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What Are the Different Types of Liposuction Surgery?

Tumescent liposuction is the most common type of liposuction surgery.
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  • Written By: Elle Jay
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2014
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Liposuction is a form of cosmetic surgery designed to remove stubborn pockets of fat from certain areas of the body. Hips, thighs, and abdomens are popular targets for liposuction. The different types of liposuction surgery vary in the technique and tools used to break up and remove the fat. Tumescent liposuction is the most common type of liposuction surgery. Typical procedures include suction assisted, power assisted, laser assisted, and ultrasound assisted liposuction.

During liposuction surgery, the fat cells are first broken up and then suctioned out of the body. All liposuction techniques use a tiny metal tube called a cannula to break up and remove the fat. The hollow tube is inserted into the fatty layer just beneath skin through small incisions in the body. A syringe or surgical vacuum attaches to the cannula to suction and extract fat from the body.

Tumescent liposuction uses high amounts of specially formulated liquid to break up the fat and prepare it for removal. This type of liposuction became popular because it only requires local anesthesia. The process uses an extremely narrow cannula, so the doctor can complete the surgery with fewer incisions. Tumescent liposuction surgery results in less bleeding and swelling, which generally means faster recovery time.

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Surgeons using the suction-assisted liposuction (SAL) method perform a back and forth motion with the cannula to loosen the targeted fat. Once the fat is broken up, it can be suctioned from the body. Skill and precision are required to achieve the desired results, and this procedure can take one to four hours.

Power-assisted liposuction surgery (PAL) eases the back and forth process by attaching a motor to the cannula. The motorized procedure tends to be more precise than SAL since the movement is powered by electricity or gas instead of the surgeon. This type of liposuction may go faster and is considered by some to be less risky because of the reduced time under anesthesia.

With ultrasound-assisted liposuction (UAL), the surgeon uses a cannula that transmits energy pulses into the fatty layer to disrupt the fat cells. The vibrations liquefy the fat to prepare it for removal. The basic SAL procedure is then used to suction the emulsified fat from the body. Doctors use UAL on the tougher body tissue found on the back or in male breast tissue.

Laser-assisted liposuction (LAL) may prevent skin from sagging after the fat has been suctioned out. The LAL method uses a laser to liquefy the fat for removal. During this procedure, collagen production increases in response to the laser. The additional collagen is thought to help the skin tighten up better around the new body contours.

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