Liposuction technology comparisons

Laser Liposuction, Traditional Liposuction, VASER Liposuction, Water jet Liposuction, Coolsculpting, Radio Frequency external and internal. There are so many types of body sculpting and contouring technologies available, how do you know which one is right for you?

Let me help explain some of the treatments. Let’s look at external technologies first. These usually involve the application of an energy source, such as laser, radiofrequency, unfocused ultrasound or external focused ultrasound to try and destroy fat cells. More recently cryolipolysis (the cooling of fat cells) has been touted as a means to reduce fat cells. A lot of these technologies have been marketed very heavily, both in Australia and overseas, with claims of varying degree of efficacy. The main advantage of these technologies is that they do not involve the penetration of skin.

Although these technologies are marketed as being non-invasive, their safety may in fact not surpass other more established techniques such as liposuction. There have been reports of burns and scarring caused by burns to the skin. The application of energy source causes temperature changes, such as heat or coldness, which can be uncomfortable or painful. Moreover, the effectiveness of these technologies is considerably less than any of the internal technologies, often requiring multiple treatments to achieve a modest effect, making them rather expensive propositions. You may end up paying close to the same amount of money for an external body sculpting procedure as an internal procedure, without the guarantee of physically removing fat cells. Another important consideration is that external devices do not allow precise sculpting to occur.

I will now focus on the internal technologies and will discuss these in more detail. All internal technologies require penetration of the skin and aspiration of fat cells directly. They are therefore considerably more effective than the external technologies. However, they are often only minimally invasive with high and well-established safety profiles, and with very little downtime involved.

Suction assisted Lipoplasty (SAL) or traditional liposuction, particularly when performed under tumescent anaesthesia, has been the gold standard in body contouring for years. It is highly effective and popular. However, newer techniques and technologies based on the traditional SAL, can now yield better results, with Vaser (ultrasound assisted lipoplasty) being the standout. More on this later.

Laser assisted lipolysis/lipoplasty has emerged over the past decade. There are several varieties of laser machines that are being marketed. Their main advantage is that the heat generated by the laser is able to achieve a good degree of skin tightening. However, studies have shown that the temperature around the laser probe rises rapidly and at times alarmingly. There is a higher degree of adverse events such as skin burn related to the high temperature generated.

Water jet technology involves the use of a high powered water jet to blast the fat cells off their attachments, which are then removed by suction. The main advantage is that a smaller volume of tumescent anaesthetic fluid is required, and therefore more areas could be treated in one session. The procedure itself is easier for the surgeon and less technically demanding. However, it does not allow the precision demanded by High Definition VASER liposculpture nor does it allow any meaningful degree of skin retraction and redraping.

Radiofrequency assisted Lipoplasty involves the application of radiofrequency wave. The main benefit is similar to laser lipolysis in that it allows a good degree of skin tightening. The equipment is more cumbersome and it is difficult to treat some parts of the body. The risk of burn is probably similar to that of laser lipolysis.

VASER uses internal ultrasound energy to emulsify fat cells before they are removed by suction. The main advantages are that it allows an incredibly high degree of precision, particularly with the High Definition technique. It is also highly effective, safe and gives skin retraction. The main disadvantages are that the procedure takes slightly longer to perform and the surgeon needs to learn different techniques.

At the end of the day the technology used is important. An inferior technology will not give you the same degree of improvement compared to a more rigorously scientifically proven technology. However, this is not the only part to consider when deciding which body sculpting treatment you should undertake. The surgeon performing your treatment is equally important if not more so.

There are three things that come to mind as being of utmost importance.

1. Qualifications and training –Membership and affiliations to professional organisations are reassuring but specific training in body contouring procedures is even more worthwhile. Liposuction is a completely tactile procedure and it is impossible to learn by watching. I have been fortunate enough to have been mentored by some of the foremost experts in the world in the field of VASER liposculpture. They have been incredibly generous in sharing their skills with me, operating alongside me and showing me exactly what they are feeling with their hands.Learning the Vaser High Definition Liposculpture technique a couple of years ago opened my eyes. I feel very privileged being amongst only a handful of surgeons in Australia who can perform this procedure.

2. Experience – It takes experience and caseload to develop proficiency. Liposuction is a seemingly simple procedure and yet it is actually one of the more difficult procedures that I perform. Looking back over the years, I would agree with my mentors that liposuction has a steep learning curve.

3. Artistic judgement – Body contouring or sculpting is an artistic endeavour. It takes much more than a machine to achieve great results. I find that time and time again, I rely on skills honed from the training I’ve had at art schools, particularly in relation to portraiture and life drawing.