Ultrasound assisted liposuction, or UAL, is a type of liposuction which uses high-pitched sound waves to liquefy fat within a precise area so that it can be removed. Ultrasound assisted liposuction is not a weight loss solution or a means for curing obesity. It is primarily used to treat areas which are not responsive to diet and exercise. UAL is generally used to remove fat in areas which are harder to treat such as the neck, cheeks, chin, calves, ankles, breast tissue and knees. It can also be used to treat larger areas such as the stomach, buttock, hips and waist.
UAL is typically performed with tumescent liposuction which is a procedure used for body contouring. Injecting tumescent fluid into the area to be treated is a very important step during UAL. Tumescent fluid is a mixture of salt water solution, anesthetic and epinephrine. This solution numbs and swells the fatty area to help prevent fluid loss and to make the fat easier to remove. A generator produces sound waves which are transmitted to a thin, vacuum-like tube called a cannula. A small incision is made and, as the cannula comes into contact with fat cells, they quickly become liquefied. Then the liquefied fat cells and anesthetic fluid is vacuumed out. Post-operative pain medication is generally not needed because the injected anesthetic solution will keep the area numb for approximately 12 hours. The patient will be instructed to wear a compression garment to support the treated area and to minimize swelling for up to 6 weeks.
Having fat removed, via ultrasound assisted liposuction, has several notable benefits including the ability to treat regions which have denser fat deposits. Unlike traditional liposuction, the fat is liquefied prior to removal. Therefore, UAL can remove larger volumes of fat at one time. The use of sound waves prevents the neighboring blood vessels and connective tissue from being damaged due to the fact that fat cells are selectively destroyed and removed. This procedure can be performed in combination with a body lift surgery or tummy tuck which are meant to alleviate excess, baggy skin.
Some of the most common risks of UAL include bruising, swelling and discomfort. Infections, blood clots, uneven skin contouring and a change in pigmentation or skin texture can also occur. The UAL procedure creates a large amount of heat so a risk of burns and scarring is possible. However, an experienced surgeon who has been properly trained with UAL should know how to avoid these risks during the procedure. Seroma is another risk which can occur when your body produces excess fluid within the treated area.
The cost of UAL is comparable to traditional liposuction and varies depending on the size of the area to be treated. Since UAL is an elective cosmetic procedure, it is not covered by health insurance. Therefore, patients should expect to pay between $2900 and $10,000.