What is liposuction?

Liposuction is a surgical technique to remove unwanted deposits of fat from specific areas of the body, including the face and neck, upper arms, trunk, abdomen, buttocks, hips and thighs, and the knees, calves and ankles.  When performed well, and on suitable patients, liposuction can reshape the problem areas leaving virtually no scars.

What is ultrasonic liposuction (UAL)?

After the invention of liposuction in the 1980s, inventors tried to improve the technique of using suction alone to remove the fat cells via the metal tube or cannula. Ultrasonic assisted liposuction uses ultrasound tipped instruments which theoretically liquefy the fat using heat-generated ultrasound waves, before it is then sucked out. The theory is that the fat is removed with less bruising and blood loss.  However, the risks are increased because of the heat, and burns and scarring have occurred because of the hot probe.

UAL has not really been proven to be a real advance on normal liposuction techniques, but may be suitable for the male chest which is quite fibrous.

It's important to know that the most reputable liposuction surgeons will acheive the best liposuction results. The instrumentation they choose to use is much less important. If the surgeon is not good at the procedure, they will not get good results whatever type of instrument they use.

What is vaser liposuction?

Vaser, which stands for Vibration Amplification of Sound Energy at Resonance, is a third-generation ultrasound-assisted liposuction tool that delivers the ultrasound energy in pulses. Pulsating energy may help to reduce heat and overexposure to ultrasonic waves and the subsequent possible side effects and complications of UAL. It is not yet proven at all that vaser liposuction is any real advance. As for the earlier generations of UAL, and as for liposuction alone, the most reputable liposuction surgeons will get the best liposuction results. The instrumentation they choose to use is much less important. If the surgeon is not good at the procedure, they will not get good results whatever type of instrument they use. 

Who is it for?

The best candidates for liposuction are people of relatively normal weight who have excess fat in particular body areas. Having firm, elastic skin will result in a better final contour after liposuction. Skin that has diminished tone due to stretch marks, weight loss, or natural ageing will not reshape itself to the new contours and may require additional surgical techniques to remove and tighten excess skin. 

If liposuction is performed on loose skin areas, or is not performed well, skin sag, folds, lumps, hollows, wrinkling and increased cellulite can occur.

Some body areas typically liposuction well, such as the outer thighs. This is because the skin is usually firmer there. Some areas, such as the inner thigh, where the skin is usually looser, do not often achieve good liposuction results.

How is it done?

There are a variety of different techniques used by plastic surgeons for liposuction and care following surgery. Liposuction may be performed under local or general anaesthesia.  

Suction-assisted lipectomy surgery (called SAL, or just plain liposuction) is performed by using a hollow metal surgical instrument known as a cannula that is inserted through small skin incisions and is passed back and forth through the area of fatty deposit. The cannula is attached to a vacuum source, which provides the suction needed to remove the fatty tissue.  

In some situations, a special cannula may be used that emits ultrasonic energy to break down fatty deposits. This technique is known as ultrasound-assisted lipectomy. Depending on your needs, your surgeon may recommend suction-assisted lipectomy alone, or in combination with ultrasound-assisted lipectomy.

Tumescent liposuction technique involves the infiltration of fluid containing dilute local anaesthetic and epinephrine (adrenaline) into areas of fatty deposits. This technique can reduce discomfort at the time of surgery, blood loss, and post-operative bruising.  

Support garments and dressings are worn to control swelling and promote healing. Compression garments are absolutely essential in achieving safe liposuction, and in achieving good results. 

Key facts

  • All the different types of liposuction remove fat underneath the skin through a thin metal tube introduced under the skin through small incisions, usually about 5mm in length.

  • Liposuction is not a substitute for weight reduction, but a method for removing localised deposits of fatty tissue that do not respond to diet or exercise.  

  • Liposuction may be performed as a primary procedure for body contouring or combined with other surgical techniques such as facelift, abdominoplasty, many breast procedures, or thigh lift procedures. Using liposuction as part of these procedures allows the surgeon to shape or sculpt the areas specifically to improve the results of these procedures.

  • Body contour irregularities due to bodily structures other than fat cannot be improved by this technique. 

  • Liposuction by itself will unfortunately never improve the appearance of cellulite.  

Important to know

So you can make an informed decision, your elected surgeon will discuss the possible risks associated with liposuction. Although the majority of patients do not experience these complications, it's important to understand how they can be managed in the event that they occur. Liposuction is generally safe, but there are rare risks of liposuction that can cause serious injury. 

Plastic surgeons

Find a surgeon that is the right fit for you

Find a surgeon



Dr. Alex Phoon

Alex Phoon

89 Reviews

Plastic Surgeon
New South Wales, Australia

Anonymous August 1st, 2017

It is truly difficult to find the words to fully express how amazing I feel and how happy I am. Thank you. From the very first minute I walked through the doors of your beautiful office, I felt 100% cared for. The staff is amazing! Dr. Phoon - Thank you for your excellent work, thank you for putting me at ease and THANK YOU for giving my body back!


Ask our surgeon community a question

Anonymous 20/09/2018 Australia

Have you come across this reaction to Vaser Lipo?

Hi there, just wondering if you’ve come across this type of reaction to Vader Lipo before? Lumps n bumps starts 1-2 weeks after op, at week 4 I had cortisone injected with no improvement. Week 6 I had my plasma injected. I’m at week 8 now am no major chang...read more