The liposuction procedure sculpts the body by removing fat from specific areas. This removal of fat deposits from specific areas of the body is the most requested cosmetic surgery procedure today. While liposuction should never be a replacement for diet and exercise, it can get rid of stubborn fat that remains after other efforts fail.
About the Procedure
Over the past several years, new techniques have refined the liposuction procedure.
The best candidates for liposuction are people close to normal weight with relatively firm, elastic skin, but who are bothered by pockets of excessive fat. Age is not a factor in liposuction; however, older patients who have lost some of the elasticity in their skin may not have the same results as a younger patient.
With traditional liposuction, the surgeon makes a very small incision in the area of the body being treated. A narrow tube, or cannula, is inserted, and the layer of fat beneath the skin is vacuumed away. The cannula tube is moved back and forth, breaking up the fat and suctioning it out of the area.
A more precise form of liposuction is Ultrasonic-Assisted Lipoplasty (UAL). UAL is similar to traditional liposuction in that it removes fatty tissue from the body through a small incision. The difference lies in the cannula used for the procedure. UAL uses a special cannula to produce ultrasonic energy. As the tube passes through the fat, the energy produced by the cannula breaks down and liquefies the fat. Longitudinal vibration moves the cannula 22,000 times per second, at less than a thousandth of an inch, allowing very accurate removal of the fat cells.
The best candidate for UAL is the same as that for traditional liposuction. The patient should only be modestly overweight, have good skin tone, and have localized fatty deposits. It is extremely useful in body areas with dense fat such as the back, male breasts, and the "saddlebags" on the outer thighs.
Power Assisted Liposuction (PAL) is another advanced method. PAL uses cannulas similar to those used during traditional liposuction. The difference is that the cannula is connected to a pressure-powered or electric-powered handle that helps to move the tip of the cannula back and forth. The tip moves 3,000 to 5,000 movements per minute.
Like UAL, PAL allows for more precise sculpting and is particularly useful in areas that have firmer fat, such as breasts, outer thighs, and the back. Recovery from PAL is similar to that of UAL.
If the amount of fat being removed is not too great, local anesthesia is used to numb the area for the procedure. It is sometimes combined with a sedative to make the patient drowsy. The patient is awake through the procedure and feels no discomfort. However, in the majority of cases, twilight anesthesia is used.
Bruising and swelling are to be expected following liposuction. Most patients plan to rest for 4 to 7 days before returning to work. A compression garment is worn for several weeks under the patient's clothing to help accelerate recovery.
The scars from liposuction are extremely small. Infrequently, rippling of the skin in the treated area may occur.