Liposuction is the surgical removal of fat. It can be used on almost any part of the body where unwanted fat accumulates: jowls, arms, back, abdomen, legs, buttocks and breasts. Most liposuction procedures are performed on an outpatient basis in a surgeon's office or surgical center with local anesthesia and sedation. A liposuction surgeon uses a device called a cannula, which is about the circumference of a cooked spaghetti noodle, to remove fat. Liposuction is not a weight-loss method; it is used to remove stubborn deposits of fat that have not responded to diet and exercise.
Modern liposuction uses instruments that result in minimal scarring and often require no stitches. The incisions are like small puncture wounds that can be closed with external bandages, which are removed a few days after the surgery. As long as the patient follows post-operative instructions for cleaning and caring for the incisions, risks for infection and other complications are minimal. Most patients experience some tenderness, swelling and mild bruising around the incisions, but these gradually dissipate.
Tumescent: The cosmetic surgeon injects fluids into the fat tissue causing it to "tumesce," or become firm and swollen, which makes the fat easier to remove, and reduces blood loss. The body absorbs and eliminates the fluids after surgery. Tumescent liposuction reduces side effects and improves recovery time. Patients typically return to normal activities within a few days.
Laser-assisted: Also known as laser lipolysis, this method uses a small laser to target and melt fat before it is removed from the body. Cosmetic surgeons use this liposuction method for precision and refined contouring without damaging adjacent muscles and nerve tissues. Patients experience little bruising and quick recovery after laser-assisted liposuction, although it is one of the more costly liposuction methods.
SmartLipo™, LipoLite® and CoolLipo®: These are FDA-approved commercial brands of laser workstations that use lasers to break up fatty tissue and stimulate collagen production, resulting in smoother results. These methods help reduce wrinkles, skin flab and skin puckering.
LipoTherme® and LipoControl®: High-powered lasers continuously fire, rather than pulse, giving cosmetic liposuction surgeons the best control. The surgeon can configure the laser power as needed, depending on the part of the body and what needs to be removed. Both devices are FDA approved.
Water-Jet® and Body-Jet®: High-pressure water dislodges fat before it is removed by suction. The water reduces tissue trauma and allows surgeons greater in less time. The manufacturer states that it reduces the appearance of cellulite. This method is also referred to as water lipo and H2O liposuction.
Ultrasonic (UAL): UAL uses sound wave technology to loosen, dilute and liquefy fat.
Choosing a Liposuction Cosmetic Surgeon
Schedule a consultation with a qualified, licensed cosmetic surgeon to find out which method best suits the results you want. The best liposuction patients have good skin tone and elasticity, good overall health, realistic expectations and, most importantly, stubborn deposits of fat that won't go away with regular diet and exercise. During your initial consultation, your cosmetic surgeon will discuss your expectations and guide you through the process, suggesting methods. He or she will also go over ways to prepare your body for the procedure, as well as discuss care of your new shape to maximize your results, after liposuction. Use our Surgeon Locator to find a liposuction cosmetic surgeon near you.