Ultrasonic liposuction, also called ultrasonic assisted liposuction, or UAL for short, is one of the latest developments in the field, and refers to a couple different surgical techniques. UAL is any technique which utilizes ultrasonic energy in order to break up fat and suction to remove it. The ultrasonic energy starts out as electricity but is converted into heat and rapid vibrations before entering the body. It’s narrowly directed and only should affect the area that is supposed to be worked on (in other words it focuses on the fat layer). And in some senses it should theoretically be safer, since it doesn’t involve manual manipulation of the fat cells, and requires less invasive procedures. In spite of this, the safety of the technique is still questionable.
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How Does UAL Work?
How does it work? There are two ways in which the ultrasonic pulse can be delivered into the fatty tissue. One type is internal, and the other is external. With internal UAL, the pulse is delivered through a cannula (thin, hollow tube) which has been inserted into the fat layer through a small incision in the skin. With external UAL, the incision will still be required to remove the fat, but it isn’t needed until after the ultrasonic pulse has broken up the fatty tissue. The external ultrasonic pulse is delivered by a paddle-type instrument which is placed against the skin over the area of fat. No incision is necessary until it is time to withdraw the fat cells. For more details on how the ultrasounds work you need to read here.
Ultrasonic liposuction’s appeal is clear, particularly the external version of the procedure. It certainly sounds less traumatic than having your fat cells manually broken up using a cannula (invasive approaches). As such there are many people interested in getting this type of operation. Europe was where UAL first took off, but its popularity there has largely waned in the intervening years since the rate of complications is considered too high for safety at this point in time. In spite of the fact that UAL’s appeal has already fallen off overseas, in the US it is currently being promoted as the top-of-the-line cutting-edge technique. Internal UAL devices never even merited FDA approval, and as such, most of the companies that used to sell them are bankrupt!
Whether old methods of ultrasonic assisted liposuction can be improved to the point of being safe to use is hard to say at this juncture, but right now it definitely should not be your top consideration — it’s a much better idea to look into a related technique like vaser liposuction, which has a better track record. There was a study in 1998 of the efficacy and safety of the old ultrasonic technique on 250 patients. For some reason the study concluded the procedure was safe (!?), but in reality, the facts spoke differently. Out of those 250 procedures, there were 28 postoperative seromas, three cases of skin necrosis, and 35 developments of Reston foam blisters.
Why does ultrasonic liposuction cause problems? Unfortunately it tends to cause blood clots in capillaries and other small vessels. The reason this happens is that ultrasonic energy creates too much heat to be safe around the blood vessels. This heat helps melt fatty tissue, but it also can cause the blood in the vessels to harden. The result of this blockage is localized skin necrosis. Skin necrosis is a very bad development.
Along with damage to blood vessels and skin, ultrasonic liposuction can cause damage to nerves. This danger is particularly elevated when UAL is used on the arms, legs, face, and neck. Many surgeons unfortunately promote UAL stating that it can protect nerves from damage, but documentation proves otherwise. The result of nerve damage is typically lasting numbness—another very bad complication.
Finally, another complication is the possibility of developing a seroma. This is a cavity under the skin that fills with clear yellowish pus. Seromas may last several weeks or they may stick around for months. Seromas result when blood vessels rupture and blood plasma fills a pocket of tissue. Inflammation in the surgical area may also play a role in producing fluid. While seromas sometimes go away on their own, if drainage is insufficient, patients sometimes have to go back in for suction draining of the wound.
The cost for an ultrasonic liposuction treatment varies according to which method is going to be utilized, the area that will be treated, the size of the area, the location where the surgery will take place as well as the doctor’s popularity!
Areas To be Treated
Ultrasonic Liposuction includes a wide variety of techniques that can treat almost all body areas!
Before And After Photos
In the picture below we present a Belly Before-After UltraSonic Liposuction photo that was fortunately carried out with no complications:
So, while ultrasonic liposuction is touted as being the latest, cutting-edge technology, think twice about it before you decide to choose this type of procedure for your liposuction surgery. If you were in Europe, you’d probably already view this procedure as defunct. If you live in North America, however, you’re likely still going to get plenty of surgeons trying to sell you on this one. Do your research and look at the facts, which clearly indicate that it’s not worth the risk. During the last years the principle of ultrasonic liposuction was utilized to create much more sophisticated techniques based on ultrasounds, that were much more selective and precise! A good example of this is the FDA Approved vaser liposuction, which is safer, gentler procedure with much better results.
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