What is the Best Liposuction Method?

Q: I am interested in getting liposuction done on my stomach and flanks but am confused about the different types that I have read about. There appears to be regular liposuction, ultrasonic, laser, water jet…and and even something like ultrasonic done from the outside without surgery. Which type of liposuction is the best?

A: Liposuction has come a long way since its first introduction in the United States in 1981. It is a two-part process during surgery that involves the first phase of breaking up the fat and a second phase of removing or suctioning it out. All of the advancements in liposuction have come forth for the first phase, different methods to help loosen up the fat for evacuation.

One highly touted liposuction method that is neither new or novel is that of tumescence. This is an original advance in liposuction that began to be used in the mid-1980s and is part of every liposuction procedure today. Prior to doing phase one particulation, a special solution is first instilled that provides numbness to the treated area and helps cut down the extreme bleeding that would otherwise occur. This does make it possible for small areas of liposuction to be done under local anesthesia, but is also used even when you are going to sleep for the procedure.

Most of the advancements in liposuction that are highly marketed and promoted on the internet are relatively new. Whether one method really offers any improvement over the other has yet to be proven no matter what the endorsement and advertisement says. My current preference is for laser liposuction, branded as Smartlipo. We all know that fat is very sensitive to heat and can be melted as is observed during cooking. So the concept of heating up a treated area makes sense and is something that can really be felt during surgery. It is usually touted as also having skin tightening capabilities, and while I have observed that some of that does occur, it will not solve skin laxity problems where more than an inch of excess skin is present.

No matter what the tool that is being used, the most important element in getting good liposuction results is the experience and skill of the one holding the instrument or device. One of the real negatives to technology (and probably the only one) is that it enables those surgeons of lesser skill or training (and sometimes not a surgeon at all) to look equal to others of extraordinary experience and expertise.

At this time, I would be leary of any device that offers significant fat reduction through some method of external application. While the concept is harmless and certainly appealing, what you really risk is your money. If you are prepared to be dieting and exercising and doing everything to help lose weight anyway, then these device approaches may be reasonable. I suspect they do offer some benefit in the very weight loss conscious patient who is even more motivated by their economic investment. It is probably the ‘coach potatoes’ who make up the greatest percent of failed results with these devices.

Dr. Barry Eppley