How to Choose Between Liposuction and Noninvasive Fat Reduction Procedures

August 19, 2015 |

Areas of unwanted, diet- and exercise-resistant fat are a common concern for many cosmetic surgery patients. Whether it comes in the form of a persistent stomach “pooch” after pregnancy, areas of fat around the thighs that won’t budge, or bulges along the flanks and back, localized fat can be difficult to get rid of permanently.

Liposuction has been one of the most popular and top performed cosmetic procedures for many years, with good reason. This surgical procedure safely, effectively, and permanently reduces fat and refines the body contour.

In recent years, nonsurgical or minimally invasive alternatives to liposuction have been gaining popularity. These body contouring treatments typically do not require an incision or anesthesia, and they often come with less downtime.

Read on to learn the difference between the two fat reduction approaches and discover which one might be right for you.

What is Liposuction?

Liposuction is a surgical fat removal procedure that first became popular in the 1980s. During the procedure, a board certified cosmetic surgeon carefully and precisely removes excess fat through a small, hollow tube called a cannula. Suction is applied as the surgeon moves the cannula through the fat deposit, removing excess fat cells and sculpting a slimmer body contour.

Liposuction is particularly effective at removing fat in the legs, abdomen, back, arms, face, and neck. It provides more dramatic results than other noninvasive fat reduction procedures, however, it has a longer recovery period (up to six weeks) and typically costs more than its nonsurgical counterparts.

How do CoolSculpting®, Zerona®, and Other Noninvasive Procedures Work?

Nonsurgical fat reduction treatments use different modalities to target and eliminate unwanted fat cells through a topical, rather than surgical, procedure. Popular nonsurgical body contouring treatments include:

CoolSculpting

CoolSculpting is a good match for people who are close to their target weight, but want to reduce small, localized trouble spots on the hips, abdomen, or thighs. This treatment uses a specialized cryolipolysis device to cool unwanted fat cells to the point of death without affecting surrounding tissues. Once the fat cells die, they are flushed from the body during the days and weeks following the procedure. The final result is seen after three months.

truSculpt™

truSculpt is a similar treatment that utilizes controlled radiofrequency technology to eliminate fat cells on the hips, thighs, buttocks, and abdomen. Treatment typically lasts around an hour, and most patients require one to two treatments to see noticeable results.

Zerona

Zerona cold laser differs from the above noninvasive treatments in that the results are usually seen within several weeks or less. The cold laser targets superficial fat cells, causing the storage form of fat to leak out into the cell. This is then flushed out of the patient’s system, which results in shrinkage of the fat cell itself.

Both treatments are recommended for individuals who are happy with their current weight, but want to reduce fat in areas that are difficult to tone through diet and exercise. Patients should expect no more than about a 25% reduction of fat in the treated areas from nonsurgical treatments. Additionally, these treatments do not result in additional skin contracture which occurs with traditional liposculpture methods.

Liposuction vs. Nonsurgical Fat Reduction: Pros & Cons

There are advantages and disadvantages to both liposuction and nonsurgical body contouring.

Invasiveness

Liposuction is a more aggressive method of fat reduction and creates a trauma in the treatment area. Patients will experience soreness, bruising, and swelling for up to 10 days after the procedure. CoolSculpting and truSculpt treatments are typically gentle with minimal discomfort, both during and after treatment.

Results

Liposuction results are visible after the swelling goes down and the treated area heals, although the final result is not seen for 6 months. It takes longer to see results from CoolSculpting and other noninvasive fat reduction treatments, which become increasingly noticeable in the weeks and months following the procedure. While neither liposuction or nonsurgical body contouring treatments are a replacement for weight loss, liposuction does offer more dramatic and longer-lasting results, in addition to some skin shrinkage.

Downtime

The healing process after liposuction requires patients to restrict everyday activities for several days after the procedure and to use caution when restarting exercise. CoolSculpting and truSculpt do not require an extended healing period and patients can return to normal activities immediately, though slight soreness and swelling are to be expected. Though your results will be less noticeable with nonsurgical fat reduction, you will be able to return to work and get back to your life much sooner.

Which is Right for Me?

Liposuction may be an excellent option for reducing larger deposits of excess fat. It can significantly improve your figure in several areas at once. Some negatives include a higher cost and greater risk for health complications than noninvasive techniques.

Nonsurgical fat reduction may be a better fit if you are already at your ideal weight, have good skin elasticity, and want to target smaller, stubborn trouble spots. However, the results will not be as dramatic and multiple treatments may be necessary.

What’s the next step?

The best way to make a choice between liposuction, CoolSculpting, Zerona, truSculpt, and other noninvasive forms of fat reduction is to seek the advice of a board certified cosmetic surgeon. They can walk you through your options during a personalized cosmetic surgery consultation and help you determine which might be the best fit for you. Use our Find a Surgeon tool to help discovered board certified cosmetic surgeons in your area.