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Liposuction remains one of the most popular cosmetic procedures for patients. It was the most frequently performed cosmetic surgery in the United States in 2011, and was the top cosmetic surgery performed in the world in 2012. The success of precision body sculpting through liposuction has led to a lot of other technologies recently that are less invasive, yet claim to offer the same results. Do these liposuction alternatives really work?

How Lipo Works

To understand how the competition stacks up, it’s a good idea first to have a basic understanding of the benefits of traditional lipo. Liposuction is performed by plastic surgeons for patients who eat right and exercise, yet just can’t remove a few remaining fat deposits. These may linger due to genetics, or because they build up in areas that are nearly impossible to address through targeted exercise routines, like the back or neck. Often, it’s a combination of both.

During liposuction, a tiny incision is made near the treatment area, and a tumescent solution is injected. The solution contains a mixture of local anesthesia to keep patients comfortable and sterile saline to help loosen fat cells for easier removal. Once the saline mixture has saturated the area, the doctor inserts a narrow cannula (hollow surgical tube) and uses back and forth motions to further break apart the fat deposits before they are suctioned away along with the liposuction solution.

Other forms of lipo break apart the fat cells using the assistance of water jets, ultrasonic waves, or even lasers, but the basic principle remains the same.

Popular Alternatives

The most popular modern alternatives to liposuction are noninvasive, meaning that the skin is not broken during the procedure and no surgery is required. However, they do share the same goal of destroying excess fat cells in order to sculpt the body to a smoother aesthetic.

  • Radio Frequency Treatments: Some noninvasive treatments such as Thermage and Exilis use radio-frequency waves to smooth and tighten the skin’s surface.
  • Laser Treatments: a noninvasive laser treatment called i-Lipo™ uses low-level lasers to reduce fat, smooth cellulite and contour the body.
  • Freezing Technology: Zerona® uses cold laser technology for body contouring through an external application, while CoolSculpting® freezes the fat cells, which are then naturally eliminated by the body over the next few months.
  • Ultrasound: Liposonix® is an external application that uses high intensity ultrasonic waves to target fat cells below the surface.

These are the primary alternatives to surgical liposuction, although there are always new technologies being introduced to the cosmetic surgery field.

Before looking for a liposuction alternative, it’s also important to realize that many of the options that are advertised as body contouring solutions don’t actually address the fat cells. Instead, they are aimed at tightening the skin’s surface, boosting collagen production to enhance smoothness or even minimize the appearance of dimpling and cellulite.

Comparing Methods

So how do the noninvasive techniques compare to traditional liposuction methods? The majority of plastic surgeons in the Detroit area agree that liposuction remains the gold standard of body sculpting. Although the idea of a less invasive procedure for permanent removal of fat cells is a tempting one, the reliable, predictable and consistent results that surgeons have come to expect from traditional lipo simply aren’t available yet from the noninvasive alternatives. Although some patients respond well to treatment, others are disappointed with their results. For body sculpting results you can count on, it’s best to opt for liposuction.