a third, gastric band.
In the United States, there are three main bariatric procedures. These options are:
Though largely safe, bariatric surgery is associated with a range of side effects and adverse events. Depending on the surgery you have, you may experience:
In rarer cases, adverse side effects require revision surgery or additional treatment. These include:
The rapid weight loss accompanying bariatric surgery can also cause symptoms. During the first three to six months after treatment—as your body is shedding those pounds the quickest—there may be other symptoms, including:
Notably, bariatric surgery—and the rapid changes afterward—can also increase the risk of developing depression and other mental health disorders. Psychological evaluation is necessary before treatment, and counseling is typically needed afterward.
Though bariatric surgery is safe, its complications can become fatal. Advances in minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery techniques over the last two decades have dramatically improved outcomes. Deaths are very rare; the mortality rate of these procedures is between 0.03% and 0.4%, making it about as safe as a hip replacement.
Bariatric surgeries may be performed in an outpatient clinic or a hospital; depending on the approach, you need an overnight stay. Treatments are best guided collaboratively, by a team that includes your primary care physician, the bariatric surgeon, a nutritionist, and a mental health counselor or therapist.
How much you end up paying for bariatric surgery depends on your insurance, the nature of the treatment, as well as the surgeon performing the work. According to a review published in 2017, the average cost of bariatric surgery was $14,329 and ranged from $7,423 to $33,541. Before making any decisions, talk to your insurance company about what is and is not covered.
Performed by a plastic surgeon, liposuction refers to a set of cosmetic procedures that directly remove fat from specific parts of the body. Though highly effective, this surgical procedure has some risks, and you may experience side effects. Here’s a quick breakdown of how liposuction works, and what you can expect.
Liposuction is a means of improving the appearance of your body by removing specific fat deposits in the body. It doesn’t help with obesity, excess weight, or any of the related risks and is best for those who are slightly overweight or have unwanted fat deposits in the body.
This class of treatment, also known as body contouring, targets and removes fat deposits in different parts of the body, including the:
Following liposuction, it takes about four to six weeks for you to grow into your new body shape. Not without some risk of complications, it causes significantly less weight loss than bariatric surgery.
So how does it work? Here’s a quick breakdown of a typical liposuction procedure:
Because of the directed way that liposuction removes body fat, you may need additional procedures to remove loose or excess skin.
There are a number of side effects and risks associated with liposuction, though the procedure overall is safe. The complication rate is very low, estimated to be between 0.7% and 2.4%. Possible side effects may include:
Though very rare, the complications of liposuction can become fatal.
Liposuction is done in outpatient settings, such as specialized cosmetic surgery clinics or hospitals. It’s performed by a plastic surgeon, and it doesn’t typically require an overnight stay. Since it’s a cosmetic procedure, liposuction isn’t often covered by insurance plans.
However, financing plans may be available; talk to the plastic surgeon’s office about how much it will cost. As with bariatric surgery, how much you pay depends on the scope and scale of the work done. In a broad survey conducted in 2020, the average cost of treatment was found to be $3,637.
So which approach is best for you? There are many factors to consider when deciding between bariatric surgery and liposuction:
When you meet with your healthcare provider, they will give you the options that will be most effective in treating your obesity or weight-related condition.
Liposuction can help to complement and augment the results of bariatric surgery. It’s often considered alongside skin removal to rework the silhouette or get rid of stubborn fat deposits, especially when the lifestyle changes associated with treatment aren’t yielding results. The choice to go ahead is an individual one, based on your medical status and the goals of the procedure.
Both bariatric surgery and liposuction require significant preparation and periods of recovery. All told, it takes between three to six weeks to recover from bariatric surgery, with this taking about three weeks for liposuction. As you recover, keep in mind:
Bariatric surgery, weight loss surgery, and liposuction can both remove fat from your body, but there are key differences. The former is a set of treatments that involve changing your digestive capacity to promote weight loss in cases of obesity and related conditions. In contrast, the latter is a cosmetic procedure that removes fat content in specific parts of the body.
Each approach has its own set of applications, advantages, and disadvantages, and both may require significant periods and recovery. Though there’s a risk of complications, they’re generally effective in making lasting changes, well-tolerated, and safe.
No matter what, achieving the kind of body you want is challenging. And alongside dietary and lifestyle changes, bariatric surgery and liposuction are among the procedures that can help you get there. For many, these treatments have helped kick-start positive and permanent changes to both mental and physical health.
If you’re struggling with your weight—or are curious about body contouring—talk to a provider to learn more about your options.