Smartlipo vs. Traditional Liposuction: Understanding the Differences & Benefits

Smartlipo vs Traditional Liposuction Differences

Smartlipo vs Liposuction: A Side-by-Side Comparison

The chart below highlights the major differences between Traditional Liposuction and Smartlipo.

Traditional Liposuction Smartlipo
General Anesthesia (patient is asleep) Local anesthesia (patient is awake)
Large incisions (1/2″) Small incisions (1/8″)
No skin tightening, so there is the possibility of being left with loose, sagging skin once the fat is removed Use of the laser tightens and firms the skin1
Large cannulas that scrape the fat from the skin, often resulting in ridges and ripples under the skin Laser is fed through a small micro-cannula. The laser melts the fat turning it to liquid before being suctioned from the body, ensuring a smooth appearance
Days and weeks of downtime 1-2 days of downtime2
Significant bruising Minimal bruising
Use of a compression garment for 6+ weeks Use of a compression garment for just 4 weeks


A General Overview on Liposuction Procedures

Liposuction by definition is a cosmetic surgery performed to remove unwanted deposits of fat from under the skin by suction. Liposuction is the most commonly performed cosmetic procedure in the United States and there are many methods and techniques that surgeons perform.

During liposuction, surgeons sculpt and contour the body by removing excess fat deposits that are resistant to reduction by diet or exercise. Depending on the surgeon’s chosen method, the fat is disrupted by way of scraping, heating, or freezing, etc., before it is removed from under the skin with a suction device.

Smartlipo and Traditional Liposuction Differences

There are several key differences between Smartlipo and Liposuction procedures, including anesthesia used, levels of invasiveness, fat removal methods, and the post-procedure pain and recovery time that patients should expect. Below are further details about each of these key differences.

Differences in Anesthesia

Traditional Liposuction Uses General Anesthesia

Due to its invasive nature, traditional liposuction requires the use of general anesthesia or IV sedation to put the patient in an unconscious “sleeping” state during surgery. Because general anesthesia needs to be administered by licensed Anesthesiologist, traditional liposuction procedures are typically performed in hospitals or surgical centers. The use of general anesthesia increases risk of complication for the patient due to the unconscious state the patient is put in during the procedure.

Smartlipo Uses Local Anesthesia

Smartlipo is laser-assisted liposuction performed under local anesthesia, in which the patient is awake and aware throughout the procedure. The typical local anesthesia that is utilized is the highly effective numbing agent, lidocaine, which provides the patient with a virtually painless procedure. Local anesthesia is the safest form of anesthesia, decreasing risk of complication because the patient is awake and its effects last many hours post procedure, decreasing the need for narcotic pain medications after surgery.

Differences in Invasiveness and Fat Removal Method

Traditional Liposuction is Highly Invasive and Fat Cells are Scraped

During a traditional invasive liposuction procedure, multiple large incisions (approximately 1/2”) are made around the treatment area. These incisions are made to accommodate large instruments called cannulas that the surgeon will use to disrupt the fat cells under the skin.

Once the cannula is inserted under the skin, the surgeon uses a continuous jabbing motion to scrape and disrupt the fat cells. The cannula is also connected to an aspiration device which suctions the scraped fat out of the body. Because an instrument is used to scrape the fat from the skin, it is common for patients to be left with a rippling or dimpling appearance post-procedure.

Smartlipo is Minimally Invasive and Fat Cells are Melted

During a Smartlipo procedure, very tiny incisions (approximately 1/8”) are placed in the skin, allowing a micro-cannula encasing the laser fiber to be inserted underneath the skin. The laser’s heat energy simultaneously melts the fat cells and tightens the skin. The liquefied fatty fluid is suctioned out of the body.

The tightening provided by the heat of the laser results in smoother skin that gradually appears after the swelling has subsided, typically 1 month post-procedure. Final results are expected 6 months following surgery.

Differences in Post-Procedure Pain & Downtime

Smartlipo vs. Traditional Lipo Pain & Downtime ComparisonTraditional Liposuction Downtime & Pain

The downtime for traditional liposuction is significant. Depending on the extent of the fat removed, the patient may need to remain hospitalized or on bed rest for several days post-procedure.

Patients will experience significant bruising and swelling after undergoing traditional liposuction.

Pain and discomfort can last several weeks and patients are required to wear a compression garment for 6-8 weeks.

Smartlipo Downtime & Pain

Following a typical Smartlipo procedure, patients maintain mobility and are able to walk themselves out of the office. Patients are able to resume normal activities and return to work 1-2 days post-procedure.

Patients will need to wear a compression garment for 4 weeks post-procedure, but can resume low impact exercise in 3-5 days.

Patients should expect to feel sore for several days post-Smartlipo procedure, however, the pain should not hinder normal daily activities.

Patients should expect minimal bruising and some swelling after undergoing a Smartlipo procedure, which will dissipate gradually over two weeks.

1. DiBernardo, B., Reyes, J., (2009). Preliminary Report: Evaluation of Skin Tightening After Laser-Assisted Liposuction. Aesthetic Surgery Journal, Volume 29, Issue 5, September 2009, Pages 400–407,
2. Katz, B., McBean, J., (2008). Laser-assisted lipolysis: A report on complications. Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy. 2008; 10: Pages 231–233.
About the Author

Paul Cox, MD, MS

Dr. Paul Cox MD, MS, is the Medical Director of WIFH. Board Certified in Family Medicine and a Fellow of the American Academy of Anti-Agency Medicine, Dr. Cox was one of the first physicians in Atlanta trained in Smartlipo and has been practicing as a physician for over 20 years. To date, Dr. Cox has successfully performed over 1,000 Smartlipo procedures.



am Kenneth I want too get my lipo done
I need to kw the cost of doing lipo in my belly area

Tamela Cozart Tucker

I am interested in a consultation. I live a couple of hours away. Are you doing any virtual due to covid?

Lindsay Spires

We do offer virtual consultations, although in-person consultations are always best. There are just things you can’t see virtually. I’m happy to schedule a virtual consultation for you, given your distance from us. Let me know a few days and times that would work for a consultation. I look forward to getting you scheduled.

Concerned patient

Recently had what I assumed was smart liposuction, however, administering doctor declared I had bruised skin from a previous procedure and it would damage the laser liposuction equipment if she continued. The process was painful and involved a significant amount of scraping and jabbing leading me to believe traditional liposuction was performed. What should I do?

Lindsay Spires

Have you had a previous procedure to the area you were having Smartlipo? It may have been scar tissue that was making the procedure more difficult for your surgeon. I would reach out to your surgeon, they should be happy to provide you with details on what took place on the day of your procedure.


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