Liposuction by “real” definition is a cosmetic surgery designed to remove the unwanted fat from under the skin, creating a more slender figure. It uses a few round incisions, as small as 2 mm, where a cannula or suction probe is inserted and moved back and forth to dislodge the fatty tissue.
Meanwhile, liposuction alternatives often refer to the use of non-invasive or non-surgical techniques, which lead to no or very minimal downtime that is suitable for patients with busy schedule and those with medical condition that makes them a poor candidate for an elective surgery.
These “alternatives” generally use cold, heat, and ultrasound from the skin surface to shrink and destroy the fat, which the body will flush out from its system, a process that could take up to several months. Examples include Cool Sculpting, Liposonix, and Smart Lipo.
Aside from little to no downtime, liposuction Orange County expert Dr. Tarick Smaili says another purported benefit of these non-invasive techniques is the slight shrinkage of the overlying skin, an effect believed to be caused by collagen stimulation. Nevertheless, he warns that patients whose skin is markedly poor—i.e., it hangs and appears redundant—will not see a good amount of improvement.
Also, non-surgical fat removal techniques result in minimal swelling, while in the traditional liposuction this symptom will take up to three months to subside to a significant degree.
However, Dr. Smaili says that liposuction alternatives cannot take off large volumes of fat, a feat the traditional approach can only address.
Also, patients whose fat is notably fibrous and dense—e.g., massive weight loss patients and men needing breast reduction via liposuction—are poor candidates for any non-surgical approach, explains Dr. Smaili.
These patients can only achieve a noticeable improvement from the standard liposuction in which large volume of tumescent solution is injected into the treated area to liquefy and make the fat swollen prior to its extraction. This technique not only paves way for more volume removal, but also allows for greater accuracy and more skin symmetry.
Because liposuction alternatives rely on the body to metabolize and flush out the destroyed fat cells, the results can take two to three months to become noticeable. Meanwhile, the effects of liposuction surgery are visible as early as two weeks.
Dr. Smaili says the postop swelling, which will improve after three to four weeks, will temporarily conceal the results of liposuction surgery, adding that it can take up to six months for the skin to fully redrape to the new contour.