University of Virginia Plastic Surgery
1300 Jefferson Park Avenue 4th Floor
Charlottesville, VA 22908
Phone: (434) 924-1234
Location Hours: Monday–Friday | 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

Liposuction: Common Options Explained

Side view of a woman holding out the loose waist of blue jeans

It is not uncommon to have areas of unwanted fat that don’t respond to diet and exercise. The solution? Liposuction at our Charlottesville or Fishersville locations to get rid of this fat for good. When performed on the right candidates (men and women who are at or near their ideal body weight), the procedure can help improve the contouring of the body and create a streamlined silhouette.

When it comes to liposuction techniques, there are a few commonly performed variations. Each of the techniques share the goal of safely and comfortably removing the fat and creating smooth contours. In this post, we’ll review these approaches and their benefits to help you understand the options available to you.

Tumescent Liposuction

At UVA Plastic Surgery, tumescent liposuction is the standard. With this approach, the treatment area is infused with a solution of saline, lidocaine, and epinephrine. This numbs the area during the procedure and for up to 24 hours after the procedure, and reduces bruising and bleeding. The fat is then suctioned out through a small incision using a thin tube called a cannula. The cannulas are typically 3 or 4 mm in thickness.  The patient is typically placed under either general anesthesia or local anesthesia with IV sedation. (Learn more about anesthesia options in this blog post.) After the procedure, the tumescent numbing medications provide pain relief for 12 to 24 hours.

Ultrasonic and Power-Assisted Liposuction

In some cases, a surgeon may enhance the tumescent technique with either ultrasonic liposuction (UAL) or power-assisted liposuction (PAL).

  • UAL works to remove the fat more evenly by liquefying it with heat before removal. This technique also encourages tightening of the outer skin and can be ideal for older patients whose skin may not “snap back” as well as it once did, because of diminished elasticity.
  • PAL uses a vibrating cannula that breaks up the fatty tissue before removal. It is often the best option for small pockets of fat that can be difficult to remove since it leads to less bruising.

Laser-Assisted Liposuction

During their research, prospective liposuction patients may see that some practices offer laser-assisted liposuction (LAL), which uses heat from fiber-optic lasers at various wavelengths to liquefy fat before removal—without generating potentially harmful heat. This technique has not proven to be more effective than tumescent, PAL, or UAL approaches and is typically a longer procedure with potentially less removal of fatty tissue.

Your Procedure

The choice of technique is based on each patient’s unique needs, taking into consideration things like recovery time, size of the treatment area, and the amount of fat being removed. Our board-certified plastic surgeons will take time during your consultation to listen to your goals and counsel you on the best way to address your specific needs.

If you would like to learn more about your options for liposuction at our Charlottesville or Fishersville locations, please contact us online or call (434) 924-1234 (Charlottesville) or (540) 932-5771 (Fishersville) to request a consultation at UVA Plastic Surgery.

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