Water Assisted Liposuction

Water assisted liposuction, or WAL, is a liposuction procedure which uses a powerful stream of water to help loosen fat cells from the connective tissue while suctioning them out with a cannula. Water assisted liposuction is considered a gentler technique than the more traditional liposuction method. During traditional lipo, the surgeon would need to move the cannula with force in order to break down the fat for suctioning. With water assisted lipo, the cannula is gently used to dislodge fat which is already loosened by the pressurized water. Since there is not as much trauma to the body during WAL, the side effects are minimal and the recovery time is less than the traditional method.

Woman in Pool

Water assisted liposuction works well for people who are in good health and less than 25 pounds overweight. This procedure is most commonly used to remove localized pockets of fat which are resistant to diet and exercise in areas such as the hips, buttocks, abdomen, thighs, knees, arms and back. It can also be used during facial lipo to treat the jowls and fat beneath the chin. Since this technique does not forcefully destroy the fat like traditional liposuction does, it is a better choice for those who are considering a combined fat transfer procedure. The removed fat can be preserved and effectively used for buttock enhancement or facial rejuvenation.

Water assisted liposuction is performed as an outpatient procedure. General anesthesia is not commonly used with this method so many of the associated risks are reduced or eliminated. The decision on whether or not to use anesthesia depends on the area to be treated, the patient’s preference and the discretion of the surgeon. In many cases, intravenous sedation or local anesthetic can be used. In addition, the water or solution which is infiltrated into the treatment area also provides a degree of pain medication. The solution is a mixture of saline, epinephrine and lidocaine and helps to break down fat cells. As the pressurized stream of fluids loosens the fat cells, the cannula suctions the fat and fluids from the area. WAL can take one to three hours to perform depending on the size of the treatment area. The results are immediate as the patient will see a more contoured area. The final results can take approximately 3 months to become stable because it takes time for the body to reabsorb residual fat and fluid which did not get suctioned out and then secrete it through the urine.

The recovery time, as well as any risks and complications, for water assisted liposuction can vary according to the amount of liposuction and the treatment area. Typically, the patient will only need 1-3 days of downtime. During the recovery period, patients may experience some swelling, tenderness and bruising but these side effects are usually minimal. Some patients may experience bleeding, hematoma, numbness or an infection at the treatment site. A seroma, or fluid accumulation, under the skin can occur after any type of liposuction procedure. Contour irregularities can happen due to an uneven amount of fat being removed or eventually excreted from the body. To minimize the risks or side effects, patients should select a board-certified surgeon who is qualified to perform water assisted liposuction. In addition, it is important to follow all pre-op and post-op instructions as directed by the surgeon.