Laser Liposuction: Things To Know Before The Procedure

  • Rajni SarmaMBBS, MD from North-Eastern Hill University, India MSc in Molecular Pathology of Cancer, Queen's University, Belfast, UK
  • Harry WhiteMaster of Science - MS, Biology/Biological Sciences, General, University of Bristol, UK

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Are you considering laser liposuction to remove stubborn pockets of fat and transform your body contour? Laser liposuction could help you achieve your desired shape and rejuvenate your skin tone.

Before you take the first step towards your new self, let's explore how laser liposuction works, the associated risks and benefits, and understand post-operative care.

Understanding laser liposuction 

With the approval of SmartLipo laser liposuction by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006, there is increasing demand for laser liposuction due to its relatively few side effects, positive outcomes, and fast recovery.1

It is a laser-assisted aesthetic procedure to remove or melt extra fat from the targeted areas, it can also help with skin tightening. It is done under tumescent anaesthesia, commonly used in dermal cosmetic surgeries, or under local anaesthesia, and sometimes general anaesthesia, like in other routine surgeries.1,2

Laser liposuction involves making a small incision in the skin and inserting a laser fibre through a thin cannula to deliver laser energy. Beneath your skin, the high-peak laser pulses will break down the fat cells and melt them. The liquified fat is drawn out using vacuum suction.1,2

Traditional liposuction vs laser liposuction

Laser liposuction and traditional liposuction differ from each other in several ways, such as:1,3

  • Anaesthesia - Traditional liposuction frequently requires general anaesthesia, whereas laser liposuctions are routinely done under local anaesthesia
  • Incision - Laser liposuction uses smaller incisions that reduces the skin trauma and visible scar formation compared to traditional liposuction
  • Procedure - The laser causes blood vessels to coagulate, resulting in a lower chance of bleeding relative to traditional liposuction
  • Action on fibrous tissue - When it comes to removing unwanted fat within a fibrous tissue, laser liposuction is more effective than traditional liposuction
  • Skin tightening - Unlike traditional liposuction, laser-assisted techniques can prevent mild to moderate sagging after fat removal
  • Post-operative outcomes - n Laser liposuction is associated with fewer side-effects and a faster recovery relative to traditional liposuction
  • Residual fat thickness - There is a thinner layer of residual fat post-procedure with laser liposuction than with traditional liposuction

Is laser liposuction the same as laser lipolysis?

Laser lipolysis is the breakdown of fat using laser energy, commonly known as "laser lipo". It can be non-invasive fat removal, where a laser is focused on an area without making any skin incisions, or it can be minimally invasive, like laser liposuction. 

In short, laser lipolysis is a part of the laser liposuction procedure. Both terminologies have subtle differences and are sometimes used interchangeably.1,3

Popular areas for laser liposuction

In laser liposuction and laser lipolysis, the targeted sites for body contouring include:1,3

  • Abdomen and waist
  • Thighs, knees, and lower legs
  • Arms and back
  • Chin and neck

Myths and misconceptions about laser liposuction

There is a lot of conflicting information about laser liposuction. Let's debunk five common myths to help you make an informed decision:1,2

  • Myth 1 - It is a person assigned female at birth (AFAB)-specific cosmetic surgery. Laser liposuction has revolutionised body sculpting for those assigned male at birth (AMAB). According to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAPS), liposuction is among the top 5 popular cosmetic procedures sought by AMAB in the UK. Laser liposuction is popular among those AMAB for shaping their hip rolls, abdomen, and chin
  • Myth 2 - It is a weight-loss procedure. This procedure is not a replacement for weight loss and works best for individuals with a healthy weight
  • Myth 3 - It is a non-invasive procedure.it is a less invasive procedure requiring smaller incisions than traditional liposuction surgery but is technically still invasive
  • Myth 4 - Liposuction can treat saggy, loose skin. Laser liposuction is primarily a fat-removal procedure, not designed to treat the excess skin hanging around your belly or arm. For sagging skin, you need skin tightening procedures. However, laser liposuction can help the skin tighten after fat removal if your skin has good elasticity
  • Myth 5 - It can reduce all your belly fat. Laser liposuction removes excess fat in the subcutaneous tissue but cannot remove fat deposits in the visceral organs

Are you a good candidate for laser liposuction?

A suitable candidate for laser liposuction is one with a near-normal body mass index (BMI). Generally, a person younger than 60 with good skin tone responds excellently to the laser's photo-thermal effect. Also, results are better in a person with an optimistic outlook and specific goals for body sculpting.3,4

Who should avoid the procedure?

Those who should avoid the procedure include:3

Lastly, it is always safe to avoid aesthetic surgery if you have financial constraints, or are not prepared mentally for unexpected post-procedure outcomes.

Benefits and drawbacks of laser liposuction

 Being aware of the pros and cons can assist you with assessing the risks and enable you to decide whether the procedure is appropriate for you.

