Do you struggle with “saddlebag” thighs, “love handles”, a double chin, or other troublesome fat pockets on your body that cause your clothes to fit poorly? Liposuction, in all its forms, is the most common cosmetic procedure today for men and women.
Liposculpture can improve your body shape and may even help you appear younger and give you more energy. If dieting hasn’t worked and you’ve always wished you could get rid of the problem without doing something too radical, liposculpture may be just the ticket!
Liposculpture Video by Dr. Rodger G. Stratt, MD,FACCP
Liposuction (liposculpture) is one of the top five cosmetic procedures performed in the U.S. today (according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons).
What is liposculpture?
Liposculpture is liposuction. It can be any one of a variety of surgical procedures that suctions fat from your body to help you achieve a more pleasing body contour. The surgeon uses liposuction to “sculpt” targeted areas of your body on a more limited basis. For example, to remove every fat cell from your thighs would be a disaster. Instead, the surgeon will reduce the fat gradually, or “sculpt” the area to achieve the look you want. As you might expect, the act of “sculpting” is an art and requires a surgeon with a good eye and a complete understanding of body fat. Some surgeons call it liposculpture because they are treating smaller areas of fat; others use the term because “sculpture” sounds better to patients than “suction”. The bottom line is that liposuction and liposculpture are the same procedure.
How is Liposculpture Done?
Liposculpture uses all of the available methods of liposuction. In some cases, you may also experience some skin tightening with the procedure – an extra bonus. Liposculpture is an outpatient procedure and can be done in your doctor’s office or an outpatient surgery center.
In many cases, your doctor will do topographic mapping before your procedure to precisely target the problem area. This will help to achieve visually pleasing results.
Let’s discuss each method and its costs briefly.
1. Traditional tumescent liposculpture
This is the most common form of liposuction performed today and is still the gold standard. The surgeon will make tiny incisions in your skin (more like needle sticks) and inject an anesthetic saline solution composed of lidocaine and epinephrine to puff up and numb the fat cells, reduce pain, minimize bleeding, and make the fat easier to remove. The surgeon then uses a very small microcannula (a tiny metal tube made from titanium or stainless steel) to break up the fat and suction it out. The surgeon must keep an eye on the fat contours during the procedure to make sure the end result is pleasing. Rarely are stitches required. Tumescent liposuction works best on younger patients who have mild to moderate amounts of fat to be removed. Costs range from $1,500 to $4,000 per area.
2. Ultrasound-assisted liposculpture
In this method, ultrasonic energy waves are delivered through the end of the cannula into the fat and liquefy or “melt” it. When mixed with the injectable solution and heated, the fat turns into oil. It’s far easier to suction out the fat in this liquefied form. The ultrasonic energy targets only fat cells, so it minimizes the possibility of damaging or losing surrounding tissue along with fat cells. It is also very useful in targeting areas of the body where the fat is more fibrous. If you are somewhat overweight or have less elasticity in your skin, ultrasonic liposuction still makes it possible for you to enjoy the benefits of liposuction. However this method takes longer than traditional tumescent liposculpture. Expect to pay an average cost of about $6,000 for ultrasonic liposculpture.
3. Hi-Def Liposcultpture
This recent and widely-accepted method of liposculpture utilizes the VASER ultrasonic-assisted system to remove fat and create more muscle definition. The ultrasonic energy pulses gently break apart the fat cells with a minimum of damage to important tissues. Typically used for the abdomen and arms, patients say it can be a very uncomfortable procedure and it may require general anesthesia. You can expect the costs to range from $4,000 to $8,000, and possibly more if you need general anesthesia.
4. Laser-assisted liposculpture and laser lipolysis (Smart Lipo, SlimLipo, CoolLipo)
Another popular form of liposuction is performed by inserting a small laser fiber under your skin. The laser heats the fat (along with all the other tissues under the skin), dissolves the fat into a liquid, and makes it easier to remove with a suction cannula. Laser liposuction cannot be used to remove large fat areas but it may be well suited for liposculpture. It also is said to have some skin tightening capabilities so it may be particularly useful for areas like the chin. However, laser liposuction carries a risk of injury to blood vessels and nerves. It’s also more expensive than traditional liposuction and you can expect to pay between $2,500 and $7,000.
5. Waterjet-Assisted Liposculpture (Body-Jet)
Instead of destroying the fat cells, this technique loosens them with a slightly pressurized stream of saltwater. A cannula is used to suction out the loosened fat. This procedure is considered to be more gentle, so there is little trauma to the tissues and recovery is very fast. Some physicians say they have more control while performing the procedure because the saltwater does not cause the tissues to swell, enabling him/her to have a better view of the results while operating.
