Ultrasound assisted liposuction (UAL) is a more recently developed technique used to assist in the comfort and efficiency of a traditional liposuction procedure. The methodology behind an ultrasound assisted liposuction treatment is the use of high-intensity and high frequency ultrasonic waves on either the external layer or internal layer of skin to breakdown fatty tissue in such a manner that it can be removed more quickly and easily.
Liposuction is the actual removal of fat cells. Many non-invasive liposuction techniques like Thermage or mesotherapy injections drive fat out of cells, but actual removal of the cells is the only way to keep the fat from returning. A traditional procedure is highly effective, but experience and trial-and-error has led to great advances in performing these operations more efficiently. This has led to the use of ultrasonic waves to break down and liquify the fat making it easier to vacuum out during the liposuction. It is claimed by practicioners that this minimizes some of the internal work and is more comfortable and allows for a quicker recovery for patients. Many patients report a greater satisfaction with the results and comfort during the process with this technique.
Ultrasound assisted liposuction is achieved by a large paddle circulating over the troublesome areas much like a traditional ultrasound. Since this is an external process there is no conflicting with internal organs or structures. As the paddles glide over the skin delivering their high intensity waves, the fatty tissue is loosen internally. Blood vessels, muscle cells, and other small bodily structures remain unharmed. Once the ultrasound is finished, the traditional use of gentle suction internally to remove the fat can begin.
There also is an internal ultrasound assisted liposuction technique which uses a thin probe to deliver the ultrasonic frequencies to precise locations. The probe is inserted and gently guided to the troublesome spot. Both methods are useful and the biggest factor in determining internal versus external ultrasound is the patient.
UAL is particularly useful for areas affected by scar tissue, large areas, or areas with dense fields of fat. It is also popular in the treatment of gynecomastia (or male breasts). The use of liposuction to treat gynecomastia is common and it is also becoming more common to use UAL.
The cost of either an internal or external ultrasound assisted liposuction procedure is higher than traditional liposuction pricing. The UAL requires more specialized equipment, some of which may be disposable. It is important for a patient to weigh the possible benefits versus the increased cost of the procedure.
For any patient considering an ultrasound assisted liposuction, it is important to fully discuss the risks and benefits with a qualified specialist. If a UAL will not lead to a substantially higher percentage of fat removal, it may not be worth considering at all. The FDA has not established ultrasound assisted liposuction as a verified method of superior removal of fat cells. There are many physicians, though, that swear by the technique. The recommendation may come depending upon location and amount of fat, but the physician may discourage a UAL if the benefit is minimal.