Advances in liposuction offer faster results and less trauma over the original fat-reduction procedure.

Areas of fat (befores) that can be difficult to lose through diet and exercise succumb to liposuction (afters). Ultrasound-assisted liposuction was performed in these examples.

Courtesy of Vaser Liposuction

For some people, no amount of dieting or exercise does enough to eliminate certain areas of flab. In those cases, when that pesky double chin, stubborn jelly belly or those irksome love handles just won’t go away, it may be time to consider a surefire way to zap the fat—and that’s liposuction.

Recent innovations in liposuction deliver all the fat-removal benefits of the original procedure, but with decided advantages, such as the use of local anesthesia in some procedures and less healing time. 

If you’ve ever watched one of those real-life cosmetic surgery shows, you may already know that the traditional liposuction procedure can be a pretty brutal process: After making a small incision, a surgeon manipulates a wandlike instrument, called a cannula, underneath the skin to dislodge, break up and suction out the fat.

“When lipo was first devised, it was essentially mechanical trauma,” says Dr. Armando Soto of Aesthetic Enhancements Plastic Surgery in Orlando. “Force caused the fat to be aspirated and removed.”

The newer procedures tackle lipo’s biggest challenge: suctioning out the fat. Body fat doesn’t sit under the skin in a liquid state, just waiting to be easily sucked out like a milkshake through a straw; body fat can be dense and tough to remove, and it’s the surgeon’s manipulation of the cannula to break up the fat that causes the bruising and trauma of traditional lipo. Recent  innovations focus on softening and breaking up the fat before the cannula suctions it out.

What’s New
Ultrasound-assisted lipo is one innovation that reduces the procedure’s impact on the body. The ultrasound energy helps break up the fat, which makes it easier to remove through the cannula. “There’s less trauma to the muscle layer and the skin,” notes Soto. “Patients see results sooner; about three weeks instead of several months after traditional lipo.”

There’s also laser-assisted liposuction, which uses laser energy instead of ultrasound to break up the fat. Like the ultrasound version, laser-assisted lipo yields faster healing.

Both ultrasound- and laser-assisted liposuction are typically conducted under general anesthesia, although small areas (such as under the chin) in some cases can be treated using local anesthesia. Prices vary; some physicians charge based on the number of areas treated, others charge based on the time the procedure takes. Expect to pay around $2,000 for under the chin and up to $8,000 for more extensive liposuction in such areas as the abdomen and thighs.

Another type of liposuction combines laser with water to assist the fat-removal process. Dr. Roger Bassin of The Bassin Center for Plastic Surgery in Orlando has developed a procedure he calls Aqualipo, which uses a high-powered water jet to flush out the fat that the laser has broken down.

The procedure is done through a small incision, with the patient under local anesthesia, and there’s no downtime, according to Bassin. “Patients can drive themselves home afterward,” he says. The cost is $3,000 for the first area treated and $2,000 each subsequent area.

Bassin’s new approach to liposuction has garnered national media attention: In the fall he appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America to talk about the procedure, and in December he demonstrated Aqualipo on The Dr. Oz Show (which airs locally on NBC’s WESH-Channel 2 and The CW18 WKCF-Channel 18).  The patented procedure was launched nationally at the end of 2009, and now other plastic surgeons can offer Aqualipo as well.

A Remedy, Not a Cure
With dramatically reduced recovery time and quick results, improved  liposuction procedures are attractive solutions for dealing with flabby thighs, plump tummies, chin rolls and other fleshy areas that refuse to go away. But keep in mind that liposuction—regardless of how it’s done—is not a substitute for a healthy diet and regular exercise. Lipo can target trouble spots, but the fat will come right back if the underlying causes aren’t addressed.

So lose the fat—and the habits that gave it to you in the first place.

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