How “Smart” is your lipo?

Published on March 15, 2015

Liposuction is one of the most common, as well one of the most commonly misunderstood cosmetic procedures performed by plastic surgeons. Liposuction, or suction assisted lipectomy (SAL) as it is also known, allows a surgeon to contour a patient’s shape and address those areas resistant to diet and exercise. It is not a weight loss procedure and is best performed on patients who are at or near their target weight. Common target areas include:


  • Abdomen/Flanks (“love handles”)
  • Hips/Thighs/Legs
  • Upper arms
  • Back
  • Buttocks


Traditional liposuction or SAL (Suction Assisted Lipoplasty) is typically performed under sedation/general anesthesia. The procedure involves the use of a hollow metal tube called a cannula, which is inserted via series of small incisions. These cannulas are first used to deliver a combination of local anesthetic and vasoconstrictor (to minimize bleeding). Once anesthetized, the cannula is used to disrupt the fat cells for subsequent aspiration. This technique can be augmented through the use of ultrasound or power (vibration) facilitating fat aspiration. These are employed at the surgeon’s discretion.


SmartLipo is a relatively new technique that allows the physician to use a laser to liquify and remove excess fat while tightening the skin the in the area. A cannula outfitted with a small laser fiber melts the fat which is then removed with suction using traditional liposuction methods. The procedure is performed under local anesthetic only and is purported to be relatively atraumatic resulting in faster recovery times. The patient will likely be conscious during the entire procedure as it is performed under local anesthesia only. However, it is more limited by an inability to address multiple areas as the local anesthetic is delivered to a smaller more focused area to ensure minimal discomfort for the awake patient.


The primary difference between SmartLipo and traditional liposuction is the use of the laser facilitating the fat removal. Rather than manipulating the cannula to manually break up the fat cells, the laser melts the excess fat. This is supposed to allow for a gentler, less invasive procedure with less discomfort, less bruising and swelling, and a quicker return to normal activities. The laser also helps to tighten the overlying skin in the treated areas.


Once either procedure has been completed, the patient will be given a special compression garment to reduce swelling. On average, patients are able to recover from SmartLipo within two to four days, but they will be advised to avoid rigorous activity for at least week. The recovery period for traditional liposuction is typically one to two weeks.


To determine which technique is right for you, consult with a board certified plastic surgeon. Most importantly, the success of your surgery will not be dependent on the technology employed, but rather the experience of the surgeon performing the procedure. Dr Glassman will explain the technique which is best to achieve your goals. Call us at 845-354-7878.


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