Learn about liposuction cosmetic surgery options
Liposuction is literally the suction of fat (in Greek, lipos) from the body. Originated in the 1970s, it has grown in popularity as Western society has become more and more focused on thinness as an ideal of beauty. Throughout the '80s, '90s and 2000s, the procedure was refined to include ultrasounds, lasers and other modern technology.
There are limits to how much fat can be removed from any given area at one time, and the specific procedure used is generally the result of consultation between the patient and the surgeon. As with any surgery, the overall health of the patient plays an important role. The fitter the patient is, the lower the chances of complications and the quicker and easier the recovery will be. Smoking is particularly dangerous, as it leaves the patient open to heart- and lung-related complications during and after surgery.
Types of Liposuction
Traditional liposuction uses a tube called a cannula and a suction device called an aspirator to remove fat from the body. Common areas targeted include the upper arms, thighs, butt, abdomen, love handles, male breasts, neck and chin.
Variations of the liposuction procedure include:
- Wet liposuction. This procedure involves the injection of fluid, usually containing a local anesthetic (lidocaine) and a vasoconstrictor (adrenaline or epinephrine) into the area to help loosen the fat cells and minimize bleeding and bruising.
- Super-wet liposuction. This is the same as wet liposuction, except the amount of fluid roughly equals the volume of fat to be removed. (In wet liposuction, the volume of liquid is less than that of the fat to be suctioned.) It may also require more complete anesthesia, rather than just the local.
- Tumescent liposuction. Similar to wet liposuction, this involves the injection of fluid directly into the fat to be removed, rather than just into the surrounding area.
- Ultrasonic liposuction. Also known as ultrasound-assisted liposuction, or UAL, this procedure uses sound waves to break down fat tissue, making it easier to remove. It is commonly used for areas like the chin, neck, face and lower legs, which are harder to treat. The popular VASER liposuction technique uses a patented variation of this process.
- Laser-assisted liposuction. By adding heat and light to the liposuction procedure, laser-assisted liposuction, or LAL, helps tighten the skin around the treated area, eliminating the droopiness that may result after the fat is removed.
In the mid-to-late 2000s, a number of alternatives to liposuction began to appear on the market, mainly in the form of "fat-melting" injections called lipo shots. These injections contain ingredients thought to increase metabolism and burn fat, thereby aiding in weight loss.
Two popular lipo shots include Lipodissolve and the Lipovite injection. Neither is yet approved by the FDA. In fact, no injection method for fat elimination is FDA-approved. However, many of the surgical options, including the types of liposuction listed above, are.
Liposuction is an elective cosmetic procedure, so it's rarely covered by a health insurance plan. Prices vary according to the surgeon, the procedure and the area of the body being treated, but expect to pay in the thousands of dollars per treatment. People considering liposuction must also account for other costs, such as time off from work and any medication or supplies needed pre- or post-surgery.
Over the last decade or so, an industry has developed around so-called "cosmetic tourism." Lured by the promise of low-cost procedures and virtual anonymity, patients seeking cosmetic procedures have traveled to South America, Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Though the idea of cheap liposuction may be appealing, it is important to remember that, cosmetic or not, surgery is a medical procedure that requires a great deal of skill, as well as proper equipment and surroundings. Opting for a discount procedure may leave you open to infection, bodily harm and even death. Better to pay more money for an approved surgery than to risk paying a much higher price just to save a few bucks.