A Comprehensive Guide to Different Types of Liposuction

Liposuction has come a long way over the last three decades. This once simple and straightforward procedure has diversified to treat a wide variety of patients and meet several different surgical goals and needs. Better still, plastic surgeons have worked tirelessly to ensure that this procedure is as painless as possible. Liposuction methods have been updated to minimize downtime, soreness, swelling, and overall patient discomfort. Today, liposuction is one of the safest, quickest, and most effective plastic surgery procedures in use.

How Has Liposuction Changed Over the Years?

Modern liposuction was first introduced to the general public in the early 1980s and became more popular after important safety advances were made in the latter half of the decade. A number of different “proto-liposuction” procedures had been attempted since the 1920s, but until Jeffrey Klein pioneered the use of a fat wetting solution in 1987, liposuction had been too strongly associated with hemodynamic complications to be appropriate for common use. However, after Klein’s innovation, the number of complications (like blood clots, arrhythmias, and pulmonary edemas) linked to liposuction declined dramatically. By 1990, liposuction was gaining traction as one of the best ways to treat localized fatty deposits that failed to respond to diet and exercise.

Though liposuction was no longer considered a risky procedure after this point, it still caused patients a certain degree of inconvenience. General anesthesia is still preferred by most patients and plastic surgeons and now recovery from general anesthesia is much quicker and patients have a clear head almost immediately. Additionally, early cannulas (the tube-like instruments used during liposuction to remove fat below the skin) were thicker than their modern counterparts. This led to a greater risk of swelling, pain, and discomfort than patients face today. It was not uncommon for patients to spend much longer recovering from liposuction than today.

Since 1990, both cannulas and the methods plastic surgeons use to liquefy fat have changed a great deal. As of 2018, plastic surgeons can choose from hundreds of cannulas. Different cannulas have been developed specifically to target the many different locations on the body where liposuction can be performed (while doing the least possible damage to surrounding tissues). This has led to a sharp reduction in both swelling and overall healing time. Likewise, plastic surgeons can now choose to use laser or ultrasound energy to prime fatty deposits for removal, further reducing localized trauma around the surgical site. Finally, the wetting solutions now injected prepare the fat for removal. Patients today, therefore, enjoy a better overall quality of life while they’re recovering from liposuction than patients in the 1990s did.

With all these advances in liposuction-related technology, patients have a number of options to consider when they turn to this proven fat removal procedure. To help you get a better idea of what you’ll discuss when you come in for a liposuction consultation, we’ve prepared a guide to the most effective liposuction methods in use today.


LipoPerfection is a highly specialized and effective form of liposuction. In fact, LipoPerfection is so specialized that only just over a dozen plastic surgeons within the U.S. are trained and certified to perform it. Dr. Silverton favors this technique because it confers all the following benefits for patients:

  • It protects the tissues around the treatment site from damage, thereby reducing pain, swelling, and the risk of postoperative infection.
  • LipoPerfection is associated with a very short recovery time (usually just a few days), and patients report experiencing less bruising and discomfort after choosing this type of liposuction. Patients who have this form of liposuction can often return to work after a couple of days depending on their job, and they can return to all their normal activities after two weeks.
  • LipoPerfection has been shown to be a very safe form of liposuction, having an even lower rate of complications than standard liposuction, which is already a very low-risk procedure.
  • LipoPerfection produces very smooth, even results. “Dimpling” and wrinkling in the skin will not occur after LipoPerfection in the vast majority of patients. In fact, LipoPerfection can actually improve the condition of the skin, making it firmer and more youthful. This makes LipoPerfection ideal for older patients and those patients who have been pregnant or overweight in the past. LipoPerfection is often used alongside tummy tuck surgery to correct severely stretched and damaged “flabby” looking tummys.

To achieve these improved outcomes, LipoPerfection makes use of the application of preoperative ultrasound energy in conjunction with an advanced hydrating solution. Ultrasound energy is applied to the skin, increasing production of the skin-strengthening and hydrating compounds collagen and elastin. At the same time, the area below the skin is gently irrigated with a sterile moisturizing solution, which the ultrasound energy helps to diffuse evenly. These steps are important because adipose tissue (and the tissue around it) begins to dry out as soon as it’s exposed to even small amounts of air during surgery. This dehydration damages the cells within the tissue, causing inflammation and cell death. This cell death is responsible for causing the patient to experience pain, swelling, bleeding, bruising, and in rare cases, infection. By keeping treated tissue moist and promoting collagen generation (collagen is used during wound healing), LipoPerfection protects treated areas from needless damage.

