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Liposuction, or lipoplasty, is a surgical procedure which suctions fat from the body.

By Zeel Editorial Staff, Last updated: June 26, 2012

Traditional suction-assisted liposuction is performed by vacuuming the fat under the skin using hollow cannulas (thin, straw-like tubes) attached to a vacuum machine. Prior to suctioning, a solution containing salt water and medicines that constrict the blood vessels in the fat is infused under the skin in the areas to be suctioned.

Other variations of traditional liposuction are available. These modalities may claim better results, shorter recovery period, less work for the surgeon, and less post-operative pain. Although the benefits of each procedure are not clearly proven in most cases, these options represent legitimate alternative approaches to traditional suction-assisted liposuction. Some of the most common of these alternatives include laser-assisted liposuction (SmartLipo, Slim Lipo, Cool Lipo, ProLipo Plus, and LipoLite), ultrasound-assisted liposuction (Vaser liposuction), powered-assisted liposuction, and custom acoustic liposuction (Tickle Lipo, otherwiseknown as nutational infrasonic liposculpture).

What It's Good For

Liposuction is designed to remove disproportionately large collections of fat from under the skin. Common areas addressed include the neck, stomach, back, face, love handles, hips, breasts, calves, thighs, uppers arms, buttocks, and knees. Liposuction is not a solution to obesity. It is meant to be used on isolated areas, not the entire body.

Although a fair amount of fat can be removed, surprisingly, this does not commonly translate to a big weight-drop on the scale, as fat does not weigh as much as other tissues in the body (like bone or muscle). What liposuction can do is remove pockets of pudge that won't disappear, no matter how many laps you run around the track, helping to reshape the body.

Who it works for: The best candidates for liposuction are of normal weight but who can't seem to manage to exercise or diet away isolated pockets of fat from a specific body part. Optimal patients will have good skin elasticity and little excess skin in the area to be treated.

Recommended age range: There is no defined age bracket for the fat contouring procedure, but a patient should be mature enough to rationally cope with the mental components of liposuction. For this reason, most surgeons will not consider a patient under the age of 17 or 18.

How long it lasts: If you can maintain your weight, areas treated with liposuction should remain slimmer permanently. Remember, since fat distribution can't be controlled, there's no telling what part of the body will fill out if weight does return, though some studies show a redistribution of fat to the chest after abdominal liposuction.

Key benefits of liposuction: Liposuction can remove fat deposits that otherwise won't budge. It can also improve lipomas (benign tumors made of fatty tissue), gynecomastia (male breasts), buffalo humps (fat pockets on the back of the neck), and even axillary hyperhidrosis (excessively sweaty armpits - by removing sweat glands).

Licensed uses: Liposuction is licensed for body contouring and shaping. Vaser Lipo, also called LipoSelection, has been FDA approved since 2002 for the use of ultrasound technology to loosen the fat before suctioning it from the body. TICKLE LIPO is FDA approved as a form of custom acoustic liposuction, using a vibrating cannula to break up fat.

Who's Done It?

Kathy Griffin released cautionary photos of her lamentable liposuction experience. "It's a picture of my botched liposuction that looks like a CSI Crime Scene photo," she told CNN.

Griffin's attempt to warn against the serious procedure is certainly refreshing when compared with the attitudes of lipo-addicted stars like the UK's reality star, Chanelle Hayes, who has admitted, "I'm hooked...When I see how much weight comes off and how quickly my body changes, it gives me a life and spurs me on. It's such a buzz."

Jamie Lee Curtis would protest. "I've had a little lipo," she told MORE magazine, "and you know what? None of it works. None of it."

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