Liposuction Alternatives

Have no interest in undergoing full liposuction surgery procedure. The cost, pain, recovery etc are not appealing. i read about lots of lipo alternatives that dont require so much of investment in money and risk. Can someone explain these, pros/cons.

Doctor Answers 99

There's a lot of hype about nonsurgical liposuction

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Traditional means tumescent liposuction. That involves placing fluid into the fat cell layer. This fluid contains a local anesthetic as well as agents to shrink blood vessels. The fluid is put in is then removed together with fat using hollow cannulas.

In order to improve the results there have been several other surgical innovations including laser assisted liposuction and ultrasonic assisted liposuction. Both procedures generate heat that breaks apart the fat cells allowing them to be removed less traumatically. They both also cause a slight shrinkage of the overlying skin due to collagen stimulation.

There are some other noninvasive techniques which are not as effective. These include Mesotherapy, which is the injection of a chemical into the fat cell layer. This chemical disrupts the fat cells which are then absorbed. In patients that I've seen who've had the procedure, it ends up being more costly, less effective, and more painful than traditional liposuction. In addition it takes months to see the same results that one would see two weeks after traditional liposuction.

Other nonsurgical techniques include external laser light, external laser ultrasound, and external cryotherapy (using cold plates on the skin) . None of these are near as effective as traditional liposuction and in my opinion, are a waste of money unless you're talking about a small area such as beneath the chin.

Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.3 out of 5 stars 27 reviews

Liposuction Alternatives

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Since all competent surgeons already use tumescent liposuction - please equate the mention of liposuction with tumescent liposuction.

Let's address the 800 pound gorilla in the room - Despite everything you read and hear, the painful cold truth, that would save you a lot of money and recurrent disappointment, is that there are currently NO methods / no techniques / no procedures and no treatments whose RESULTS ARE CLOSE OR MUCH LESS EQUIVALENT to those of L.

Think about it. For the most part, Plastic surgeons are a very smart and extremely competitive group of people who ALWAYS look for change and innovation. If there were indeed such easy magical alternatives to liposuction, why wouldn't they be using them instead? Easy. While the hype is there, the results are just not there.

Having personally looked at every mode of tumescent liposuction on the market, I feel that either "standard" (small tube) liposuction is being edged out by either VASER Lipo selection (UAL) liposuction or Power Assisted (tumescent) Liposuction. All scientific studies to date, have as yet to show ANY benefit of laser liposuction (SmartLipo etc) over these methods.

Techniques such as Endermologie have been disappointing. Mesotherapy and other fat dissolving injections have been unreliable, disappointing and fraught with complications. External fat dissolving devices such as UltraShape (ultrasound) or Zeltiq (cold pinch done in stages) are far from proven at best.

If you have a ZILCH interest in lipo prepare yourself for several expensive, hopefully complication free Zilch results with other methods.

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon

Don't waste your money

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Liposuction is designed to remove fat from very focal areas. It's an excellent technique and in the right hands is very successful. But because of marketing people that pray on peoples fears other techniques of fat removal have been developed.

Other alternative to traditional liposuction include the laser lipos such as cool lipo and smart lipo. Again in this country the fat must be infiltrated and sucked out. In my opinion not an acceptable alternative to traditional lipo.

Lipodissolve is a method in which a solution is injected into the fat and the fat cells rupture. The fat is then removed by the bodies inflammatory system. The problem with this is that the solution is not regulated by the FDA and it can contain up to 30 different chemicals. Do you want to take that kind of chance?

Finally the one alternative that plastic surgeons don't want to say and patients don't want to hear-lose weight. Enough said on that.

Liposuction Alternatives

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There are basically two alternatives to traditional tumescent liposuction.

1. Invasive "Adjuncts" to Liposuction.

2. Non-invasive Body Contouring Devices.

With any of the invasive "adjuncts", the surgeon must still perform true liposuction to get results. These include laser assisted liposuction (Smart Lipo, Cool Lipo), Power assisted liposuction, and Ultrasound assisted liposuction. These methods use cannulas that produce heat, vibration, or ultrasound waves to help break up the fatty tissue and make liposuction potentially easier for the surgeon.

