“Comparing Different Liposuction Options” by Dr. Campanile
by Dr. Frank Campanile
Liposuction can offers the ideal solution for men and women who want to improve their body shape. Although tumescent liposuction remains the go-to preference for the majority of plastic surgeons, there are other options as well, most notably ultrasonic liposuction and laser liposuction. How do these three different approaches measure up?
The 3 Primary Liposuction Types
While removal of unwanted and excess fat is the end goal for every type of liposuction, there are different techniques used to reach that objective. The three most popular types of liposuction performed by plastic surgeons today are:
- Tumescent Liposuction: Sometimes referred to as “traditional” lipo, this technique does not have any brand name association. This is by far the most prevalent method and has been used by cosmetic surgeons for well over 25 years.
- Laser Liposuction: The key concept here is the use of laser energy to rupture fat cells and make them easier to remove. The most widely advertised of laser liposuction methods is Smartlipo®, although this is only one brand name. Often, laser liposuction still involves the use of tumescent fluid to prepare the fat cells for removal.
- Ultrasonic Liposuction: Sometimes referred to as UAL, and most often marketed under the VASER® trademark, this technique uses ultrasonic energy to rupture the walls of fat cells. It also usually involves the use of tumescent fluid to prepare the fat cells for removal.
Originally developed in the mid 1980’s, the tumescent liposuction technique was the catalyst that moved lipo to the forefront of effective body sculpting. During tumescent lipo, a saline solution containing anesthetics is injected into the target area to cause the fat cells to swell substantially (known medically as “to tumesce,” hence the name of the technique).
Fat cells that have taken on this saline solution are much easier to remove, and the solution’s local anesthetic promotes patient comfort throughout the procedure and into recovery. Additionally, epinephrine is included as part of the tumescent solution. This vasoconstrictor minimizes bleeding during surgery to ensure increased patient safety. After the fat cells have been loosened, they’re removed via gentle suction through a hollow surgical tube called a cannula. Prior to this “wet” lipo approach, the procedure was performed dry, or without any additional fluid.
Variations on the tumescent technique have been developed over the years. For instance, “super-wet” liposuction uses far more fluid compared to other wet liposuction techniques for reduced blood loss. More recently, a water-jet assisted lipo technique is being marketed under the brand name BodyJet®. This approach injects the tumescent solution as a pressurized stream and is designed to break apart the fat cells more easily.
Laser liposuction begins with a similar process to tumescent liposuction. Tumescent fluid is injected in the treatment areas and a cannula is used to break apart and remove the fat cells. The difference is that laser lipo uses a laser fiber on the tip of the cannula to rupture the walls of the fat cells. The laser energy also cauterizes the tiny blood vessels in the target area to minimize bleeding.
Surgeons who prefer laser liposuction say that the high level of precision afforded by the technique allows for effective sculpting even of areas that have been traditionally very difficult to treat. Finally, there is some evidence suggesting that the laser energy can stimulate collagen production and tighten the skin’s surface so that body contours continue improving even months after a completed treatment session.
Ultrasonic-assisted liposuction (often called just UAL) again uses tumescent fluid to prepare the surgical area for fat removal. The cannula used for this procedure is tipped with a device that emits ultrasound waves to emulsify fat cells. These waves are designed to affect only the adipose tissue, making UAL ideal for treatments in areas where fat tissue and muscle fibers are close together or interwoven, such as the lower back or male chest. Like laser lipo, UAL is frequently praised for its ability to deliver very precise fine-tuning for smooth, beautiful results.
Getting Great Results
While there are surgeons who swear by one approach or another, it’s important to remember that your results are likely to depend far more on the skill of your surgeon than on any brand name or specific method. Be sure to find a surgeon with plenty of experience with liposculpture before scheduling an appointment.