Lipoplasty (Ultrasonic Assisted)

Why Have the Procedure?

Some people have stubborn areas of fat cells that will not shrink no matter how much they diet or exercise. The common areas for these fat pockets include the chin, neck, hips, abdomen, thighs, buttocks and even calves and ankles.

A newer technique called ultrasonic-assisted lipoplasty (UAL) may help you address that unwanted fat. UAL is an enhancement to the currently used tumescent liposuction method. To keep your new shape and new weight after this lipoplasty, you will need to follow a proper diet and exercise plan.

How Does Lipoplasty Differ From Other Liposuction Techniques?

UAL uses high-frequency sound waves to liquefy fat beneath the skin's surface before removing it with gentle suction. Tumescent liposuction and traditional liposuction cannot liquefy fat cells, and this makes the fat more difficult to remove.

What Are the Benefits of Lipoplasty?

Early results by a select group of plastic surgeons internationally have been encouraging. However, further study is needed to determine if lipoplasty will replace existing liposuction techniques.

UAL allows physicians to remove significant amounts of fat in a single session because the fat is liquefied by sound waves. It can be especially useful in areas of dense fat such as the back. The use of sound waves prevents surrounding blood vessels and connective tissue from being damaged because fat cells are selectively destroyed and removed.

What Happens During Ultrasonic-Assisted Lipoplasty?

Several steps are involved. Similar to traditional liposuction, the skin is marked to indicate the precise area from which the fat will be removed. Next, a large amount of very dilute anesthetic solution is injected into the body site to numb and swell the fatty area (tumescent technique).

Then, in a step unique to lipoplasty, a thin tube-like instrument called an ultrasonic probe is inserted beneath the skin through a small incision. The probe is maneuvered in a crisscross pattern while sound waves generate negative pressure, causing the fat cells to implode, or collapse, and liquefy. The liquefied fat and anesthetic fluid are removed using gentle suction.

What Happens After Ultrasonic-Assisted Lipoplasty?

Patients are instructed to wear a tight-fitting garment, such as a girdle or thick support hose for up to six weeks after the procedure. Sometimes, postoperative pain medication is not needed because the injected anesthetic solution keeps the area numb for 12 hours or more.

Every person's outcome will vary somewhat based on factors such as volume of fat cells removed and area of removal. Your doctor will discuss what results you can expect to achieve, and how to best maintain your new body shape.

Are The Results of Ultrasonic-Assisted Lipoplasty Permanent?

The fat cells are removed permanently, so if you gain weight after the procedure, it will usually not concentrate in the treated area. This is because you now have less cells in the treated area in which fat can be deposited. However, ultrasonic-assisted lipoplasty will not prevent you from regaining weight.

Who Is a Good Candidate for Ultrasonic-Assisted Lipoplasty?

A thorough evaluation by a board-certified plastic surgeon experienced in lipoplasty will determine if you are a good candidate. But in general, a good candidate for lipoplasty (as well as other liposuction techniques) is a person of average or slightly above average weight, in good health, with a localized area of fat that does not respond well to diet and exercise.

Who Can Perform Ultrasonic-Assisted Lipoplasty?

Board-certified plastic surgeons who have undergone specialized training required by the Ultrasonic Liposuction Task Force can perform lipoplasty. This task force was established by three major plastic surgery societies: The American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, The Aesthetic Society and The Lipoplasty Society. Its mission is to set safety standards for the performance of UAL. Do not hesitate to ask your doctor about credentials and training and how many lipoplasty procedures he or she has performed.


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Are There Risks Involved With Ultrasonic-Assisted Lipoplasty?

UAL has a good safety record to date, but carries the same risks as all liposuction surgery, such as rare occurrence of infection, blood or fat clots; or cosmetic risks like a change in skin pigmentation, or skin texture. Post-operative fluid collections, known as seromas may also form. However these can be drained with a needle and a syringe.

Unique to UAL is the risk of burns caused by heat from the ultrasonic probe. This risk is minimized when performed by a surgeon skilled in lipoplasty. Some patients may have an adverse reaction to the anesthetic, and may develop redness or other pigment changes.

How Much Does Ultrasonic-Assisted Lipoplasty Cost?

Ask to talk with a representative who can explain the costs of the procedure and payment options. Like other elective cosmetic procedures, UAL is not covered by health insurance plans.

Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic, Department of Plastic Surgery.

Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson , MD, Sept. 2003.

Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2003

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