Liposuction Alternatives - What Are the Options?

liposuction alternatives include lipodissolve, mesotherapy, and ultrashape

I was thinking about getting lipo done on my stomach and back, but I made the mistake of watching a liposuction procedure on one of those educational TV shows, and now I'm scared.  All that hacking around and suctioning under the skin looked really risky and painful. 

Are there any alternatives to liposuction that will help me get rid of fat in those tricky areas?

Doctor Answers 19

Liposuction variations explained

Simplified view of liposuction will be presented. Liposuction (and all of the "million" variations of it) involves fat removal using thin cannulas attached to a suction power device. This part is virtually the same for all units available. The part that is different is the means by which the fat is "broken" down PRIOR TO THE ASPIRATION (removal of fat).

  • Traditional liposuction units use cannulas with holes, with which the surgeon mechanically breaks the fat and aspirates at the same time by moving the cannula back and forth.
  • Power-assisted liposuction units use an external power source, which causes movement of the cannula itself, in addition to the movement back and forth by the surgeon.
  • Ultrasonic liposuction units deliver ultrasonic energy to break down the fat. Depending on the unit, fat is aspirated concurrently or separately (but during the same surgery) using a suction cannula. VASER is an example of an ultrasonic unit.
  • SmartLipo (laser) unit uses light energy (i.e. laser) to break down the fat PRIOR TO THE ASPIRATION. At times, if a small area is addressed, fat aspiration may not be performed, as the body over time will absorb the broken down fat.

So what really is the difference between the various units if they all end up with ASPIRATION AS THEIR FINAL STEP? Basically, the energy source required to break down the fat:

  • Mechanical (Surgeon)
  • Power Assisted (electrical/gas power + Surgeon)
  • Ultrasound
  • Light (Laser)

The purported benefits of the latter two are they result in less trauma to the tissues, implying less recovery, less swelling, etc. Furthermore, because energy is also delivered to the undersurface of the skin as it is being delivered to the subcutaneous fat, some skin tightening can be seen. This is more true of SmartLipo (laser) unit.

Several caveats:

  1. Obviously, the overall recovery time is very dependent on the magnitude of liposuction performed - irrespective of the unit used. Small volume liposuction requires less recovery than larger volume liposuction.
  2. Even with the latest technological advancement, the the outcome is largely dependent on the operator (i.e. the surgeon) and the candidacy of the patient (determined by the surgeon).
  3. Excellent results can be seen with ALL UNITS, likewise, less than ideal outcomes can be seen with all units, as the unit is only as good as the operator using it. Some inherent advantages of VASER, SmartLipo units can be potentiated in selected patients IF THE RIGHT PATIENT IS SELECTED.
  4. Surgery is surgery. All surgeries have inherent risks and potential complications. Please do not trivialize any surgical procedure, despite what you read and hear. Consult your local professional about the various options, benefits, potential complications and limitations and be fully informed prior to any procedure.

Corona Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

Give me a break... SmartLipo is not a replacement for traditional Liposuction

As with many of the less-invasive technologies, SmartLipo is an extremely effective treatment... but when used appropriately. It is not a replacement for traditional liposuction as some physicians would suggest.

For larger contouring procedures involving removal of 3-6 liters of fat, there is no way that this technology can effectively contour as well as VASER LipoSelection in the same amount of time. In fact, many physicians will actually combine the two procedures and use SmartLipo to tighten skin while using VASER to remove the bulk of fat.

Gregory A. Buford, MD, FACS
Denver Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 42 reviews

Zeltiq may be the answer for you.

Liposuction remains the gold standard but if you want a non surgical option check out zeltiq.   You can freeze the fat with no down time.  I did it and it works! 

Grant Stevens, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 145 reviews

Alternatives to liposuction

The only alternative to surgery is exercise and dieting. But, even with that, there may be stubborn areas that jsut will not go away. There may be some alternative non-invasive modalities down the road.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

Alternative to Liposuction

The best alternative to liposuction is weight loss.

Liposuction may appear barbaric, but it can be done with smaller canulae and in a gentle way. It is more effective, safer and with a better track record than any other procedure that is designed to remove fat.

Farhad Rafizadeh, MD
Morristown Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 47 reviews

Yes, there are alternatives to liposuction

You are so right in your assessment regarding how brutal and barbaric looking those videos of the traditional liposuction are. Fortunately, those patients are under general anesthesia and can't feel or see what is happening to their body with those big canulas. Unfortunately, this is the way most plastic surgeons still do liposuction and that is why many patients like yourself look for alternatives. Liposculpting under the tumescent technique with micro canulas is soooooo much safer, easier for the patient, quicker recovery and with by far superior results but the downside is that it is more expensive but well worth it. Please consider seeing a doc who does this. It is not scary at all to watch and it probably will make you want to do it.