There is still very little evidence that any of the invasive liposuction "adjuncts" improve results greatly over traditional tumescent liposuction. They can increase cost, and risk. Of these options, I favor Ultrasound Assisted Liposuction (VASER liposelection).  

MOST IMPORTANT: the quality and experience of the surgeon

2. Non-invasive Body Contouring Devices.

These are devices that use heat, cold, or ultrasound from the outside of the skin to try and shrink fat. (Thermage, Cool Sculpting, Liposonix). These are best for patients with less fat to remove - as they can not take off large volumes.

My favorite non-invasive body contouring device is ultrasound (Liposonix). It is a device that sends high frequency ultrasound waves beneath the surface of the skin focused at a depth of 1.3cm. It completely bypassed the surface of the skin. Studies show that it can remove an inch from your waistline or hips. Not bad for a non-invasive procedure.



Liposuction Alternatives

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If you have pockets of fat that do not change with diet and exercise, liposuciton is your best option. In my opinion these "alternative" measures which promise no down time and no pain are ltiile more that a great marketing ploy. If you want real results, liposuciton is the best option.

Christine Sullivan, MD
Columbus Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 35 reviews

Laser Liposuction is Still Liposuction

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Many patients are confused about the term "Laser Liposuction" or "Laser-assisted Liposuction". It should be understood that these procedures are not really liposuction alternatives- they are liposuction. The laser is used to help melt the fat prior to performing a traditional-type liposuction procedure. It does make the fat removal easier and more consistent. There are claims that the laser helps to tighten skin, and this may be true but is unproven thus far.

Patients come to my office asking for laser liposuction with the notion that it is a non-invasive procedure. This is a misconception. I frequently perform laser-assisted liposuction with the 1320 nm laser (CoolLipo) but I clearly explain that this is simply an improvement to traditional tumescent liposuction surgery, not an alternative.With an experienced physician, laser-assisted liposuction produces excellent results and may in fact lead to easier recovery.

Brett S. Kotlus, MD, MS
New York Oculoplastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 63 reviews

Cheaper "alternatives" to liposuction are either worthless or dangerous.

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There are alternatives to liposuction.  Endermologie kneads the skin and fat.  It hurts a little and doesn't work.  Lipodissolve will reduce fat in a region but it is painful, dangerous, and a very poor alternative to liposuction.

More alternatives are becoming available, BUT.....

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It is part of the human condition to want a dramatic change, no downtime, and little discomfort all for a great price! The reality, is that we are moving in that direction, but very slowly!

We are making great strides in diminshing pain, shortening recovery time, and improving the precision of results. The latest and greatest appears to be the Body Jet, a water assisted liposuction device that patients report is less painful. From my standpoint, there is less fluid distorting the tissues, so precision of fat contouring is improved. (see video link below) The bad news is new technology is always more expensive, but if it is any consolation, you do get what you pay for!

There are some inroads being made with respect to non-invasive techniques that can melt or dissolve fat without surgery. They use low level lasers, radio frequency waves, or high frequency ultrasound. Again, there is a premium to be paid for the technology. While there is some ability to spot contour with these devices, can only achieve small fat reductions that as of yet do not approach the results seen with liposuction.

So the bad news is .... no magic yet! The good news is that the old technology is getting better!

Talk to a plastic surgeon to get more information as you might be surprised that the reality for the majority of patients is a lot different than some of the bad experiences of the minority that we so commonly see in online posts. Having surgery is like a test, the more you study and do your homework, the better the outcome!

Best Regards,


Kirk A. Churukian, MD
Los Gatos Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

Lipo Alternatives

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On a scale from 1-10 with 10 being the most effective, liposuction is a 10 and non-invasive techniques are a 2 at best. 

Justin Yovino, MD, FACS
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 103 reviews

The new Ultrashape treatments are completely...

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The new Ultrashape treatments are completely non-invasive, do not require incisions, surgery or anesthesia and have no pain or downtime associated with them. Ultrashape is meant to treat problem areas like the lower belly or thighs and is not meant to replace large volume liposuction or to be used as a weight loss tool.

Ultrashape is pending FDA approval and therefore is not yet available in the USA. It does have Health Canada approval and is available in Canada as well as Mexico and many places in Europe.

Kim Meathrel, MD
Ontario Plastic Surgeon

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.