The concept of fat removal through hollow cannulas attached to high pressure suction introduced through small stab incisions has been around since 1978 and was crafted in France, Switzerland, and the United States. At that time, tumescence infusion techniques (high volume fluid infusion with lidocaine and epinephrine to minimize blood loss) had not evolved which limited the amount of fat removal due to excessive blood loss. Today the concept of liposculpturing in 2017 has evolved greatly. There are many technological advancements ranging from liposuction with additional energy sources such as mechanical oscillation (PAL), ultrasonic liposuction (UAL), and laser lipolysis. The first two technologies work to reduce the fibrous tissue network encircling fat which can also reduce tractional forces attached to the dermis which cause cellulite. By releasing this fibrous conglomeration it frees the fat cells to be either removed or redistributed from areas of excess fat to relative areas of fat deficiency. Laser Lipolysis targets fat cells, which alone leads to cell death in conjunction with fat cell removal with suction. However, no matter the technique or the technology, the most critical factor for excellent outcomes is a surgeon’s keen aesthetic judgement. This judgement is derived from a well versed three dimensional surgical anatomy of a particular body part to appropriately discern what is required to transform a less pleasing shape into an aestheticly desired form. New technologies will come and go but the educated aesthetic surgical eye is what ultimately creates the art.
I personally utilized ultrasonic liposuction as my mainstay from 2001 to 2016 but after delving into the concepts of SAFE liposuction (Separation of fibrous tissue away from the fat, Aspiration of the fat, followed by tissue equilibration of fat) based on concepts from Dr. Simeon Wall, I rethought my techniques and felt the (PAL) Power Assisted Liposuction could provide a more versatile approach particularly with fat equilibration. In my training and early clinical years I approached liposuction as merely a subtraction technique to sculpting the body. Clearly, in areas such as the posterior lateral thighs and the gluteal region, and in gynecomastia, exceptional results can only be achieved with fat removal followed by fat grafting to areas of deficiency and regional equilibration of adipose thickness by dispersing free floating yet vascularized fat cells from areas of relative excess to thinner areas. This is where artistry can be employed to create a whole new shape as compared to just a subtraction technique. Non-surgical procedures such as cryolipolysis (Coolsculpting), and endermology (Kybella) pale in comparison as they only produce subtraction of fat cells in a relatively uncontrolled manner without any mechanism to create skin retraction or tightening.
The power of SAFE liposculpting with expansion and large volume lipofilling can produce attractive buttock shapes with enhancement. Additionally, SAFE liposuction can redefine male breast enlargement correction to not just remove the fibroglandular elements, which could leave a flat amorphous chest, to providing an even more masculine appearance by utilizing fat subtraction from the armpits, upper abdomen and placing the fat into the pectoralis muscle borders to yield an enhanced appearance. Some surgeons are performing liposculpting of the abdomen to create the appearance of a “Six Pack” by removing excess fat then lipofilling the rectus, serratus, and external oblique muscles to provide the appearance of a ripped abdomen. My concern is that this may look very appealing at first with the younger generation but long term aging, weight changes and overlying skin inelasticity might appear odd looking over time.
The good news: thanks to many contributions of forward thinking plastic surgeons, which I am proud that our specialty as a whole are a group of innovators by nature, patients can reap the rewards of these efforts by realizing artisticly predictable results of body sculpting like never before. I encourage patients to seek out board certified plastic surgeons who have significant experience in this area to ensure results with safety because in the wrong untrained hands serious complications can occur. Unfortunately the economics of medicine today has motivated physicians of other specialties to attempt to provide these services which have led to poor results and even deaths. Please choose wisely and remember you often get what you pay for.