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What is Liposuction? The Ultimate Guide to Cost, Options, and Results

BY: Editors | Mar 14, 2017

Any discussion about fast ways to lose fat inevitably touches on liposuction. But what is liposuction, anyway? You may have vague ideas about the fat-removal procedure, yet it is an immensely complex subject.

For instance, there are surgical procedures that use laser light and nonsurgical procedures that also use laser light, and they're both often referred to as laser lipo. It can be overwhelming, but we're here to help you sort through the noise. 

To get started, jump to one of the links below:

What is liposuction?

Traditionally, liposuction is a surgical procedure in which a surgeon suctions out fat from areas such as the stomach, thighs, and arms through a tube inserted into small incisions. Within the family of surgical lipo techniques, the most common is tumescent lipo, which temporarily plumps the surgical area with a diluted solution of anesthetic. The anesthetic is then suctioned out along with the fat.

Who's eligible for liposuction?

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, ideal candidates for lipo are the following:

  • Adults
  • Within 30% of their ideal weight
  • Have firm, elastic skin
  • Do not have life-threatening illnesses or medical conditions
  • Nonsmokers

What's the liposuction recovery time?

It's about 1–3 days for light activity, but it may take weeks or months for swelling to fully subside.

Is there anesthesia?

Local anesthetic will be used for small volumes of fat, and general anesthetic for larger volumes.

How much does liposuction cost?

The cost of liposuction can vary, but generally surgical liposuction prices are in the thousands. It all depends on the size of the patient, the number of areas treated, and the city in which the procedure takes place (Los Angeles may be more expensive than Phoenix, for example). Search our site for liposuction deals near you.

What is laser liposuction?

The words "laser lipo" may refer to surgical lipo or nonsurgical lipo. Let's focus on the former, first. Surgical laser lipo is performed with a laser that liquifies fat. Doctors insert the laser fiber into the treatment area, then suction out fat after it's melted. Instead of suturing the incisions, they often simply apply surgical dressings, letting fluids continue to drain away naturally. The most common form of laser liposuction is Smartlipo.

What's the surgical laser liposuction recovery time?

A day or two.

Is there anesthesia?

Usually only a local anesthetic, which means no "going under."

How much does surgical laser liposuction cost?

Surgical laser liposuction costs in the thousands of dollars, just like with traditional lipo. Click here to check for deals on laser lipo.

What's the difference between surgical laser lipo and traditional lipo?

They each have advantages and disadvantages, so instead of worrying about the type of machine the doctor uses, worry about the doctor's qualifications and experience. And always ask to see before and after photos of real patients. (Click here to read what a real plastic surgeon wants you to know before you get surgery.)

What is nonsurgical laser lipo?

Nonsurgical, or noninvasive, laser-lipo treatments send laser light into the body to remove fat, but they don't require incisions or downtime. Here is what happens during a treatment:

Step 1: Lasers penetrate through the skin and down to the fat cells.

Step 2: Once the laser light hits the fat cells, it creates tiny holes in the fat cells' membranes, causing the fat cells to release their stores of fatty acids, glycerol, and water into the bloodstream.

Step 3: The fat cells shrink in size, which results in a slimmer, more contoured physique.

Step 4: The body transfers the fat-cell waste to the lymphatic system for disposal.

Step 5: (optional): Clients use a body-vibration machine after a laser-lipo treatment to help the body get rid of the waste.

Common nonsurgical laser lipo devices: i-Lipo and Zerona

What's the nonsurgical laser lipo recovery time?

None, clients can resume normal activities right away.

How much does nonsurgical laser lipo cost?

Nonsurgical laser lipo treatments can cost as low as $30 each, depending on your city. Click the banner below for deals on noninvasive laser lipo.

What are other common noninvasive fat-reduction options?

Ultrasonic cavitation: This treatment uses ultrasound waves, instead of lasers, to create holes in the fat cells' membranes and shrink them.

VelaShape: This treatment uses four technologies—radio frequency (RF), infrared (IR) light, vacuum suction, and mechanical massage—to contour bodies. Vacuum suction and massage rollers draw the skin up so the RF and IR light can better penetrate down to the fat cells. RF and IR light also create holes in the fat cells in order to shrink them. RF may help smooth cellulite by increasing collagen production.

CoolSculpting: CoolSculpting works a little differently. It uses cooling panels to freeze fat cells until they die. The body then eliminates the dead fat cells themselves from the body. With the other treatments, the fat cells stay in the body in their shrunken form. With CoolSculpting, they are permanently removed from the body.

Can you gain weight after lipo?

Yes, you can still gain fat back after liposuction, if you don't exercise and maintain good eating habits. That goes for both surgical and nonsurgical liposuction.

In addition, the treatments themselves work best on people who are already relatively fit and just want to address problem areas that seem to elude the effects of exercise.

So if you want to lose weight and keep it off, it's best to pair a liposuction procedure with a healthy diet and a sustainable fitness routine.

Our Best Lipo Deals Right Now

Ready to finally give liposuction a try? Here are some of our best lipo deals around the country:


Laser Liposuction A Laser Lipo Guide: How It Works, What It Costs, What to Know Before You Go

Unlike conventional liposuction, the idea of laser lipo is not to remove fat cells—it's to shrink them
ultrasonic cavitation What Is Ultrasonic Cavitation and How Does It Work?

Ultrasonic cavitation is a simple procedure that relies on sound waves to flush fat from the body instead of intensive surgery.
Cool sculpting treatment How CoolSculpting Freezes Fat Away

Fewer fat cells may translate into slimmer body areas.