If you’re thinking about getting a cosmetic procedure designed to remove unwanted fatty deposits from under your skin, chances are you’re thinking about liposuction. Today, you have more options than ever before for this type of cosmetic procedure.
More choices mean you have more to consider when making your decision. One deciding factor might end up being what level of downtime your schedule will allow. Here is a general overview of the different types of liposuction and cosmetic fat removal procedures.
A Side by Side Comparison of Fat Removal Procedures
|Anesthesia||General anesthesia (you are asleep during the procedure)||Local anesthesia (you are awake during the procedure)||None (you are awake during the procedure)|
|Incisions||Large incisions||Small incisions||None|
|Results||Noticeable improvement at 3-9 months, final results at 1 year||Noticeable improvement at 1-3 months, final results at 6 months||Noticeable improvement at 6 weeks, full results at 12 weeks|
|Downtime||Days and weeks of downtime||1-2 days of downtime and often less||No downtime – Return to normal activity immediately|
|Areas of Body that Can be Treated||Most areas of the body||Most areas of the body||Currently approved for abdomen and flanks. It is being used “off label” to treat most areas of the body. Likely will not be long before FDA clears it for all areas.|
|Bruising||Extensive deep tissue bruising that lasts weeks and even months||Minimal bruising, if brusing occurs it typically resolves in 2-3 weeks||No bruising|
|Candidacy||Best for those that have a high volume of fat to remove. Addresses deep tissue fat best||Best for those who are within 20lbs of their ideal body weight||Best for those with a BMI of 30 or less|
|Compression Garment||Yes, typically worn for up to 6 months post procedure||Yes, typically worn 3-4 weeks post procedure||No compression garment|
|Procedure Time||Actual operating time is typically around 1-1.5 hours. Traditional liposuction is performed either in a hospital or surgical center||Average procedure time is 1-1.5 hours, typically performed in an “in-office” operating room||As little as 25 minutes|
|Permanent Destruction of Fat Cells?||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Traditional Liposuction: The Most Invasive Option
Traditional liposuction was once the gold standard in liposuction and is often what comes to mind when we think about surgical fat removal. In this process, patients are given general anesthesia to put them in an unconscious state. This requires an anesthesiologist, so these procedures are often done in hospitals or surgery centers.
To perform the procedure incisions are made in the skin and an instrument called a cannula is inserted. Some surgeons use a manual cannula which has to be aggressively used to scrape the fat. Others use a powered cannula which shaves or bites the fat to remove it from the skin. While the fat is being loosened by the cannula constant aspiration or suction is being used to eliminate the fat from the body. The traditional liposuction technique is considered the most invasive.
This type of liposuction is effective and still remains popular, and is routinely used to treat larger problem areas with high volumes of fat. However, this procedure causes tremendous tissue trauma resulting in extensive bruising. For this reason traditional liposuction has the longest recovery time with patients reporting pain, discomfort and bruising. Typically a compression garment is required to be worn for six or more weeks following traditional liposuction. While this method can remove a lot of fat it does nothing to tighten the skin and can often leave you with crepey, lose skin.
Smartlipo: Minimally Invasive Liposuction
Smartlipo is a form of laser assisted liposuction that uses laser energy to liquefy fat prior to being removed from the body. Smartlipo is actually the name of a particular laser. Not all laser assisted liposuction procedures are Smartlipo. The latest version of Smartlipo is the Smartlipo Triplex which houses three different wavelengths of laser. This technology allows for fast and efficient melting of the fat, skin tightening and protection of the surrounding skin tissue. Smartlipo is performed under local anesthesia, so this procedure is not limited to hospitals or surgery centers, in fact many offices have an in-office operating room where these procedures are performed.
The incisions that are made are much smaller than the ones used for traditional liposuction. As a result, this is a minimally-invasive procedure. The local anesthesia is a numbing fluid comprised of lidocaine and epinephrine. It is infused under the skin allowing the patient to be awake for the procedure all while having no pain. Once the area is numb, a thin cannula with a laser fiber threaded through it is inserted under the skin. The laser melts and liquefies the fat and then aspiration or suction is connected and the melted fat is removed from the body.
Recovery time from Smartlipo is very quick. You will feel sore for a several days post-procedure, but you should be about to go about your daily activities. In most cases a compression garment will be required to be worn for approximately 3 weeks. Smartlipo is considered to be both effective and convenient.
SculpSure: Non-Invasive Liposuction
Relatively new to the market is SculpSure, a non-invasive, laser lipolysis treatment designed for full body use. It basically uses the power of heat and light to elevate the tissue temperature and disrupt the fat cells. Then, the body naturally eliminates the fat cells over a period of weeks. Because there are no incisions or anesthesia needed, this is the least invasive procedure used to sculpt bodies and reduce the amount of fat in the treated area.
The procedure is very quick, in many cases just 25 minutes, depending on the number of applicators used. Various templates are available for this procedure so the doctor or clinician performing your procedure will determine the best configuration to treat your desired area. The templates are belted on and the laser applicators are snapped into place.
There’s no suction or pulling involved the applicators lay flat on the skin. It works on a modulation of heating and cooling (10 seconds cooling, 20 seconds heat). The laser penetrates the skin and heats up adipose tissue where the fat cells reside. The heat shocks and damages the fat cells, your body’s immune system sees them as trash and flushes them away. This process can take up to 12 weeks to complete, but many people can begin to see change as early as six weeks. Once the treatment is complete you can immediately return to normal activity (ie. work, the gym, anything). There’s no recovery time. Some patients have reported some mild tenderness in the area for a few days.
You’ll have to decide for yourself which fat removal option works with your lifestyle and tolerance level. Whichever one you choose, however, make sure you consult with a medical practitioner who knows about cosmetic procedures and can administer them safely and effectively.