Lipoplasty: Which Technique is Best?

New York, NY (May 03, 2001) — Lipoplasty (liposuction) continues to be the most popular cosmetic surgical procedure, according to American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) statistics that show 376,633 lipoplasty surgeries performed last year, up 113% since 1997. Although traditional suction-assisted lipoplasty (SAL) still is the most widely used technique, new technology has produced a number of other options. New Jersey plastic surgeon and ASAPS vice president Franklin DiSpaltro, MD, moderates a panel of experts who compare current lipoplasty techniques at the ASAPS Annual Meeting, May 3-9, in New York.

According to Dr. DiSpaltro, equivalent results can be achieved using any of the currently popular techniques. "The primary benefit of the newer lipoplasty devices is that they enable the surgeon to perform surgery using less physical force and to therefore focus on liposculpting," says Dr. DiSpaltro. "This may translate into reduced trauma to the tissues and faster patient recovery – but these potential advantages are still being studied and evaluated. The best advice for a person considering lipoplasty is not to focus on the technology but, rather, on the training and experience of the surgeon, who should be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery."

The growing number of lipoplasty techniques have come to be known by acronyms such as SAL, UAL, E-UAL, VAL and so on – a veritable alphabet soup of terminologies that can be confusing to the uninitiated. Here’s a brief glossary of traditional and new, evolving lipoplasty technologies being discussed this week at the ASAPS meeting:

Suction-Assisted Lipoplasty (SAL): Traditional method during which fat is removed by inserting a small, hollow tube (cannula) through one or more tiny incisions near the area to be suctioned. The cannula is connected by tubing to a vacuum pressure unit, and the surgeon guides the device to suction away undesired fat.

Ultrasound-Assisted Lipoplasty (UAL): Uses sound waves transmitted to the tip of the cannula to liquefy the fat before it is removed by suction. Particularly useful for removing fibrous fat and scarred fatty tissues.

External-Ultrasound Lipoplasty (E-UAL): Uses external ultrasound waves to alter fat cells. The area is injected with fluid containing local anesthetic to transmit ultrasonic energy. Liquefied fat is removed by suction.

Power-Assisted Lipoplasty (PAL): A reciprocating cannula (that is, with a back and forth motion of the tip) passes through tissue to suction out fat and fibrous or scarred tissue with reduced effort.

Vaser-Assisted Lipoplasty (VAL): Uses intermittent bursts of ultrasonic energy to break up fat molecules, which are then removed by suction.



The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world's leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body. ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; Active Members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and nonsurgical aesthetic procedures. International Active Members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.


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