I often hear this question from prospective patients at my Los Angeles liposuction practice. The answer is that it depends.
Liposuction traumatizes the fat during removal, and swelling develops as a result of this trauma. Although it is safe to say that swelling can take up to 6 months to resolve, it can diminish much faster than that depending on the technique used, the individual healing characteristics of the patient, and the amount of fat removed.
In terms of technique, adequately infiltrating the area to be suctioned with anesthetic, using microcannulas, and leaving the entrance ports to drain under compression after the procedure make the biggest differences.
To ensure adequate infiltration, I use liposuction using local anesthesia only. I also only use microcannulas which are very small versions of the suction tubes used to extract the fat. The smaller the tube, the less trauma there is.
Compression after surgery forces the excess fluid out of the entrance ports made during surgery. These are so small they do not require stitches.
Swelling generally lasts longer when a lot of fat is removed. In my experience, swelling also seems to resolve faster in certain areas, especially the arms.
Using these techniques, I tell prospective patients in my liposuction Los Angeles practice that, for most people, the great majority of swelling will be gone by 6 weeks but some residual swelling may last for up to 6 months. However, I’ve never had a patient whose area was bigger from the swelling than it was before surgery.