Once these preliminary steps are complete, liquefied fat is removed from the body using only syringes which are emptied of air to provide the suction. No suction machine is used. This is a much more accurate and targeted form of liposuction, but takes a little longer. The patient’s small skin puncture sites do not even need stitches, allowing his or her body to start the healing process internally.

Laser-Assisted Liposuction

Laser-assisted liposuction is similar to classic liposuction in the fact that targeted fatty deposits must be liquefied with a solution before they can be removed. It’s the cannula that’s used during this procedure that makes it unique: The cannula is designed to emit intense laser energy inside the fat. This laser energy heats up and “melts” the fat cells in treated areas, while also cauterizing the surrounding tissue to reduce bleeding and the risk of infection. Additionally, like ultrasound energy, laser energy stimulates the production of collagen and elastin. Laser liposuction is, therefore, associated with a reduced risk of skin dimpling and an overall improvement in skin tightness and tone.

While laser-assisted liposuction is well tolerated by most patients, most plastic surgeons feel that ultrasound assisted liposuction procedures like LipoPerfection generate superior results. Externally applied ultrasound delivers a more even distribution of energy, prompting the body to generate new collagen over a larger area. Furthermore, this even distribution of energy is much gentler. Because the laser “wand” used during internal laser-assisted liposuction delivers a very intense burst of energy into the tissues directly around it, there’s a strong possibility of these tissues becoming burned or leaving pools of liquified fat. Though a highly skilled surgeon will do his or her best to make sure this does not occur, less experienced practitioners often have difficulty performing laser procedures optimally. And of course, if the tissue is burned, laser liposuction will create more pain and swelling than classic liposuction.

Classic Liposuction

Classic liposuction is still highly relevant today because it’s well suited to removing larger deposits of fat. This kind of liposuction still involves the use of general anesthesia in most cases, especially when more than one area of the body is being treated. However, the use of just local anesthesia has become quite common for smaller areas in recent years.

During liposuction, a cannula is used to irrigate fat deposits with a saline solution that contains an anesthetic and vasoconstricting agent. Vasoconstriction is important because it shrinks blood vessels, reducing the risk of bleeding, bruising, and swelling. Once the fat cells have fully absorbed this liquid solution, they are quite literally sucked out. As such, even before the patient’s swelling has subsided, he or she will see an immediate reduction in the size of the area that was treated. This gets even better as the swelling goes down.

What Are the Advantages of Liposuction?

Back in 1990, liposuction was the only option for localized fat removal that patients had. Since the 2010s, however, things have changed dramatically with the advent of nonsurgical laser and cold or warm based fat removal treatments. So, why do patients continue to choose liposuction despite the presence of other options? There are a few reasons:

  • Effectiveness – While many nonsurgical fat removal procedures are effective for about 80% of patients, they are still not as good as liposuction. The results are variable. The advantage is that there is no surgery, few risks, less costly and no downtime, and even patients who are not healthy enough for liposuction can have the procedure done. Liposuction, on the other hand, can be used on any healthy person to produce uniform, predictable results.
  • Rapid results – Though liposuction comes with some downtime, nonsurgical procedures take much longer to produce visible results. It’s not uncommon for patients to need multiple nonsurgical treatments to create optimal results when having fat dissolving procedures. Liposuction patients, on the other hand, see quicker and more effective results which improve as the swelling goes down. After their swelling has subsided, they will be able to enjoy their full results. Liposuction is therefore ideally suited to patients who wish to slim down quickly before a big event, such as a wedding or holiday.
  • Affordability – While nonsurgical treatments may look less expensive than liposuction at first glance, when you factor in the cost of three or more appointments, they can actually emerge as the costlier choice. Liposuction, especially when it’s performed on a small area, can be highly affordable.
  • Versatility – Liposuction is unique among fat removal procedures for the way it can target even very small areas of the body. It offers the most precise, targeted results out of all the procedures currently available. Newer radio-frequency devices do not require the skin to be pinched up between freezing plates, This makes it more comfortable and able to be used on even smaller areas for patients who have tight skin. The new radio-frequency devices, such as truSculpt 3D, are now the most effective state-of-the-art non-surgical methods available.

Booking Your Liposuction Consultation

While it’s true that liposuction is very safe and convenient, patients still need to enter this procedure with an open mind and realistic expectations. Remember that it’s impossible to remove more than about eight pounds of fat at a time (removing more than this could induce shock), so liposuction cannot make a heavy person slim overnight. Instead, this procedure should be used to “spot reduce” fat that has not responded to diet and exercise even after you’ve reached a healthy weight. If this is what you’re looking for—a quick, relatively painless way to banish problem fat—and you’re are of normal weight and in good health, then you’re probably the perfect liposuction candidate. For more information on how to start your body sculpting journey, feel free to contact the experts at Silverton Plastic surgery.