6. Radiofrequency-assisted liposculpture
This method uses radiofrequency energy from the outside to melt the fat and simultaneously tightens the collagen in the skin and muscle. It has a high degree of skin-tightening capabilities. This method is currently undergoing FDA testing.
7. Power-assisted liposculpture
This technique uses a mechanical tip to nibble at the fat so the physician does not have to do it manually. The big drawback is that no distinction is made between the fat and the nerves and blood vessels, so damage can be done to the tissues.
Am I a good candidate for liposculpture?
The best candidates for liposculpture are in good health, at least 18 years of age, non-smokers, and are within 25 pounds of their ideal weight. While women are the majority of liposculpture patients overall, men are equally good candidates. It definitely helps to have elasticity in your skin so, if you’re over 40, don’t expect the same results as younger patients.
Liposuction is not recommended if you suffer from diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, bleeding disorders, or if you previously had surgery on or around the target area.
If you have lost a lot of weight (such as with gastric bypass surgery), or are over age 60, you may want to consider combination of liposculpture and skin resection to help remove saggy skin.
In any case, you should always have a consultation with a qualified plastic surgeon to determine if liposculpture is right for you.
Recovery after liposculpture
The larger the operation, the more pain you are liable to experience after surgery. However, this varies by individual patient. At the minimum, you should expect some discomfort, bruising, swelling (even in areas that were not operated on), and restrictions in your mobility while you heal.
Most patients experience little or no discomfort and you can drive yourself home afterward. A gauze bandage will cover your incisions and those usually heal very quickly. You may have to wear a special compression garment for several days to help reduce any potential bruising or swelling and help your skin conform to its new shape. Over-the-counter painkillers are usually enough to take care of any discomfort you may have. Most patients take a few days off from work or at least until the bandages are removed, but some patients return to work the next day. You should refrain from very strenuous exercise for the first several days.
After your liposculpture, you may notice some immediate improvements and the results should improve over the next few months. Scars are practically invisible, and recovery is very fast. Many patients have no noticeable signs of surgery as soon as the next day and any minor bruising can easily be covered up by clothing.
Will there be scars?
Tiny incisions about the size of the lead in a pencil are made in your skin and are barely noticeable. No stitches or sutures are needed after surgery and the procedure usually takes less than one hour.
Does liposculpture have any risks?
Liposculpture is a very safe procedure if performed by a trained and board certified plastic surgeon. However, as with any surgery, there are risks. While the risks are rare, here are some potential issues that you may encounter:
- allergic reaction to the anesthetic
- dimpling or lumps and bumps (should not be permanent)
- embolism (a blood clot) in small blood vessels
- edema (swelling)
- damage to the sensory nerves resulting in permanent numbness
- extra puncture wounds from the cannula that were not intended
- danger from excessive sound wave heat (ultrasonic method)
- burns and blistering of the skin (ultrasonic method)
What things affect the cost of liposculpture?
The cost of liposculpture mainly depends on the amount of fat to be removed, the body area you are targeting, the amount of time the surgery will take, the type of anesthesia, and where you plan to have it done (office vs. surgery center vs. hospital). All in all, depending on the procedure you choose and all of the other factors, you can expect to pay between $5,000 and $12,000 for liposculpture.
If performed in the doctor’s office under local anesthesia, the price will be on the lower end of this scale. If your procedure is done in a surgical facility under general anesthesia, you should expect to pay an extra fee for the facility and anesthesiologist as well, and possibly some pain medications. Laser liposuction is more expensive.
Your geographic location may also have an impact on the liposculpture prices. If you live in a remote or rural area where there are few plastic surgeons available, you may find the cost to be higher. Major urban areas have greater competition between surgeons and, consequently, prices may be more reasonable. Of course, prices in large cities can also be higher than in smaller cities due to higher rents and overhead. Compare, compare, compare!
If you are having liposculpture done on other areas of your body at the same time, the costs for the second area may be significantly less.
Liposculpture is considered a cosmetic procedure and is not covered by health insurance. You will have to consider how to pay for the surgery. You may find that your plastic surgeon offers financing options.
Most patients feel that the cost of liposculpture is worth it when they consider the positive results. But, before you make your decision, do your homework! Visit a minimum of three plastic surgeons. Carefully check their credentials and experience, ask to see before and after photos, discuss the fees, and get an answer to all of your questions. The best advice is to choose a board certified plastic surgeon.
Do not compromise on your surgery by going for the lowest price. Remember that the results of your surgery will be permanent, so it’s very important that you give yourself the best chance for a good outcome rather than a bad one.