Liposuction is the number 2 cosmetic surgical procedure in the United States according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. For example, in 2017 over 246,000 men and women opted for this body contouring option. Since its introduction in the 1970s, liposuction technology has evolved significantly, with the procedure now being much safer and more effective than in its early days.
It all began in 1974 when Italian gynecologist Giorgio Fischer developed the original form of liposuction. In 1978, 2 French physicians adapted the procedure, and by 1980 liposuction had become a hit in the United States. However, some kinks had to be ironed out, as patients still had to undergo the inherent risk of general anesthesia, and many experienced excessive bleeding and skin.
Since the early ’70s, plastic surgeons worldwide have worked to find ways to improve both liposuction techniques and technology. The result is that doctors today can offer several different approaches to this revolutionary body sculpting procedure.
To address patients’ blood loss during liposuction, researchers developed 2 techniques that injected a solution into the treatment area to contract blood vessels and reduce the amount of blood extracted during fat removal. Still in use today, these approaches use a local anesthetic and cause less trauma to the tissue than the early “dry” liposuction technique. For example, with wet liposuction, 15% to 20% of removed tissue is blood. With super wet liposuction, about 8% of total tissue removed is blood.
In 1985, dermatologist Dr. Jeffrey Klein created the innovative tumescent technique. Klein’s approach allowed doctors to perform liposuction using local anesthetic and smaller cannulas, which significantly improved the bleeding and rippling issues. In this technique, a tumescent solution made from lidocaine, epinephrine, and saline is used to numb the treatment area and minimize bleeding. This solution allows surgeons to remove a greater amount of fat and create more dramatic results.
Another of today’s advanced procedures is ultrasound-assisted liposuction, which uses high-frequency sound waves to liquefy the fat cells before they are suctioned out of the treatment area. Ultrasound-assisted liposuction requires a special cannula that vibrates rapidly and gives off the ultrasound energy.
Power-assisted liposuction is a popular technology that uses an electric motor or compressed air to produce small, rapid vibrations to break up the fat, so it can be effectively suctioned out of the body. These vibrations make the cannula easier for surgeons to control, allowing them to more precisely remove unwanted fat and help patients achieve their desired results.
Laser-assisted liposuction uses laser energy to melt the fat before it is removed from the body. The laser approach reduces bleeding, swelling, and bruising while also tightening the skin. This technique is known to produce only minimal discomfort and requires little downtime. Laser-assisted liposuction can be performed using a local anesthetic and can also be combined with the tumescent technique for optimal body contouring. Surgeons use several different brands of laser liposuction devices, including CoolLipo™, ProLipo PLUS™, LipoLite, LipoTherme, LipoControl®, and SmartLipo MPX™.
Board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Eric Chang was the first doctor in Maryland to offer the advanced SmartLipo MPX technology, and his practice was selected as the exclusive MPX training center for the state of Maryland. Dr. Chang explains the MPX laser-assisted liposuction offered at his Columbia practice only requires a 1mm cannula, which allows him to make smaller incisions and produces less noticeable scarring.
Because today’s various liposuction techniques provide similar results, it’s extremely important to find an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in body contouring procedures. No matter which technology is used, your surgeon’s skill and training are the most important factors in determining you have a safe procedure and get high-quality results.