Liposuction is a way of removing excess and unwanted fat from the body. Traditional liposuction involves an instrument called a cannula. The cannula is a hollow metal cylinder with openings at the end and a handle.
Cannulas come in different lengths and diameters. A common diameter for a cannula is 3mm, which is very thin and creates little damage to the skin. It carefully removes small amounts of fat, without removing too much fat too quickly.
The cannula is attached to a machine through a tube which creates suction. The physician passes the cannula back and forth beneath the skin to suck out the fat in an even and uniform manner.
The infiltration cannula is used to place a volume of diluted salt water mixed with a local anesthetic plus adrenaline or epinephrine, beneath the skin. This is necessary to minimize bleeding and help control the removal of fat. It also gives the patient additional fluid to facilitate the liposuction.
The procedure we’ve just discussed is the most common form of liposuction used, and is known as tumescent liposuction.
Other Methods of Liposuction
In the traditional tumescent form of liposuction the cannula is used manually by the physician (as described above). In the earlier days of liposuction, the cannula used to be larger, which would suck out more fat, but was also more likely to cause skin damage. The end of the cannula also used to be sharper, but is now not as sharp in order to prevent underlying injuries. These changes have made liposuction a less painful and less dangerous procedure.
In more modern forms of liposuction, the cannula itself is more active. Traditionally, all the movement to the cannula was done by the physician moving it back and forth beneath the skin manually. In the newer methods of liposuction the physician moves the cannula less, because the cannula itself helps to break down the fat.
One method uses ultrasonic technology to break up the fat and remove it in a more uniform manner. There is also the vibratory assisted or Vaser form of liposuction, which is another form of ultrasonic technology.
The newest form of liposuction is called laser lipolysis, which is still being evaluated by many physicians. Laser lipolysis involves placing a fine fiber optic probe beneath the skin. This probe produces laser energy which is used to break up the fat cells (a process known as lipolysis). The laser breaks the membranes of the fat cells, which creates an oily residue which can be removed by liposuction, or which is allowed to be absorbed and eliminated naturally.
This form of liposuction produces a harmonious body shape in a short time, with less damage to the body than more traditional tumescent liposuction.
All forms of liposuction come with some risks, but in general liposuction is much safer than it was in the past when larger and sharper cannulas were used.