Pros of laser liposuction

It has the following benefits when compared to other fat-reduction standard techniques:3,4,5

  • There is a lower rate of intraoperative bleeding 
  • It is less traumatic and, therefore, causes less pain, swelling, and bruising 
  • You can achieve a mild to moderate degree of skin tightening
  • Short recovery period
  • The results are better in delicate areas such as the chin and neck
  • Good outcome in AMAB patients who want to target fatty areas with fibrous tissue

Cons of laser liposuction 

The risk of complications and side effects of laser liposuction is exceptionally low. The potential drawbacks of laser liposuction are:1,3,4

  • There is a risk of skin burns, especially in thinner dermal areas, such as the face and neck
  • It is not suitable for treating large areas
  • Laser-assisted procedures are unaffordable for many because of their high price

Cost and financial consideration 

The cost of laser liposuction or any other cosmetic surgery includes:

  • Surgeon's fee
  • Cost of a surgical procedure
  • Anaesthesia fees
  • Prescriptions for medication

Tips for managing your finances

Publicly funded healthcare systems, such as the UK's National Health Service (NHS), do not cover cosmetic surgery unless medically necessary. Here are a few tips that could help you manage your finances before undergoing the procedure:

  • Choose an experienced plastic surgeon to minimise the financial risk associated with complications or laser treatment failure 
  • Be aware that the cost may vary depending upon the expertise of your surgeon and the location of the liposuction clinic
  • Discuss your expenses with your plastic surgeon
  • Be prepared for extra unwanted expenditure during the procedure
  • Check with your insurance provider; though, cosmetic surgery is generally uninsured
  • Enquire about financing options such as health credit cards

Pre-procedural preparation

It is important to take sufficient time to make yourself ready for laser-assisted liposuction. Let's discuss the pre-procedure checklist that can help minimise the risk of complications:

  • Make sure you choose the right cosmetic surgeon
  • Discuss with your doctor regarding pre-existing medical conditions, allergies, or any medication you are taking
  • To ensure a healthy outcome, you should undergo a medical test before the procedure
  • Exercise, dietary changes, and quitting smoking will promote a healthy weight and early recovery
  • Follow the recommended instructions regarding food or medicines before the procedure
  • Arrange everything required for post-operative care and finances before surgery

Post-operative care and recovery 

How long does it take to see the results?

Immediately after the procedure, the fat-reduction process starts, but there are chances that you may not notice the changes. It occurs gradually and can take as long as 3 months to see the expected result.3

Laser liposuction recovery tips

Post-operative care is the mainstay of fast recovery. Here are a few suggestions that could help you:1,3

  • Avoid heavy work for at least one week
  • Take prescribed medicines on time
  • Use compression bands on the treated area for at least 15 to 30 days to reduce swelling
  • Protect the treated area from sun exposure for at least a month
  • Attend all your follow-up appointments for recovery monitoring
  • Stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet
  • Gently massage your scar once it heals for a smoother and lighter scar

Lastly, be patient, as there is no one-size-fits-all recovery process. It may take longer to heal and see your desired results.

FAQs

Is laser liposuction a permanent solution?

Laser liposuction is a long-lasting procedure. If you take post-operative care and maintain a healthy lifestyle, it could last a lifetime.

How safe is laser liposuction?

It is a safe procedure that has minimal risk and fast recovery.

Can laser liposuction tighten the skin after fat reduction?

Studies have found that laser-assisted liposuction can shrink and tighten the skin if your skin possesses a fair degree of elasticity. Laser beams can coagulate tissue and trigger collagen remodelling and elastin production.1,5

How long is the laser liposuction procedure?

It depends on the amount of unwanted fat removed from the targeted area. A laser liposuction procedure usually takes around an hour to complete.

Summary

The demand for minimal-invasive fat reduction procedures is increasing, and laser liposuction is one such option for revolutionising body sculpting. A laser beam melts the fat cells, and a suction cannula removes it from your body. Most often, the surgeon uses local anaesthesia with a tiny incision. It offers more benefits than drawbacks when compared to other traditional liposuction procedures.

Before making a choice, always review your finances, set realistic goals, understand the potential outcome, and plan your recovery journey toward a new you.

References

  1. Katz B, Mcbean J, Cheung JS. The new laser liposuction for men [published correction appears in Dermatol Ther. Jessie S, editor. Dermatol Ther [Internet]. 2007;21(3):448–51. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1529-8019.2007.00160.x
  2. McBean JC, Katz BE. Laser lipolysis: an update. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2011;4(7):25–34. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3140909/pdf/jcad_4_7_25.pdf 3
  3. Tagliolatto S, Medeiros VB, Leite OG, Tagliolatto DS. Laser Lipolysis: update and literature review. Org.br. 2012. Available from: http://www.surgicalcosmetic.org.br/Content/imagebank/pdf/v4/4_n2_203_en.pdf
  4. Žgaljardić Z, Žgaljardić I. Laser-assisted liposuction in face and body contouring. In: Enhanced Liposuction - New Perspectives and Techniques. IntechOpen; 2022. Available from: https://www.intechopen.com/chapters/78078
  5. DiBernardo BE. Randomized, blinded split abdomen study evaluating skin shrinkage and skin tightening in laser-assisted liposuction versus liposuction control. Aesthet Surg J [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2023 Oct 20];30(4):593–602. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20829257/

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Rajni Sarma

MBBS, MD from North-Eastern Hill University, India
MSc in Molecular Pathology of Cancer, Queen's University, Belfast, UK

I worked as a medical doctor for almost eight years before applying to Queen’s University Belfast for MSc in Molecular Pathology of Cancer. My outstanding verbal and demonstrative skills have helped me to get distinction in my master’s program.

However, I found my true passion in medical writing. Therefore, after I graduated from Queen’s University, I decided not to join any laboratory but to restart my career as a medical writer.

The topics that intrigue me are haematology, oncology, rare diseases, immunology, gynaecology, molecular pathology, targeted therapy, and precision medicine. I am currently an intern at Klarity and a volunteer medical writer for a health and wellness website.

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