Richard A. Baxter, M.D.

The Art Behind Plastic Surgery


What is the "tumescent" technique?

The tumescent method is a simple, but revolutionary technique, which has improved results and enabled faster recovery from liposuction since it was introduced several years ago. (I was one of the pioneers of the tumescent technique in the Northwest in the early 1990's.) Nevertheless, there is a considerable amount of confusion about exactly what it is. Basically, it involves the injection of a relatively large amount of fluid into the fatty tissue, which the surgeon plans to remove by liposuction. The fluid contains a small amount of lidocaine (a local anesthetic similar to Novocaine) and epinephrine (adrenaline.) The lidocaine helps to make the area numb and the epinephrine constricts the blood vessels so that there is dramatically less bruising and blood loss. Virtually, all liposuction procedures done today involve the infusion of fluid for these reasons. The confusion has to do with the use of the tumescent technique as the only form of anesthesia. This approach has traditionally been advocated by non-surgeons (such as dermatologists) who did not have access to surgical facilities. I believe that most patients are far more comfortable with additional anesthesia. Usually sedation, not general from a qualified anesthesia professional, since the injections of large amounts of fluid can be painful.


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