Alternatives would include mesotherapy such as lipodissolve, etc. or ZERONA which is an external laser. Mesotherapy is worthless and risky and unsafe. It is injecting detergents and other chemicals into the body to dissolve fat. We all tried it many years ago and stopped doing it years ago fortunately. Zerona is a laser that penetrates the fat cells to cause leakage and the resultant fat oils etc. is excreted from the body. It is brand new to the US and works only on small thin areas but is painless, no surgery and no recovery and no injections. Results are modest and can be seen 2 weeks after the end of the 2 week treatment period which is $3000. It is so new that there will be skeptics who don't believe in it as I once was until I started to use the machine in my office. It is a great adjunct to my liposculpting armentarium.

David Hansen, MD
Beverly Hills Dermatologic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 42 reviews

Yes but it doesn't help me

Liposuction and all cosmetic procedures should be reserved for areas/issues that cannot be resolved by any other method. Unfortunately, there is another alternative for you and that is weight loss. Of course these are two words plastic surgeons never want to say because we make our livings doing procedures like liposuction.

Liposuction IN THE RIGHT HANDS is very safe. Don't get caught up in how it's done in the operating room. Yes it may appear somewhat rough and violent but in the right hands it's actually the same as a sculptor with his hammer and chisel. It's art in motion. Only see a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon because anyone is allowed to do liposuction but only Plastic Surgeons have been extensively trained in it.

Often we seem like we can never lose the weight. Personal example: I'm 5'8" and was 185 for many years. No one, not even my wife, said I looked over weight. Only the numbers at my doctors office did. Then I set out to lose 5 lbs for a karate competition. It was hard at first but then the weight came off. I stuck with my diet 1400 cal /day and ended up back at the weight I used to dance at (I was a professional ballet dancer) of 150. So weight loss can happen

Trust me I was about to get lipo done as well.

Christopher L. Hess, MD
Fairfax Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 33 reviews

No better option

There are no real alternatives to liposuction.   It is a safe procedure which can make significant improvements in your shape.

Gary Lawton, MD, FACS
San Antonio Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 135 reviews

Nonsurgical Alternatives to Liposuction - CoolSculpting, Zerona, Mesotherapy and Endermologie

The most obvious alternative to liposuction is diet and exercise. Unfortunately, many localized areas of fat are refractory to this method of treatment. For this reason, patients often seek other methods of treatment.

A large variety of non-surgical alternatives are currently available for treating localized collections of fat. Examples include zerona, coolsculpting, mesotherapy, and endermologie. All of these procedures are associated with varying degrees of success, but none are as effective as liposuction.

Liposuction represents the gold standard that all other body contouring procedures are judged against. This procedure is associated with dramatic results and high patient satisfaction rates. In the vast majority of patients, liposuction is still the best option for treating localized collections of fat.

If you’re concerned about localized fat collections, consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon who has experience with this problem is appropriate. This surgeon should be able to discuss non-surgical and surgical options and address your fear of surgery. Utilizing this approach, an individualized treatment plan can be developed specifically for you.

Richard J. Bruneteau, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 194 reviews

CoolSculpting is a Nonsurgical Alternative to Liposuction

The most obvious alternative to liposuction is diet and exercise.  Unfortunately however, diet and exercise do not completely remove unwanted fat in trouble areas.  In areas that are fairly small and well localized, CoolSculpting may be helpful. CoolSculpting is a process whereby localized areas of unwanted fat can be compressed between two plates.  After the fat is pinched between these two plates, the temperature is dropped enough to actually freeze the fat.  Each treatment takes approximately one hour.  The overlying skin is not affected.  This freezing begins the death cycle for the treated fat.  Over time, the fat is expected to die and the components are naturally absorbed and excreted by your body.  Although some improvement can be noted within a few weeks, the final outcome may not be evident for three to four months. Most of the time, more than one treatment of each area is necessary in order to have an acceptable outcome.  The benefits of CoolSculpting are that it is nonsurgical and noninvasive and there is no associated recovery time.  Unfortunately however, it is not as predictable as liposuction in removing the unwanted fat.  It is very important to select a surgeon who is trained in all types of body contouring so that you can receive the appropriate evaluation and selection of process which is best for you.

John J. Edney, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 112 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.