Smartlipo vs. Liposuction: What’s the difference?
Liposuction is one of the most popular cosmetic surgery procedures in the United States, with more than 240,000 surgeries performed in 2017. The procedure (also known as lipoplasty) involves the removal of fat cells from the body. It is ideal for patients who have specific areas of localized fat deposits and have tried unsuccessfully to eliminate them through diet, exercise and weight loss.
Today’s liposuction procedures are far advanced from their initial beginnings, when Italian and French surgeons first used suction to remove fat in 1974. There have been two significant advancements in liposuction surgery since then. The first of these in 1985 was the transition to tumescent liposuction, developed by California dermatologist Dr. Jeffrey Klein, where a smaller cannula is used for the procedure. The other significant advancement in liposuction has been the addition of laser light to the procedure, a technique called Smartlipo. Smartlipo received its FDA approval in 2006.
How does SmartLipo differ from traditional liposuction?
While both traditional (non-laser) liposuction and SmartLipo are effective at removing unwanted fat, there are some key differences to note.
- Technique: Traditional liposuction uses a cannula and physical manipulation to suction fat from beneath the skin. SmartLipo utilizes laser heat to soften or liquefy the fat, making it easier to remove with the cannula, typically resulting in less bruising for the patient.
- Skin Tightening: The addition of laser heat with the SmartLipo procedure provides an added benefit of tightening the skin. Liposuction alone does not provide any skin tightening benefits, so there is an increased possibility of dimpling or sagging after the procedure, particularly with older patients who have lost more of the elasticity of the skin.
- Recovery: Traditional liposuction requires a longer recovery time and the use of compression garments for up to 6 weeks. Most SmartLipo patients realize a full recovery in a couple of days, and typically only need compression garments for one week.
When is regular liposuction preferred rather than SmartLipo?
Since Smartlipo can be performed on nearly any area of the body, there are very few cases that I opt to perform traditional liposuction rather than Smartlipo on my patients. In fact, the only time I opt for traditional liposuction is when a patient with significant elasticity does not want to incur the added expense of the laser component and does not necessarily need the benefit of additional tightening of the skin.