Tumescent liposuction (also called standard liposuction or just plain liposuction) is the type of liposuction that has been performed in the United States since the mid 1970’s. It involves filling fat with tumescent fluid (tumescent fluid is saline with adrenaline and lidocaine – this makes the fat “stiff” and reduces bleeding and discomfort). Once the fat has been filled with tumescent fluid by the surgeon, it is then suctioned using long thin rods. The entire procedure can be performed through a few tiny incisions, which can be hidden with natural skin creases. Plastic surgeons unfortunately use many
confusing names for tumescent liposuction. The best way to keep all these names straight is to know that unless the term “ultrasonic” is included in the name, your surgeon is talking about tumescent liposuction. Examples include: lipoplasty, liposculpture, liposculption, suction-assisted lipoplasty, and the list goes on.
Ultrasonic liposuction is similar to tumescent lipo in that tumescent fluid is first infused to make your fat stiff. But then, instead of suctioning the fat, the plastic surgeon uses ultrasonic energy to liquefy the fat before it is removed. The ultrasonic energy is delivered directly to the fat via a long thin (1/4 inch diameter) rod that emits ultrasonic waves. This rod is inserted into your fat through a small incision.
After your plastic surgeon moves the ultrasonic rod through your fat, she or he then suctions out the liquefied fat.
Which is better: Tumescent or Ultrasonic Liposuction?
Plastic surgeons are split over this issue. Those who claim that ultrasonic lipo is better argue that there is less blood loss and less discomfort. Those who claim tumescent lipo is better argue that blood loss is minimal with both techniques (although it is slightly lower with ultrasonic), refute that discomfort is less with ultrasonic (as there is no factual evidence to support this claim), and criticize ultrasonic lipo for causing potential fluid under the skin and persistent tingling and burning. The best advice for the savvy plastic surgery consumer is to go with the recommendation of your plastic surgeon when it comes to deciding on the right technique for you. This is because plastic surgeons usually recommend the technique that works best in their hands.